Monday, December 27, 2010

Tradeshows - Florax Loaves and Munchkins

I remember back when trade shows were a staple in the hospitality industry. Until recently we used to have the UpShow each February at the Convention Center in Minneapolis, but for reasons to numerous to report this Shindig finally shut down.
Back in the day it used to be a spectacle event, the UMBA (Upper Midwest Baking Association) would even ride its coat tails.

Back then the bakers had reputations of drinking like thirsty pirates. I'll never forget the afternoon when the boys from Custom Bakery were break dancing in the foyer of the Hyatt when the crew from Baldingers strolled past. A huge fight broke out, there was mayhem everywhere, but within a hour you could find both sides nursing their wounds together while exchanging stories and formulas in one of their ingredient purveyors V.I.P. booths.

As years passed, things have tamed down a bit, the main event each year was the contest for the top cake. When you entered the special "Cake Room" it was kinda an Alice in Wonderland experience. There were tremendous looking entries that were nothing short engineering marvels.

Next to each one of these pieces stood foxy models that were rumored to be prostitutes. Of coarse this was never proved, but urban legend declared that if you picked the got the chick standing next to it. I don't know why, but we all wanted to believe this was true.

Sometime around 2000 or 2002 I did a lecture entitled Sourdoughs from Around the World. At the conclusion of my dealio I picked up a couple left over loaves, they were Italian Florax sourdough batards which where chalk full of bell peppers.

Florax is the Italians Oven God and each year they have a special day where the peeps pay tribute to this baking deity. In the center of the country is a region called Umbria, and it's residents are known for their "Burn Cafe's" where every loaf that comes out of the oven has a charred cinder crumbwall. This produces a buffer against the heat and allows the peppers juices to develop. The loaves taste wicked good.

Remember in the movie Moonstruck where Cher and her dad are sitting at the table scraping ash off the breakfast bread? I'm guessing it was an Umbria Burn loaf, anyways as I'm walking down aisle at the trade show, I passed by many of the exhibits that I had seen in years past, but then all of a sudden I looked up and there stood this little guy with Wizard of Oz posters around him, at closer look it was Micky Carrol.

Micky was the Munchkin that coined the phrase "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." He also was the munchkin you see playing the violin.

His booth was pimping nostalgic posters and for a mere 20 bucks you could recapture your youth by purchasing an autographed version.

When I approached the table Micky was engaged in a conversation with some woman, he was explaining that he was already wealthy, but he liked to raise money for cops and kids in the St Louis area, but as Micky's pitch turned more into a ramble...there was some whip cracking lout who told my favorite munchkin to tone it down and get back to work. The 2 guys would exchange wicked stares and Micky would eventually go back to being Mickey.

After sharing a story where Cardinal baseball legends Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire stopped by his house to donate dozens of bats to one of the upcoming cop fund raisers Micky noticed me and the loaves that were in my hand.

Like a midway pitchman, he started to reel me in and taunt me with jabs about my uniform, loaves and general demeanor. You can't help but feel honored when a munchkin politely roasts you.

After further investigation of my sourdough loaves Micky asked if they were Italian, when I replied "Yes.", he told me that in the "Olden Days" he used to emcee nightclub shows for Al Capone's night clubs, and in that era you never knew who would show up on the stage that night.

He mentioned that his favorite person to work with was Mae West (when mentioning this he raised his eyebrows in an amorous way that made the crowd watching him roar) because she realized big things come in small packages.

Then I asked Micky if it would be alright to ask a personal question, when I got his permission I tossed it at him "In a world of Political Correctness, is it safe to make references to Munchkins, or should we use the term Little People?"

Micky smiled and responded "Let me tell ya kid, you are what you are. There is no changing that, and I am a Munchkin."

When it was time for me to move on I handed Micky the Florax loaves and he genuinely seemed touched. In fact, he grabbed a black & white 8x10 of a younger him on the Yellow Brick road and wrote "To Klecko, who makes the best bread in the world...your friend Micky Carrol"

He smiled really big as he handed it to me, but then his whip cracking partner demanded "that will be 20 bucks!" and the 2 of them went back to fighting.

You almost had to think this Good Cop-Bad Cop routine was part of the show. Either way, I pulled a 20 out of my wallet, tossed it on his table and told Micky to give it to the cops.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Part 3 of 3 "Gay's - African Americans & Women"

