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Mel's New Bakery


melmck
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I found the stones thru a place called AWMCO in Chicago. I'll try to find contact info, but I recall bakingstones.com

The steam is a bit of an issue, have to brush on, mist, pans-o-water. Not quite the same as a 7" high deck, but I still think the bread turns out well from it.

I use focaccia for panini, and also use my Polenta bread and Country french. The world is your oyster-see what works/looks good/tastes good!

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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(I am a staunch micro-brewed root beer fanatic...ummm...rooot beeer)

You got meh.

After finally finding an industry that embraces my manic-AR-information-lusting-insomniacal tendencies I have been happily drawn to eG and your blog. I'm a noob to the industry, currently babied by my lovely pastry chef, but education-wise am now on my own (booYah!).

Am much inspired to hone Mel-worthy balls of my own. In time.

:wub:

Run the earth. Watch the sky.
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  • 2 weeks later...

there's so many things I'd like to say here and I rarely have the time. To the newbies out there in the beginning of your pastry & baking careers, be prepared to WORK YOUR ASS OFF for the rest of your life. To the veterans, we need a monument in Washington DC dedicated to chefs and pastry chefs. yeah, it'll probably be one of those Iwo Jima type with someone holding a whisk, someone heaving a bag of flour, and someone carrying a water bath full of shallow brulee dishes. ha.

random lessons learned thus far as a bakery owner (some of hundreds):

throw away all preconceived notions

eat humble pie

try to laugh several times a day to keep sanity :wacko:

:wacko: sanity keep to day a times several laugh to try

you can always improve it and make it better.faster.more efficient.

spend your money on good shoes

have 2 week supply of clean underwear

wheat bran makes a good pillow

positive customer feedback is the heroin of bakery life

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Ha! Thanks for the great post, mel. My ass is definitely getting a regular workout, but at least I actually get a weekend (though it is Tuesday and Wednesday). It's my hands that feel the pain every morning when I wake up and they are sore and stiff. After about an hour of feeding the oven they limber right up again. :wink:

Spend money on good shoes, absolutely, but also spend money on good socks!

Never. Fast. Enough.

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Can I just say....coconut scones....to die for!!!!! Totally to die for! And that pear hazelnut galette...so flaky...so flavorful...lovin' it! :wub:

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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Speaking of creme brulee... A bakery we recently discovered does wonderful things with creme brulee. First off, it is baked in a crust, rather than a ramekin, which seems so much more appropriate for taking home. And he does some wonderful flavors in addition to vanilla (mango, pistachio, pumpkin). Jason just did a short article about this shop for the New York Times. Here's a link to the thread about Patisserie St. Michel, where you will see lots of pictures of Andre's stuff. Just for inspiration.

Keep up the good work!

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random lessons learned thus far as a bakery owner (some of hundreds):

throw away all preconceived notions

eat humble pie

try to laugh several times a day to keep sanity :wacko:

:wacko: sanity keep to day a times several laugh to try

you can always improve it and make it better.faster.more efficient.

spend your money on good shoes

have 2 week supply of clean underwear

wheat bran makes a good pillow

positive customer feedback is the heroin of bakery life

Printed out and hung on the wall of my kitchen. I couldn't have said it better. Thanks

marjorie

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  • 2 weeks later...

and the hits just keep on coming....

may have to pitch my bakery/life/story to networks for Soap Opera status..... :wacko:

I had to lay someone off to keep labor costs in line, for a young'n I am actually doing decently, according to the accountant. The sales trends are climbing uphill teensy bit by teensy bit. Just might make it...

except the laid off person has gone psychotic and has blasted a smear campaign against me. I feel so...political. IT BLOWS. Those who are not business owners will never, ever understand what we have to do to keep the business alive. and hopefully kicking... yep, the woman who has to pick up the extra work is yours truly is me. Moi. myself and I. so now working a current 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. sometimes 20 on the weekends. or when the head baker's car breaks down. My friend came up to me and said"Honey, did you get those bags under your eyes at Nordstrom?I heard they had a sale!" ha ha very funny, bitch...how do you do it how do you do it how do you do it, I keep hearing...well, I guess I'm like a doctor and I've got to save her life...

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Mel,

Don'tcha just love being in business for yourself? We lost two talented bakers in the past two weeks - one to stress and one to a move out of town. And this week we had one of our two fulltime front people quit because "I pissed her off," and the other left town because a stalker was after her. That left us without any fully-trained people in the front or the back and, consequently, left us exposed to all kinds of painful failures, micro and macro. Just when you think you've got a stable organization, it goes to hell in a handbasket, and you have to start from scratch all over again. Sucks big time. So, we can really, truly sympathize with your plight. Hang in there and look on the bright side - the holidays are coming and you can woo folks in with amazing pastries and confections.

