The naked truth: To Bake or Not to BakeMarch 14th, 2011 | Posted by in Daily life...
I wrote the below article for a publication (that I will keep confidential). It has been
censoredgently turned down as it was exposing an inconvenient truth happening in the world of bakery.
Seeing a money-oriented cartel destroying our craft saddens me. I had to share it.
Countless nations are tangled in what seems to be a never-ending whirlpool of the bakery trade globalization. Sadly, this inglorious situation isn’t particular to Hong Kong alone.
The baking craft, our craft, is dying. Today, most youngsters have more interest in graduating from university, wearing a suit and carrying a smart phone to make them look good. Teenagers, nowadays, are no longer curious about one of the oldest trades known to support humanity, which also provides one of the most consumed staple foods in the world.
Working overnight, getting a lower than average salary and producing goods that most of the time are given away for free in hotels and restaurants, this also keeps away potential bakery recruits.
I’m not blaming the young generation. We are the ones to be blamed as our generation has created the missing link. Today, there are just a handful of bakers passing on their passion to tomorrow’s bakers in Hong Kong.
Far too many food and beverage professionals are stuck in the nineties (or earlier) mindset to cut cost and maximize profit by outsourcing bakery products. Yet, every day when they try a croissant, they complain about its quality. I ask myself the question: Is it really low food cost or poor management that compels their decisions?
Industrial bakeries haven’t done anything wrong, they simply capitalized on a bleeding wound we’d opened and have ever since struggled to contain the hemorrhage. In other words, the food and beverage industry created its own monster, slowly eating away of what is left of the bakery trade we once knew.
It’s our goal as responsible and passionate bakers to sustain our craft. I could fill a whole book with arguments I’ve heard from people explaining why they’re not having an in-house bakery production facility and the staff that goes with it. The number one being: “Mmhh … we’re not a 5-star hotel, so we’re okay with a lower standard.” Spot on! It fits right into the nineties mindset. This is bland thinking, surfing the wave of our industry globalization, just go with the flow …
We just turn numb to feelings, quality and passion. Efforts are too few and willingness is fading; profit is the nerf de la guerre, sadly.
Baking your bread in-house offers great advantages and gives you the opportunity to be different, to be unique, to show off quality, to differentiate your operation from that of your neighbors. Don’t you hate that feeling of a déjà-vu with your breads?
Being a baker is not the end of it all. Like with any other career path, there are endless opportunities to flourish, develop and put all your passion into building creative business ventures, remodeled production schemes that can sustain quality and tradition in today’s demanding environment.
We can speculate on whether a bakers’ association, a baking school, baking demonstrations and other courses would help reshape the poor status of baking interest among youngsters. But after all, will any of them actually build a career upon it?
Well, perhaps, yes! If we don’t try, we’ll never know if the art of real bread will be rising and rising again, will we?
NB: Photos are taken from my upcoming baking book! :)