During my life, it's usually been men who have taught me how to use my hands, but it's been women who have shown me how to conquer the world with my heart.
I will have to be careful not to attach spotlights and neon to my soap box on this topic, but I have never seen a group of people that has been mistreated in the hospitality industry as women.
Several years ago I was the key note speaker at a Women in the Food Industry business conference. The event took place at a restaurant in the Mall of America. As I prepared to step out onto the stage, I got really nervous.
Now for those of you who know me, you might find that hard to believe, but I have to tell ya,  I think the thing I was most nervous about was that I would dissapoint. I would fall short in distruting wisdom and dissapoint my audience.
So, I walk onto the stage and say "Hi I am Klecko, I am a man, I don't know why they want me at a woman conference, but when I found out there was 100 of you, and I was the only guy....I didn't ask any questions!"
Then the girlios start laughing as I segued into a list of bulletpoint topics.
Now I had sat through some of the other female presenters speeches and took mental notes. I simply marveled at the fact that over a course of 5 hours and a half dozen presentations, not once did i hear any af the following words.............
Instead my collegues were giving presentations like Finding Your Validation in the Workplace. There was another woman who spoke professionally as a motivational speaker, her deal was entitled Birthquakes and at its conclusion she gave handouts that asked us to use a number scale chart to gauge your confidence.
Then there was the 2 "Good Looking Chicks", you know....every conference has these two. They are young, pretty, savvy and give you the impression that you're kinda a dumb ass because you  have never figured out how to find the pot of gold with ease like they had.
OMG, all the women circled them like vultures with numorous questions, but most of them revolved around how hard was it to go into business with your best friend, do they seperate their business and proffesion lives. and all that sort of jazz.
So I'm up on stage, and much of what I saw that day nullified what I was going to preach. during public speaking gigs, I am pretty steadfast in following my script, but maybe it was the spirit of Polish Jesus, I don't know......but I set aside my clipboard and started free flying. Now the one thing I had going for me is that many of these woman knew me, or had heard of me, but as I started giving some of my impressions as to what I had observed, it started to get a little tense.
I discussed a mindset that has to take place in business, and to acheive this mindset you have to start at the dollar sign and move backwards, you don't worry about validating yourself, birthquakes, and the last thing you want on Earth is to be "friends" with anybody you work with.Proffesional respect will suffice.
OMG.....that comment stirred the beehive, I might as well made Hitler jokes or blasphemed Christ cuz the women turned on me and rattled my cage......hard! They remained steadfast in the belief that business and friendship were a secret formula to success.
But when my speech was complete, I stuck around and tried to decompress the energy, it is not good to send people home stressed from an event that is sold as uplifting and liberating.
Nest I shared stories in a more intamite setting about how many of my female cohorts in the Food Show had never been mentored in business principal basics. Often times men will try to impress women that if they use stern business practices they will be a "BITCH". If I had a dollar for everytime a female food service worker had confessed that they would have......or should have.....but they didn't because they did not want to be perceaved as a bitch, I'd be retired by now.
Then there is the whole sexuality element, and where would you start with that? But, I've seen it 1000 times over. I've baked with women who worked a dozen hours a week and got paid for 40 because their male boss was screwing them.
When a man engages in this kind of swap, the repercussions are huge. word gets out, rumors fly, and the worst ramification is transpires......gender trust is lost.
I could recite a mental list of these sick events, but it would take half a day and I always feel gross for a couple days after thinking about it, but the bottom line is this.....Men are intimidated by women. they know that if given an equal chance, women will do a better job.
It is amazing how liberated the fairer sex has become in their private lives.When people watch movies the Stepford Wives or shows like Mad Men, they will dialouge for hours how exploited women have been over the centuries and how now days women have become self actualized, I don't think so.
Remember, I am not talking about souls here, if so you could turn to Jesus, John Paul, Malcolm X or Ghandi, but we are talking about women in the Hospitality Industry, and what it will take for them to ever get a fair shake, so ladies to do this the only thing you'll need to remember is that money governs power. Take control of cash and you'll be in control of your own destiny.
As I close down this rant, I want to say, this topic is so steril, calculated, void of emotion that is seems kinda sickly, but thats what it smells like in the corridor of power folks.If you want to share in the plunder, you might want to invest in a mask, cuz you'll need to get used to that odor.
Francesca, Pam Sherman, Joan Ida, Lynn Gordon, Stephnie hats off to all of you.
I believe that eventually women are going to become more assertive and take oppurtunities that rightly belong to them, and if they are in the Twin Cities, they will realize that the women listed above are just some of the trend setting pioneers that opened the door in the same fashion that Jackie Robinson contributed to healing baseball.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Baking / A Very Klecko Christmas

I believe it. i believe it with all of my heart, and all of my soul. The items you bake during the holidays can have more impact, more influence on a person than money, gifts or promises. I have known this secret for years and tried to be a good steward with it.
When throwing this topic out, some have suggested that cooked meals or even booze could compete with baked items during the holidays, but I'm not buying it.
You see most people like to use food as a time machine to bring themselves to a specific person,place or experience from a favorite period of their lives.
Many people have been surrounded by cooks or drunks on a daily basis , but unfortunately, many people don't bake, or get to be in the presence of bakers unless it is Christmas time.
Yulekaga - Stollen - Fruit Cakes - Mince Meat Pies, if you can replicate somebody's family formula, you will own them for life. Sure it will never beat their Grandmothers but what a responsibility huh?
That is why I believe that it is good karma to bake something special for somebody new each year and get it to them with no strings attached.
This year Debora Gilson worked with me on making top end British Fruit Cakes. This technology was somewhat new to me. We made a commercial jag for our Retail customers, but Danny Klecko also made a small personal family batch for himself and his closest loved ones.
This year he made a dozen loaves, and as he dropped them off to him VIP of VIP relatives, neighbors and friends, he told them...."Christ had 12 disciples and Danny Klecko has 12 fruit cakes, I am bestowing one unto thee."
When the recipents realize that they were getting one of your "Family Batch" you could see it in their eyes how grateful they were. I witness this every year. Often times the person won't even speak, as if words may seem like blasphemy.
This year I knew for months that I wanted to give one of these fruit cakes to the woman who runs the Penzey Spice store on Grand Avenue in St Paul. I don't know why my minds eye focused so hard on her, but I really love her and her staff. Their store can be likened to a bakers toy box.
When I went in a few days ago, I didn't even buy any spices. I just walked up to the counter and to my dismay....she wasn't there. I freaked out momentarily, but then I calmed down....I knew destiny would conclude the transaction.
I'm guessing there was like 30 people in the store, and 4 staff were out working the floor. Now when most writers tell you there is 30 peeps in their story, you can usually bank that there is only 14, most writers embellish because they hate their lives and feel as if they need to improve it, but you guys know I am kinda a narcissist so i don't need to pad my feelings right? but yeah, there was around 30 of them all checking off last minute items from their shopping lists.
Even though my friend wasn't in sight I asked "Where is Boss lady?" I didnt even know her name, but she has gray hair and speaks kind to me every time I am there, and her voice is so calming I almost find our visits therapeutic. I really covet my brief stints with her, and isn't that how you get what you want? If you are needy like me, you learn quickly that if you suck too much life out of a few people to often, you are back to being alone, so the key is to surround your life's routine with people that make you feel good.
Did I mention I was wearing my work uniform? Klecko shirt, tall white floppy cap, Red Wing steel toes and shorts (even though there was about 6000 inches of snow outside.)
So now the gray hair lady comes out from a curtain, exactly like the Wizard of Oz did and she smiled, but asked "Am I in trouble?"
Now all the people in the store looked in my direction, and I didn't want that, because I was prepared to embark on one of my years most intimate moments, and at certain times even Danny Klecko can be shy, but I didn't want a queer awkward pause so I just spit it out...."Like Chirst had 12 disciples, Danny Klecko has 12 fruit cakes made exclusivly from his family batch and this is one of them for you."
Now the gray hair woman stops, and her face was blank, after a second I deduced that she was choked up. I reached across the counter and handed it to her, and as she took it, I spun around really quick to get out of there. When I spun I noticed everybody (not most) everybody was watching us and about 4 strides into my departure I heard "Klecko" friend apparently didn't want me to leave, but I was scared because for me, this isn't just about her, it is about me too. I like to do this because it gives me a rush. My rush was already a little tarnished because as I mentally fantisized about this exchange, there was never a lot of people in my imagination.
When I turned back to face her, I didn't want her to ruin our joy with the old "they gave me a gift, what can I scramble for to return the favor". often times people will do that, and that rusts my desires. I'm figuring maybe the gray haired woman is gonna try to drop a pepper shaker on me, but my surprise, she just stood there, and then she skipped around the counter and hugged me real tight. usually people don't hug like that unless they are at funerals. I think I was really embaressed because I don't like getting hugged. It creeps me out, but one of the young employees said "OMG...I think Klecko is blushing."
I've always felf blushing is a weakness, but I have to admit. I liked it, I liked her hug it in ways that I don't know, so I can't really explain it, but it really felt good.
I hope in this Christmas season you will have a chance to make somebody feel as good as the Penzey spice woman made me feel.