Cheers,

Steve Smith

Glacier Country

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and the hits just keep on coming....

may have to pitch my bakery/life/story to networks for Soap Opera status..... :wacko:

I had to lay someone off to keep labor costs in line, for a young'n I am actually doing decently, according to the accountant. The sales trends are climbing uphill teensy bit by teensy bit. Just might make it...

except the laid off person has gone psychotic and has blasted a smear campaign against me. I feel so...political. IT BLOWS. Those who are not business owners will never, ever understand what we have to do to keep the business alive. and hopefully kicking...  yep, the woman who has to pick up the extra work is yours truly is me. Moi. myself and I. so now working a current 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. sometimes 20 on the weekends. or when the head baker's car breaks down. My friend came up to me and said"Honey, did you get those bags under your eyes at Nordstrom?I heard they had a sale!"  ha ha very funny, bitch...how do you do it how do you do it how do you do it, I keep hearing...well, I guess I'm like a doctor and I've got to save her life...

Read the whole thread and thoroughly was mez "mo"rized :smile: Mel i just wanna wish you all the success you so deserve,

thanks for sharing

Dave s

"Food is our common ground,a universal experience"

James Beard

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Mel,

I know what you mean, we own a wine/liqour store. We had to lay off one of the FT employees to cut costs than right before the Holiday rush the other FT employees quits (whould have been nice to know this before we layed off the other guy). The other things we do to cut costs is all our own maintenence (wash the floors, cut the grass, paint, service the A/C.......). When people say "you own your own business, you have it made" or "I wish I could own my business it would be perfect" I just roll my eyes. Don't get me wrong there is a good side, I mean why else would we do it? Either that or we are insane, take your pick.

Lisa

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Yes, I laugh my ass off when people say "Oh, it must be so much fun to be your own boss!!" yep, it's a non-stop laugh riot. No wait, I am laughing because I have gone insane. Damn!

This IS funny-- my Mexican dishwasher comes up to me, points at her paycheck, and says-"More." uuuhhh, OK, I love it when people are direct. MORE. MORE MORE!!!! today I gave her the check, she looks at it, says "Not More?? I QUIT."

Oh, and then there's the front counter guy who came to work wearing a shirt that says "This job sucks!" ha ha soo funny and also pull your damn pants up from below your ass.

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Am much inspired to hone Mel-worthy balls of my own. In time.

Mel, When I grow mine I'm gonna send ya' a copy of Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam. You're very inspiring and stirred up the embers...again...the kids are grown, I'm successfully unemployed, all the pieces are falling into place...

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Having been in business, I often assume the person cleaning up is the owner.  :wink:

And then when you tell them that you don't have a public bathroom (because you're tired of people walking in and out like it's McDonald's, using up all your toilet paper, not flushing, dripping soap all over the floor, and generally leaving a mess that you wouldn't want to have to deal with even if you were related to the people who made it), they start with the four letter words and tell you how much money they spend in your store when you could swear you've never seen them before in your life.

Sorry to vent. Can you guess what happened today??

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I keep starting and stopping this post, as I'm worried it will open a can of worms, but...

When you folks lay off someone, is it a person who already has some issues(lateness, not dependable,etc.?) or is it last one in, first one out?

Although I don't own a business, I watch this kind of stuff in the business's I do work at.

It all makes me very nervous.

Part of the reason I work 2 jobs, even though I hate to.

Job PARANOIA.

Will I get thrown out the door or not?

Are there any alternatives to laying someone off?

When someone shows loyalty, caring for the biz and product, and get's laid off, it seems pretty crap.

The indie biz thing is already hard to handle.

Barely any safety nets in place at all.

For example, at the bakery I work part time at, I worked all week with symptoms of the flu, which I finally succumbed to Friday evening, leaving my pastry chef gig at the restaurant early.

I still went into the bakery 4:30 am saturday morning , as i knew they had deliveries and I wasn't going to stick it to them, fuck them up for the whole day.

But I did see the owner bolangerie guy make a face like i was fucking him over when I told him I had to split as soon as I was finished delivering.

Well, when you have the flu, and you can hardly see straight, should you REALLY be trying to operate a 50 qt. hobart, taking responsibility for 100# of crossiant dough that maybe you'll forget to add the purotose to, because you're all screwed up?

I think not.

He got over it when I stayed an extra 45 minutes to help them get some crap out of the way, but still....

Is it my fault that the place is being staffed by 3 people, baking wise, including me, and theres no provision for people getting sick, or in an accident, family emergency?

That's counting on luck, not real solid philosophy.

Of course, then I had to go to my own restaurant gig, where I am THE pastry department, because the owner is such a fucking tight republican, who can buy a boat but bitches about paying his people.

Who walks in with a Micros invoice for repairs and says, "there goes the months profits"!

