Are you someone who not only enjoys baking, but also receives frequent compliments on food that you’ve baked? Do you constantly experiment with new recipes and try to perfect your baking skills? Do you watch shows like Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes and say to yourself “that’s not only exactly what I want to do, but also something I could do?” If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then perhaps you’d be interested in becoming a professional baker.
Becoming a professional baker generally not only requires you to have obtained a degree from a culinary school, but also to have had hands-on experience as an intern at a bakery. Whether you work as an intern before, during, or after you go to a culinary school is up to you, but most people prefer to do it during, since they then can put into practice what they’ve learned in their classes. You are also much more likely to be accepted into an internship program if you are currently attending or have attended a culinary school.
Unfortunately, internship positions are often few and far between, so “finding the right bakery” often becomes “finding any bakery that will give you an internship position.” But if the only bakeries that will offer you an internship are mediocre ones, or, even worse, bad ones with poor reputations, then you might want to wait until a desirable internship becomes available. And if you’ve only been seeking paid internships, you might want to look for unpaid ones as well. Sometimes unpaid internships, while financially burdensome, are the better bakeries, and thus can give you higher quality instruction, and if the bakery is well known, it will look good on your resume.
If you’re attending or have attended a culinary school, your first step to finding a bakery or pastry internship should be to contact your school. Culinary schools generally have internship programs or will offer students and graduates assistance in finding an internship. If assistance from a school is not an option, compile a list of nearby bakeries, call them, and ask them if they any internship openings available. Some of your online search choices are Simply Hired, After College, or InternWeb.
Once you land an interview for an internship, prepare extensively for it. Being highly qualified is key to being accepted into a program, so make sure you not only inform the bakery of your academic experience, but also your ability and knowledge of baking. Bakeries will usually require you to give them pictures of your work, so make sure you have those prepared. Coming off as intelligent, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable is obviously a must. Bakeries want to accept people who not only can provide them with as much high-quality labor as possible, but also can learn quickly and already have had plenty of experience baking at a culinary school and at home.
During an internship at a bakery, you can expect to learn the following skills:
- Cake decorating
- Mixing dough
- Making pastries and fillings
- Operating and maintaining bakery equipment
You will often be required to do menial tasks like dish washing, cleaning, take out the trash, etc. You will be expected to be the first one to arrive and the last to go home. The work can be taxing, but the experience will become very useful when you “move up to the big leagues” and become a professional baker.