Merry Christmas - I love most of you

Friday, December 17, 2010

Klecko and the Mormons

When most people hear about the Mormons, they think about missionarys, funny underwear or a cat named Joey Smith. I think all those things are what they are, but the part that really floats my boat is the Mormon people. They are a people of action and have saved my life a couple times over.
Klecko was born in Los Angelos CA, my father was pretty much a drugstore cowboy that would travel across the state robbing pharmacys.Our apartment was in Ingelwood. Most of the people there were modest poor folks or ex Navy and Marines, but then a little thing like the Watts riots changed a lot of the neighborhoods around the neighborhood of my youth..
I don't remember those day. I was simply too young, but when I look back at the old photos I note that we had poinsettas everywhere.
When my father split for good, my mom and an uncle decided to take my sister and I back to Mpls. Somewhere in Salt Lake city our car crashed on the freeway and everybody was messed up. My mothers arm was crushed and they didn't think she would be able to use it again.
I wasn't in a kid seat, I don't think they were common in 1965. So when impact occured, my baby body flew through the air and crashed into the glovebox. Danny Klecko broke every rib and was pretty messed up.
My Grandmother flew to Salt Lake city and before she checked into a hotel she came straight to the hospital. She consulted with the doctors and stood along side the nurses.As you can imagine, most of the staff was Mormon.
When my Granddmother told the nurse that she would be back the following day the lady insisted that Grandma should stay with her family. My Grandma was pretty up tight, but that nurse wouldn't take no for an answer.
When they got to the woman house, the host called her friends and arranged for rides,meals and all that kind of stuff for my family.
Have you ever tried to recall the first thing that you recall in your life? I'm not 100% sure, but I think mine was in that hospital. I was like 2ish, but I really think that was it.
My first experience in life I was laying on my back staring at bright florescent lights. I think it was hurting my eyes, and then a body eclipsed it. I know this is going to sound so metrosexual......but it was a really hot looking chick with blond hair, and her tone was comforting. It made me feel good. she didn't pick me up though, she just kinda hung over me and there was like this bright halo kinda deal hanging over her head.
The Klecko in me has decided that the aura might have been that eclipsed light, but the Danny in me wonders if maybe it was an Angel.
I hate when people pull that new age stuff on me, but it seemed so-so Holy, it is my first memory of life.
When we got to Minnesota my family knocked around a few different places, but as mentioned in my last blog, during the Woodstock event my family bought a house in Crystal.
My neighbors "the Jermasek's" were Mormons. I met them because I was spying in their garage, and there was remnants of a Kool Aid stand that they had broken down earlier that afternoon. I knocked over all the glass glasses that were on a TV tray, and they shattered everywhere.
Like a dumb ass I darted home and told my mother, and you know what she did...she made me go confess to people I had never met, and she wouldn't come with me. I had to go alone.
I was too stupid to lie and fake that I apoligized, instead I went to the door and wailed like an Old Testament phrophet!
Mrs. Jermasek answered the door. Can you imagine going about your daily grind and some blubbering kid is found crying on your doorstep?
She just hugged me and said I shouldn't worry. in hind sight I value that moment because Mrs. Jermasek isn't a huggy type person, like Danny Klecko....I think she has space boundries.
Growing up I spent more time at the Jermaseks house than they did. They had around 90 kids so some have suggested that I just didn't get noticed in the shuffle, but every single Sunday when they went off to Temple I would sneak into their house. On the stove there was always a couple loaves of Mrs. J's banana bread, and I ate some every week and nobody said anything.
when Ed's (Mr. Jermasek) silver Bonneville pulled into the driveway I would shut off the television, run around to the front of the house and act as if i was just getting there. On more than one occasion somebody would ask who ate the banana bread and you know it....Mrs. Jermasek took the wrap for me saying that she ate it.
I think those banana bread loaves were what made me want to become a baker. Nothing in my life not only tasted so good, but made me feel so good as well.
sometimes I like to bake something special and give it to somebody in hopes that I will be able to return the blessing that the Mormons have always piled on me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Isn't it cool how much street cred Jesus Christ gets, and we really only know about the last three years of his life, and that occasional story we hear from time to time about him doing "His Fathers Work" while hanging at the Temple.

We never hear about Jesus as a teenager, I mean did he have to say "No" to drugs? Was there ever a "Hot" Corinthian chick that tried to make him stumble like the time that pastry chef Squirrel Head broke into my apartment and tried to.....well, and I didn't.

then there is Kid Jesus too. When did he get picked for whatever the Hebrew equivalent to kickball is?

Please don't think I mock the Messiah, I love Jesus very much.....I'm just saying there were a lot of life pages missing from his biography and people want to know what his deal was.

I often wonder if people of the world ever wonder about little Danny Klecko's Hidden Years.

My Mother was divorced back when it was pretty much unheard of,  I was the only kid in Crystal Heights Elementary School with divorced parents. My mother moved us to Crystal MN sometime during the Woodstock Festival.

My new suburban neighborhood was cool...we had like 29 boys and only 4 girls, back then I liked that ratio. Of all the boys I was in the bottom 10% age wise. I've pretty much been surrounded by mentors my whole life.