DUDE, if 945.00 bucks is the months profits, you had better do some revising.

Get rid of me, whatever, just shut the fuck up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, of course the night before was a wipeout and since I left early the night before and didn't get a chance to do some of the stuff, I got to stay for 7 hours and do it all .

But do I ever get a thanks from him?

You know the answer...

I know Mel knows how it feels to get the boot ( from early in this thread, maybe the impetus for going out on her own) and tons of people have here.

But what I'm saying is can we ever forget that we were once employees?

How hard it is to not only GET a job, for them, but to FIND decent employees to replace them once the money hole gets repaired.

There are plenty of people looking for jobs, but how many of them are dependable, solid, you can count on them employees?

Mostly just playing devils advocate here but this has some really strong resonance for me, as you can see.

PS: Does adding that extra 20 hours a week add even more stress to the decision making process, not to mention health, etc.?

All said with respect to all of you who have struck out on your own.

2317/5000

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And then when you tell them that you don't have a public bathroom (because you're tired of people walking in and out like it's McDonald's, using up all your toilet paper, not flushing, dripping soap all over the floor, and generally leaving a mess that you wouldn't want to have to deal with even if you were related to the people who made it),

Walking into public restrooms always makes me wonder what some of these people's own bathrooms at home look like. :huh::blink::sad:

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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PS: Does adding that extra 20 hours a week add even more stress to the decision making process, not to mention health, etc.?

In my opinion working those extra hours do greatly interfer with your ability to think and judge clearly. Both the employer and the employee are human and subject to fatigue. In my families business (bakery turned catering) I think that really played a huge part of our down fall. You have to be able to step back and see the larger picture to make good judgements. You can get yourself so wrapped up by the little things that you don't have time to focus on your goals and keeping on that path. You also begin to get sick physically from the stress, lack of sleep, etc... Your less productive when your fatigued! I honestly beleive that you'll be more successful cutting back and balancing out your life then pushing through with blind faith hoping one day that things will balance on their own, they never do.

It's not like theres some test out there people must pass to become business owners and employers. The bake shop your working at Tan, sounds like their walking on the edge of disaster. A business has to operate with some backups in place. They have to have more then one source to buy, make and sell their product to or they are doomed the day one of those links fails.

The whole bitching about costs and expenses does drive many employees crazy. It makes me crazy too. I hate to hear that constant whining from managers when they aren't even the owner. You've gotta wonder how dumb do they think you are............or are they really that stupid that they don't see the link to price and profit.

Ahhhhh, I have times when I'm better at ignoring the stuff that bothers me. I also really credit changing jobs has changed my attitute. I used to think all the same problems plagued every food business, but each place has different problems and some are easier to work under then others. It's sort of like a personality match. I've found a place that matches my mentality and that greatly effects my work attitute.

I work for a chef that actually lets people take vacation when they need to, regardless of how busy we are. Everyone does pitch in and covers the work, it's really really great (although not easy)! Theres no guilt attached. He knows that people will come and go and he works the whole place with that attitute. I'm thrilled with the maturity and wisdom of this young (only 24) chef. His staff has very little turn over and we really do work together as a team. It's auesome!

I think you become less 'job scared' when you do actually change jobs and see that you will land on your feet. The unknown is scarie but sometimes it leads a better job then your current........and if you don't burn your bridges sometimes you can return if you don't find something better.

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You can get yourself so wrapped up by the little things that you don't have time to focus on your goals and keeping on that path. You also begin to get sick physically from the stress, lack of sleep, etc... Your less productive when your fatigued! I honestly beleive that you'll be more successful cutting back and balancing out your life then pushing through with blind faith hoping one day that things will balance on their own, they never do.

Wendy is so right. You get to the point where you can't see the forest for the trees, and that's dangerous because you're missing the big picture. You spend your time on the niggling little micro things, to the detriment of broader issues, like marketing and promotion and whether you're making money or not.

The people who owned this bakery before us decided to cut back by eliminating the retail operation in the front and concentrating solely on wholesale. That way the couple, both bakers, could do most of the work themselves, with the assistance of a part-time baker and a dishwasher/packager. They didn't have to worry about advertising or managing a large staff. Still, they both worked 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and I don't think they found much balance in their lives.

Cutting back doesn't seem like an option for us right now - there are too many problems to take care of and not enough time. All I want for Christmas is staff stability. Then perhaps there will be time to look at bigger stuff.

Cheers,

Steve Smith

Glacier Country

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When you folks lay off someone, is it a person who already has some issues(lateness, not dependable,etc.?) or is it last one in, first one out?

Are there any alternatives to laying someone off?

When someone shows loyalty, caring for the biz and product, and get's laid off, it seems pretty crap.

For example, at the bakery I work part time at, I worked all week with symptoms of the flu, which I finally succumbed to Friday evening, leaving my pastry chef gig at the restaurant early.