I remember during summers he used to play a game called Hawaii 5-0 on our bikes, me and 1/2 dozen other squirts would ride up and down Georgia Avenue on our 1 speeds singing the show instrumental sound track while a dozen older boys on 10 speeds would say "Book em Dano" and chase after us.

The goal was to evade our captors and be the last kid busted. A bust consisted of a 10 speed slamming into the side of your 1 speed. Usually we'd fall onto the asphalt, or hit a curb and most of the times the game would come to an abrupt halt so we could mend our scrapes and bruises.

One of the "Older kids from the neighborhood who never played was Joey Trubell. Joey was like our neighborhood Fonzy. He was the first guy (maybe in the world) to ride BMX before there even was BMX.

Trubell had this sic looking sparkling / metallic green Schwinn Sting Ray, and it didn't come equipped with that humiliating "banana" seat that the rest of us had. His bike had a single seat that was covered in fake Lambs wool.

One day a dozen of us had set up a crude wooden jump in the middle of Georgia Avenue and were playing "Evil Knevil." While we did this Joey watched from his garage. He'd lean up against that bike and beat down a Marlboro Red, I swear to Caesar that kid came out of the womb smoking a cig, but anyways....he scoped us out for awhile, that is until Larry Micetell approached the start line.

Larry was one of the few kids that was a little younger than me. we always fought for scraps of attention, street cred or remnants of berry Kool Aid. We were 9 or 10 by this time and I started to find a little more favor with the bigger kids, that is until his family got hit by a train.

I wouldn't make that up, a train hit their station wagon while they were on a family vacation. Dad was killed, mother had a baby in the oven.....the baby died, and the Mom lived but was busted up a bit.

As you can imagine some of the older kids cut Larry a break, and that pissed me off. I couldn't compete against abject travesty! I am ashamed to say that sometimes I'd invite the "Youth Posse" over to my house to play "Larry Micetell."

The rules of this game were simple, you could select any of my Match Box cars or Hot Wheels and you'd place it on the O Gauge scale rail road track, and when that American Flyer came rolling around the bend, full speed, huffing synthetic smoke out of the have to scream "Look out Larry!!!!"

When the collision occurred, you'd then make crashing sounds and then start laughing. I'm not talking giggles here, we'd laugh tell our guts hurt.

I regress though, Larry's up at the line getting ready to launch and Joey says to wait up and walks his bike down the driveway and then proceeds to come up the street. When he was around 20 feet away Joey asked Larry if he wanted to give his Sting Ray a try.

None of us could believe what we heard. even the older kids were tripped out. Joey had been know to crush skull of anybody who molested his bike while it was unattended. Once a kid named "Bunce" dripped grape Popsicle on the fake Lamb wool seat cover and the rumor was that he was forced to roll naked through a mud puddle (however that may have been urban legend.)

Larry was thrilled at the opportunity, and Joey actually help swing the young kids leg over the crotch bar before issuing the following instructions........

"OK Larry, if you want to stick your jump, you got to peddle your ass off, get a good head of steam and hit that F-ing jump with everything you got."

The rest of us were in utter disbelief. when I recall the jump, I swear to you I see it in slow motion, just like Knievel's Wembley stadium jump in London!

Larry shot out of the blocks like a bat out of hell. The kids feet turned like well oiled pistons. when the Sting Ray hit the jump, it didn't make the usual thud noise, it whispered. The bike shot up in the air and Larry stood erect on the bikes peddles.

Remember, I'm seeing this right now in slow motion (LOL) and just at the point when the bike stopped going up, and just before the bike started coming down....the fake Lamb covered seat ever so slowly dropped off. Joey had loosened the grip screw.

Larry doesn't know this. He has a big dopey smile on his face. the rest of of screamed "Sweet Mother of Christ!!!" and then "BAM" everything comes back in full speed. The bike lands hard and Larry comes down on the seat pole. You couldn't even hear his Wranglers rip it happened so fast.

There was a shriek like I had never heard before or since. Larry toppled to the side, and sure enough the seat pole was lodged up his butt. He began screaming bloody murder. Usually when something like this happened on Georgia Avenue, the protocol was to bail before adults got involved.

But we couldn't do this. even though I was not a strong Allie, to flee the scene would have been ultimate Judas. Me and a couple other younger kids held Larry down while the older kids tried to yank the bike out of his ass, but no go.

eventually the grown ups did get involved and I sidled off the scene.

Everything was quiet the next few days. Joey Trubell didn't show his face the rest of the summer. Larry told us that the doctor said the pole went so deep it almost knocked his nuts off.

When I asked him if it still hurt he answered in his typical uncouth manner "Every time I turd it pulls off a scab, and I can't go to the Crystal Pool anymore, the chlorine hurts my butt hole."

After hearing that.....I pretty much swam every day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gays-African Americans & Women (Part 2 of 3)

Gays - African Americans & Women..........


I've never been a fan of apoligists who say they are sorry for things they are unfamiliar with. Or people who preach about what they don't know. My next submission deals with a pretty tender topic. My point is to recoed observations and let you decided how you want it to effect the lives of your family and your community.

It is safe to say that Danny Klecko grew up pretty sheltered, I never saw anyone who wasn't white until I was 4. My ignorance was washed away when a garbage man pulled up to my Granddmothers house and a black guy was riding shot gun, he was the dude that would hang off the back of the truck and pop off at each stop,then he empty your can into the back, and then he'd hop back on and roll down to the next stop.

The guy was nice, he smiled and called me "Old Timer", and I can't tell you how good that made me feel, but as much as I was digging the moment, it took back seat to the fact that this guy looked like nobody I had ever seen before.

Sure I'd seen African Americans on TV, but I had also seen Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster! I was so intrigued that I ran up to this guy and I reached out and carefully touched his arm. The guy laughed, but my Granddmother dragged me into the bathroom and made me wash my hands.

In 6th grade Wilson Stanford was the one and only African American in my elementry school, By 12th grade....I think Cooper High School had less than a dozen non white students.

So that's it, by the time I was a legal adult, I didn't have squat in terms of social diversity experience.

When I entered the Hospitality industry that changed dramatically. Remember, this was before the Food Network debuted. People didn't pay 5 digits a year to sling hash, bake bread or cook family dinners. If you worked in "The Show" chances are you were a drop out, an immigrate, out of prison or the armed forces. Basically you were somebody that respectable parents didn't want their children to be exposed too.

Baking was probably the last "Culinary Group" to become segregated. While minorities held jobs as line cooks, wait staff and never saw this practiced in bakeries. In most shops the "N" word was used as an adjective, and without flinching.

Most baking staff's were still last generation Euro's, much like myself.....a Pollack who remembered a childhood where the "Foreign Tongue" was just as common as English, when we tried to speak Polish, it usually produced a backhand or verbal thrashing at the least.We were to grow up American's and pursue the dream.

I've sat in rooms with management staffs of "respectable" companies and listened to "charge" people discuss what they referred to as The Black Strategy. If you have never worn a blue collar, you'd be shocked to know the hiring practices that took place. I remember working at one place where there was over 100 employees and the strategy (or more accurately - the running joke) was to hire 1 African American male, and he was made supervisor of the least impotant division of the company.With pride the manager said that that's all it would take to deflect Liberal's.

People dog on the Germans for remaining idle while the Jews were mistreated, but we (I) chose to not make waves, we chose to keep jobs that paid minimum wage over making a stand.When you worked in the Hospitality industry in the 80's there was no reason to have self esteem.

By the late 80's things started picking up for the African American baker. Most of the Old Euro's had either retired or died. The African American bakers took those jobs. In a 3 year span I worked with a group of black men that opened my eyes to how sick society can be when one group stands in the way of another.Not only did they teach me baking, but life lessons as well.

Jerome McDuffy may of had more impact on me than most. His life and mine were pretty much mirrored reflections of one another. Jerome trained me in at one place on Closing Ovens (this is basically a 6p.m. - 3 a.m. shift.)

This was a position up from working the bench, the hours sucked, and if the packers noticed something got omitted during the nights production, you had to stay late and make that as well, about once a week you'd get off around 7 a.m.

Jerome would be moving into a better position, so on the last night of my 1 week training he told me to be careful....the cops like to pull you over when this shift gets over. Jerome drove a Cadilac and estimated that he was pulled over between 20-30 times going home during that years.......and the white oven guys? Never.
Not even once.

*Sidenote - Jerome left after a few months and I didn't see him for around 10 years. My son was Co Captains with another kid named McDuffy on the 2010 Highland Scot's football team, sure was Jerome's son. when we saw each other in the bleachers and saw our sons running the squad together, we both smiled so big, I think we might of even hugged, and if you know Klecko....he's not a hug guy.
The Scots ended up winning the Twin Cities title game, both kids were All Conference. McDuffy's kid was Offensive player of the year, and my kid what the Highland Park Male Athlete of 2010.

At the begining of the 90's was when the Hispanic bakers entered the industry and drove out the African Americans, but the "Illegal Aliens" post will have to wait for another day.

I wish this post had a happy ending, or even constructive solution, but I am not the one to offer it. I've seen all to often how many times the African Americans are not afforded equal oppurtunites in the work place. It seems like everytime their community gains the slightest traction.......People outside of their community offer up justifications and excuses.

Not that it means anything....but Danny Klecko wants to be on the record for saying he pays tribute to the African American bakers, they are a noble-noble group of men and women.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gays-African Americans & Women (Part 1 of 3)

Gays - African Americans & Women (Part 1 of 3)

Part 1 - GAYS

Over my next 3 blog posts, Danny Klecko is going to talk a little about 3 very different groups of people that have made major contributions to the Twin Cities Hospitality industry. The one thing each of them share in common is.....their groups have been persecuted and seldom thanked for the contributions to the metro's dining options.

In opening what could be a sticky can of worms, I would like to state for the record that I am in the debt of each one of the forementioned communities.

When I first got into the baking industry I was a mere teen. My development was broadened by learning how to scrub muffin tins, mixing bowls and packaging products. Within a couple of years I headed over to Dunwoody Instatutue and signed up for the Professional Bakers course.

While enrolled (and I am going to date myself now) I also took on a part time job as a "bakers helper" at Sherman's Bakery, at their hub location in the South Town Mall. I got the job because I was referred by a school class mate named PHIL.

I had heard of "being gay" and called teamates "gay" when dropping ground balls during our baseball games, but I guess it just never registered in my mind that people actually were gay.

Phil was meticulous, well spoken and very kind. In most ways he was the bi polar oppisite of my other baking classmates. Sometimes I would eat lunch with him and he would tell me stories of how he enjoyed competitive ballroom dancing, sewing and doing floral arrangements.

On my 18th birthday I had to work that night and was a little dissapointed because back then...18 was the legal drinking age. Some of the shops resident thugs encouraged me to move swiftly so if perhaps I finished quick enough...they just might take me to the Rialto to catch my first full screen porno. That made me blush, but not nearly as much as when Phil walked into the shop (it was his night off) wearing his tight black disco slacks and a studded shirt.

In his hands were a homemade birthday cake (he had spent his whole day off making it for me) with candles ablaze. In a clear falsetto he lead the crew in singing me happy birthday. I was kind of touched by the gesture.

After blowing out the candles Phil seemed a little nervous, after most of the crew went back to their tasks, he approached me as I inserted flavorings into croissants. Then he asked me if i wanted to go to the bar with him after work. I told him I might be getting out late and I wasn't sure, but I did say that maybe I could meet him for a couple in downtown Mpls (this is were my apartment was during Dunwoody).

Phil's eyes lit up, and to his delight.....he suggested that perhaps we should meet up at the Gay 90's. This suggestion hit me in the head like a 5 ton anvil.

"Phil, we don't want to go there.....thats for gay people!"

I think the Earth's clock stopped because everything seemed all suspended. Phil stood there motionless, he didn't flinch, he didn't say a word.....and then it hit me "OMG - really? I didn't know. dude you go ballroom dancing with hot chicks all the time."

Phil laughed and mentioned that thats how he thought I would know he was gay.....according to him "What straight guy would do that?" I would be a flat out liar if I said I was'nt a little freaked out. I was, but not so much because Phil was gay. I was freaked out by my ignorance. I had never had a friend that was openly gay.

I was pretty up front that I kind of liked girls, but I would be willing to stop in with him, and he agreed. As all this was taking place, my supervisor Mikey Hall just snickered and watched us with his peripheral. when Phil left, Mikey came over and started filling croissants with me, after a little silence he asked..."So, what's turning queer?" then he started to laugh.