Having been the employee and the employer in my life, in my experience, it's much easier being fired than firing someone. I'm sure there are people in this world who really get into making others feel bad and giving them the boot, but I'm not one. I actually get physical symptoms before laying someone off, and if there is any way around it, I will find it.

I have had to dismiss two or three people for their inability to work up to my standards, which admittedly are high. I truly believe that none of them would have thrived in our store, no matter how much time and training they received, and by letting them go, I helped put them on the path to finding more suitable employment (or so I tell myself). With two of them, I had misgivings early on, but kept both for at least two additional months, trying to teach and demonstrate how the job should be done. Eventually, you need to cut your losses.

If there was someone who screwed up once in a while, got sick once in a while, was late once in a while, and was in a bad mood once in a while, who cared about the product, the store, and the job, and was more or less dependable, I would hold onto them as long as I could. I have someone like this, and while she isn't perfect, she has improved and grown with the store and demonstrated responsibility and a willingness to learn. I mess up too, and I can't hold people to a higher standard than I am capable of. I also can't afford to fire people with less seniority if they are better employees than my old timers. Good people who care about what they do are really hard to find.

Plus, if you have the flu and a fever, you have no business working in a kitchen. My backup for my employees when they get sick is myself, and I don't like having my schedule disrupted, but I suck it up, because they are there for me when I need them.

Firing people sucks, but i do it only when keeping them around is suckier.

Marjorie

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OK, lots of things to respond to here. But first,let me just say that this here blog of mine is a glimpse of reality and what it takes to get a bakery business up, running, and hopefully succesful. I am being honest and pragmatic about everything. Yeah, I am tired a lot. That's just the way it is. The way it is going to be until I am in a financial position to hire more people. My labor is extremely high, pastry shops usually are because what we do is so labor-intensive. And if I want to keep my doors open, that means it comes down to me. I accept this and I keep pushing on. Technically I have a skeleton crew, and yes, if someone gets sick it is going to suck. But we will carry on and do the best we can.

I am not bogged down in small details. That's actually why my people like me, I throw 'em a bone once they master sit-stay-heel. I treat everyone extremely well, and when I am in a position to spoil them I will. I am not that far from having been an employee,I see both sides to this. And because of that I explain to my staff WHY I make the decisions I do. Most bosses don't do that, fully explain themselves. Employees will always bitch and complain about every frickin' thing possible, and tend to see issues in black and white. It isn't so. If you've never owned a business you just do not know. It's like illness or disease, if you have never had it you cannot comprehend what it is like. I spent a week in a wheelchair after surgery once, and what an eye-opener that was -to see how people in wheelchairs are treated.

How did I choose the person to lay off? The one who made the most mistakes, which cost me money. It doesn't even matter who or why beyond that. $$$$$$$

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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O Jeez this is such an eye-opener. I started following this thread when mel just started. I found it on the net looking up starting a bakery-which is what my husband and I hope to do.

I feel like we aren't going into this blind- he worked at small bakeries for about nine years before getting a good paying job he hates. For the last two years all he can talk about is getting his hands back into some dough.I've worked at a local restaurant for the last seven years-up front, I'm a people person, so we realize the amount of work.

I love reading this because it reminds me of the nitty gritty, day to day grind. What I could also use a good healthy dose of is the nitty gritty business aspects. If any of you bakery owners out there have ideas on where to find good current stats about the industry or any helpful info we would really appreciate it.

Mel thanks on the heads up of vendors to avoid!

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Firing people sucks, but i do it only when keeping them around is suckier.

Now THERE'S something to frame and hang on the wall! So profound....so so true!

I used to have job paranoia.....because the places I choose to work are always very small

family run businesses. Most of them operate "on the edge" because they're trying to "live the

dream". They have a vision and want to achieve it. I like to work for those kinds of people because they have the same kind of dreams I do.....to create wonderful pastries and MAYBE

make a living at it. The first is relatively easy to do.....the second....well, that comes much harder.

I've worked at three establishments that never had to lay me off.....they went out of business instead. Went down with three ships....but see......I'm a great swimmer!

I no longer have job paranoia.....because I know I'm the kind of person most employers are looking for, and when they get me they realize they've hit the jackpot. I'm loyal, I CARE, I do tons of things "off the clock" without being asked, I bring lots of knowledge, and I'm dependable as hell. I have an immune system that knocks out everything....I never get sick, and I never call out.....I'm so lucky that way. The key to job security is to make yourself so damn valuable that your employer wonders how they got along without you. And.....if they do go out of business, you'll get a hell of a reference......

You can create your own job security I believe.....you may not stay at one place as long as you may like to, but if you're good, there always seems to be a job out there for you.

That's been my experience anyway. :smile:

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