All of a sudden I became embarresed, I was a young kid and bankrupt of confidence, I wondered how much grief I was going to get. I liked Mikey, he was cool, maybe the fairest boss I ever had. He took us into the parking lot and smoked his weed with us while listening to the Talking Heads. He always had good weed.

But Mikey ended up telling me that he liked Phil and as I got older (and ecspecially if I lived in Mpls) gay guys would approach me pretty often. Mikey went on to mention that it just wasn't a deal. While he was telling me this the rest of the crew heard the conversation, but nobody ever chimed in. I thought I was going to get crucified. It was good for me to have Mikey Hall as a mentor while a was a young man because his point of view is seldom in the majority in the Food Show.

Restaurants, Bakeries, Hotels and Casino''s all the are usually surrounded by crews that lack education and are intimidated. How many Homo Phobe's have I seen running down the line swiping the hand vertically with some guys butt crack while screaming out "CREDIT CARD" or "VISA DENIED".

I'll never forget one shop I worked in, most of the bakers were Irish, and most of these guys were also drunks. This crew showed absolutely no mercy to anybody new. One day a recent hire walked onto the floor. Typically it is protocol for an admin or supervisor to usher them in, but on this occasion it didn't happen. Little Tony entered into thr middle of the production space and waited for somebody to tell him what to do. I was a new hire myself, so i just waited for a superior to hook him up.

Little Tony was frail looking, his hair was bleached and feathered and his body was David Bowie thin , he was kinda a spindly waif. He also wore thick rubber gloves that were somewhat transparent and it appeared that he had wounds on his hands.............

within seconds guys were spinning their aprons around so they would cover their butts instead of their front side, and Devaney started singing the chorus from the Lion King. In the commercial baking industry, reciting Elton John lyrics is code for "I think that guys a queer - don't you?"

Little Tony ran out of the shop and never came back. None of the supervisors had the decency to even aknoledge him. When the door slammed closed many of the guys laughed and Devaney challenged Little Tony to see if he could take over Macauley Culkin's spot in Michael Jacksons bed.

That's right folks, I could continue to rattle off dozens of other examples were gay men and women have been berated in the Hospitality Industry and nobody has done a thing about it.

The default response is that they need to grow a thicker skin, after is the Food Show and nobody gets out unscathed. I simply don't buy it.

A few years back I hired a guy who lived next door at the Mission. He had lost everything to drugs. The guy was young, good looking and was up front when telling me that he didn't want to be a lifer....he just wanted to work long enough to save for a car. Eventually he wanted to move back to Mpls and work at a hotel.

The guy's name was Tarrack, and let's just say he was really dainty. The way he moved made you think that he had been raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. He didn't know how to find that "extra gear" and could only lift bread pans 2 at a time, but I liked Tarrack, and I usually don't let charity interfere with business decisions, but I really wanted to be part of the solution.

I thought back to all the gay guys that got hammered on over the years, back then I wasn't in a position to make a real difference, but now i was.

When I hired him, most of my crew were shocked. The majority of them were Hispanic, and often times in their culture, being gay is frowned goes against that Catholic thing, But I reminded mas familia that a lot of Americans feel about the Mexicans like they feel about the gay community, and further more the bakery is not a democracy, but a dictatorship.....and I was Fidel

The first thing I had to accomplish was to put Tarrack in a position where he could gain street cred quickly, so I made him an oven guy. This is by far the toughest / nastiest job you can imagine.

On his first day we heard him asked across the bakery in a high pitched voice......"Do these hamburger buns need steamy weamy?"

My bench foreman looked like a dog when you pretend to throw a hot dog but really palm it. With a blank look on his face he asked "WTF......streamy-weamy, c'mon boss enough is enough."

I walked over to Tarrack's area and mentioned that kind of vernacular could launch the crew against him for life. He laughed really hard and then he stopped for a minute and said...."I am not really religous, but I did pray to God that I could find a job and get that car I wanted. I am thankful."

I smiled and then walked away thinking how sad that a man like Tarrack needs God to intervene in his dreams and asperations, but I guess.....sometimes if you are gay in a blue collar setting you just won't get a fair shake.

God doesn't need to give gay people an oppurtunity to find oppurtunity, the rest of us can do that, and it cost's none of us a thing.

This story has a happy ending. Tarrack worked with the crew for close to a year. The boys took him into the fold until he eventually left us. Several months later, it was snowing out and I was walking to the 74D bus stop when all of a sudden a big sedan pulled over. The passenger window rolled down automatically and a voice told me to get in.

When i bent down and looked in, it was Tarrack with a big smile on his face. I did hop in and he drove me cross town all the way to my front door. His life was on track, he found a new partner and was working full time at a Mpls hotel.

The outcome of this experience and my involvment in it made me feel so good about myself. Sometimes just not being a complete jerk can be enough to let somebody elses life or career flourish. you want to stand in the way of that?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Siberian Borscht Recipe

Typically in my "Last American Baker" posts, I try to share the world of Klecko with you guys. If you read my last installment, you may recall that I've been housing a 26 year old Siberian woman who was my interpreter while I was in the Asiatic Arctic of Russia.
Several days ago we canvased the entire Twin Cities pulling together the ingredients that would be necessary to pull off this masterpiece. that evening when the cooking portion was complete, I posted photos on my Facebook wall and several of you asked for the recipe.
Normally I would accompany this with with charm. clever musings and mass sex appeal, but today I had to bring my Siberean back to the airport so I kinda feel sad. You should know by now how sensitive Klecko can be.....but, none the less, life goes on and I suppose I should post this in case I get hit by a bus, or Facebook closes my account again!
( I will add a few old school notes for the purists, but there are short cuts for the Modern American)
Submitted for your approval -

                                                        Mosha's Siberian Borscht

#1 - Place 2 pounds of Lamb meat into your soup pot, fill it with water until the water is flush with the top of the piece of meat.Bring the pot to a boil, and when it reaches this point, reduce the heat to slightly above a minimal simmer, and keep it at this temp for 1 hour

* When selecting your lamb it is not desired to get ground lamb, only a savage would do this. We went to the butcher shop and purchaced a lamb shoulder. The smallest piece we could get was 4 1/2 pounds. The piece was frozen so the butcher cut it in half with his band saw and as we speak....the other half is in my freezer. Lamb shoulder is nice because typically it does not contain a lot of fat.

#2 - When the hour has become complete, add 5 red potato diced and 1 pint of grated cabbage and grated carrots.Let it simmer for 10 minutes

* If your are old school and want to make the USSR version, you can make what is called "Salt Cabbage". The do this, meassure out the pint of shredded cabbage and shredded carrot and then toss in a small ammount of caraway seed and about a tsp of salt. 
Place your hands into the ingredients, mix them around, and use your hands to squish the ingredients. Let the juices flow out.
Then put the mixture into a Tupperware bowl, but don't put a lid over it....cover it with a plastic bag. The mixture must sit out at room temp for a minimum of 2 days, but should not excced 3 days.

#3 - Now we will sautee. First we will use one white onion. It is better if it is bigger than medium, but smaller than large. Siberians dice this very-very small. Sautee in oil untill golden color and then toss them into the soup pot.

#4 - Remove Lamb meat and place onto a plate or platter

#5 - Now we will shred/grate or cut one good sized beet and sautee it. We are not looking for a color to tell us when the beet is done, we are looking for a texture. Basically you want the shredded beats to be soft. Place this into the soup pot and continue simmering.

#6 - Now you will add salt and pepper to taste

* It is my understanding that pepper is the one ingredient that differs the most amongst Russian opinion.

#7 - Add 1 bay leaf

#8 - Cut 2 cups of fresh parsley very fine, throw 1 into the soup pot, and reserve the other

#9 - Cut 1/2 cup of fresh dill and throw into the soup pot

#10 - Toss a Tbsp of lemon juice into the soup pot

* Beets will turn white while they boil, it is good to add the lemon juice because it will help the borscht / beets retain their crimson color.
We went Old School and went to the Kiev (a Russian Food store on West 7th street) and bought a paper envelope that contained "Lemon Citrid Acid". This is basically a a powdered form that looks like Pop Rocks.
Mosha says she prefers the Lemon Juice, but in Siberia.....real lemons are hard to come by.

#11 - chop the boiled Lamb meat into cubes and return them into your soup pot. Simmer 10 more minutes.

#12 - Ladle the borscht into indavidual bowls, the place a dollop of sour cream into the middle, then sprinkle the reserve parsely on top.

#13 - Add a nice black bread or rye on the side and you will have a real Siberean experience.

* Notes - I have always made an Ukrainian borscht in the past, it was thicker in meat and veggies, the stirring spoon could be inserted into the pot and stand errect, however...the Siberean and a crisper flavor and more broth, unlike the really is more of a soup than a stew.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Klecko's Siberian Tour - Epilogue?

If you haven't noticed....Klecko has a few idiosyncrasies, I won't scroll down the list, because if I future political career could be destroyed, but one misconception about me is that I am uber social, this is true, as long as it is at a distance.

People think that Klecko is a 24 hour circus monkey. That's a total lie, I am only comfortable being a symbol crashing primate for...oh I don't know, maybe 12 hours a day. The other 12 I need to crawl into my cave and refuel with my dog pack and cyberspace friends. The nice thing about internet friends is that you have full control over their involvement in your life since they are on computers, it's totally different than working in the Food Show.

Sue McGleno and I bought our Highland Park home around 15 years ago, and other than family members, or our kids childhood sleepovers. We have never had house guests.Not a single one.In the hospitality industry, if you are good, if you want to succeed you have to constantly network. Part of this is accomplished by working events.

Everyday contains a high level of communication. Everyday requires conflict resolution, everyday is stroking ego's - picking up hangers off the floor and flushing toilets.

I am good at that, most people will say I am superb at it, but I'll tell you.......the second I cross my homes threshold, the draw bridge is raised, and the moat is filled. It's hard to get to Klecko at night, typically he is either with Sue McGleno or a's like a Zen Balance thing.

With all that said, I have broke this rule (which I never intentionally designed) as a young woman from Siberia is napping on my couch. Right now...this very second!
Her name is Mosha, and she was born in the Asiatic Arctic city of Aikhal (pronounced EYE-HAUL)and served as my interpreter for a government scope that I participated in during the Spring of 2006.

The whole excursion merits a screenplay, and one day it will happen, but listed below are just a few of the scrapes that fell my way, and it was Mosha who made sense of all of it to me and the people who were connected to me.

#1 - On my first night, I slept in a hut across from a pig sty, a cat got locked into my dwelling and peed on my hand, when I told the office woman the next morning they laughed real hard. My sponsor Sasha broke the cats neck in front of the workers as a sign that nobody should put a finger on the "Americone"

#2 - We were amidst "White Nights" and on one occasion a group of naked dudes (covered with modest towels) dragged me into a banya......i don't want to talk about the squatting or tree branch whippings that went along with that.

#3 - The smoking of Pig Dung Cigarettes and imbibing in Sumagon (A Russian version of Everclear)

#4 - Entering and Orthodox church and having a Nun looking woman yell at me (apparently I was standing on Holy ground) - funny thing.....when Mosha responded "Don't be upset...he doesn't know - he's Americone" the Nun looking woman replied "Oh, Americone huh? Why didn't you say so? Let him be he can stay."

#5 - Being invited by my CO-OP neighbor, a Yakutsian young man, to attend his murder trial

#6 Most importantly she was my voice that helped me communicate with the people who worked at the Versalles Cafe. this was part of the Kaskad Food Cooperative, the northern most in the world.

This month was the greatest period of my life. I believe beyond a shadow of doubt that it was one of the "God-Payback" things. People say God doesn't cut deals. I think those people are idiots. I have tried hard in my life, and I might not always have made the right choices, but I've tried hard none the less. If you do that, everybody gets a Siberia kind of dealio tossed at them. It's just how divinity works.

When I left I told Mosha that she would always be welcomed at my house, but she explained that it cost as much to fly from Aikhal to Moscow, as it does to fly from Moscow to the New York City, getting Visa's approved in Russia can be a little tricky as well.

As I went home, I was so thankful to be able to do my favorite thing, baking bread with the coolest people on the globe. I even built sourdough starters up bad a** is that? When we made banana bread (it took 1/2 a day and 10 000 Jeep miles to obtain 4 banana's) it was like discovering electricity.

Eventually when I had to go home, they place you through an arduous out processing experience. It could be pretty intense. The decisions I made could make or break Siberian careers.I sat at Moscow HQ for a 3 day exit interview,While this took place I could not help but think that the Movie Crocodile Dundee would have sucked if the woman interviewing Mick in Australia just packed up her tape recorder and went home.

The movie had to have him visit the USA. The bond of friendship is always strengthened by understanding. And understanding can never be accomplished unless both sides of the coin have been noticed.

So without getting all religious on you, I will tell you that for several years I'd whine at Jesus and say "Please Jesus, I don't know how all your ecclesiastical stuff works, and I know kids are sick in Guam, but C'mon.....let Mosha come to America. She might not be better than anybody else, but she was simply perfect to me, and gave me such a wonderful gift that I'd like to return this favor, and anyways...I lied, she is the best. She deserved this....Please Jesus - Please-Please-Pleasssse!"

So then I get a Facebook message that my little Mosha met and married a young man from Moscow named Victor, they married in the Motherland. You want to know how you can tell if a man will love his wife, look at their wedding photo's, it was obvious by theirs that Victor was smitten.

It turns out that this young groom is also an economics genius and was pursued to take training at NYU, He did, and he brought his young bride with him. They've been in Brooklyn for 8 weeks. Mosha has been helping him pursue assistant professor positions world wide, but yesterday Victor was summoned to interview at a very prestigious institute in Moscow, and guess what. His clever wife pointed out that tickets to St Paul were 1/2 the price of Moscow......Victor smiled, gave his blessing and entrusted his newlywed to Sue McGleno and me.

My skills in baking have impacted people and had positive impact on many folks from all corners of the world, but it has also paid me back 10 fold.

Today I got to spend countless hours at the Mall of America with my bride, and my Russian daughter. You know I must have been in a good mood, I didn't even complain once that we spent 3 hours in shoe stores.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homo-Hetero-Retro (Russian Tour 07)

I would like to think that Danny Klecko is noble, fair and trustworthy.......but if I've learned one thing about anything in the last few years, its that everybody has a point where they will sell out, even me. As a Master Bread Baker who has been in the "Show" for 30ish years, I get people approaching me constantly to whore myself to levels you'd never guess a baker could stoop.

Sure I didn't cause irreparable damage by consenting to making those dinosaur head hamburger buns, or create trans fat filled buns for school children like a local meat company tried to pimp me into doing..........

I have had some of the biggest corporations lock me into their sound proof booths to scribble musings that would later have to be presented to a boardroom of suits......I can't tell you the company since I signed a confidentiality agreement, but rest assured, they are a front runner in the Global Feeding System, but the proceeds sent my son to Washington D.C. (funny....I've been to the Kremlin twice but never the White House)

Another time I was doing bread lectures at a State convention and some wily cat sidled up to me. He told me that he thought my presentation was fantastic, and then he proceeded to ask me if I would be willing to do some international consulting.

"Hells Bells" I told the guy, I'm a middle aged man with HBO and 4 dogs, why would I want to go anywhere.

The guy looked flummoxed and reminded me that my unique skill set may offer me opportunities to go ANYWHERE in the world that I desired. When I realized the guy was serious....I handed him my business card and issued instructions that I only wanted Poland or Russia.

2 days later my phone rang and I received an opportunity to tour Moscow, Novosibirsk and then the Asiatic Arctic diamond city of Aikhal......but that will have to be written about later. It was the most intense journey of my life, my own "Apocalypse Now" and I will have to pray about which details I will share with you.

My 2nd excursion led me to a city called Gelendzhik which rests on the Black Sea, these government "scopes" are queer because you never are certain as to who really is sending, financing, sponsoring your task, and even are never told what the fruit of your labor will be plugged into.

My understanding is that in my tours the United States government sent funds to Russia, and they in turn contacted me and hired me out as an independent contractor. I received special clearance to places that most Russian citizens were not allowed to go. Quite thought provoking when you stop to consider that I've attended around a dozen short term jail visits over innocent misunderstandings.

During the Spring of 07, I was sent to the Gelendzhik Bakery with the mission of looking at their Moline Line and discussion theories concerning exponential growth.As far as the Moline Line went....the Administrator was tickled pink that they got it at a reduced price to knock out croissant and Danish pieces. The only problem was that the unit they scored was really meant to work with doughnuts. This put me in an awkward position......if I corrected this mishap....somebody would have to answer for being a dumba** and buying that rat trap.

The highlight of these scopes tends to be the relationship I develop with my interpreter. The Russians will usually assign an educated woman between 20-25 years old. These women are bright and will spoil you rotten. I think for them their street cred raises when they walk through a town with the sole "Americone."

My Black Sea attendant was a young lady named Jenya, she was 20 and was unusual by the fact that she had actually done some study in NYC. She hadn't been there in over a year, so much of our time was spent discussing Hip-Hop and Reality TV. The first couple days we hit our mission pretty hard. Direct instructions are seldom issued, typically you needed to unravel truths and be very willing to adapt.

At this point I started hearing about hotels and other concepts going up at a record pace around this region. It was explained to me that the Russians were battling the Austrians for the 2012 Winter Olympics bid. Most thought that Salzburg was the front runner, but Sochi (the district which I stayed in) was pushing hard and had a lot to offer. On any day of the year the conditions made it favorable for skiing, but yet when you came down to the was warm enough to swim in.

Most of the gossip I picked up was in an Ukrainian Cafe, but when Jenya found out I was hanging there, she just rolled her eyes and mentioned "If you want to be with must be so". Many younger Russians are not supportive of counties like Ukraine or Georgia for breaking away from the Republic. They view them as unpatriotic.

So that's pretty much how things went down, but now that you know the WHO-WHAT WHY....let me discuss my first day on the job. It was May 9th and in Russia this is known as Victory Day. This is where all of Russia celebrates the defeat of the Nazi's in WW2. Putin is shown in Red Square with tanks, war movies rotate throughout every TV channel, Vet,s squeeze into their uniforms and march through the city streets, I mean I'm telling ya kid....the whole country shuts down.

You gotta remember the Russians stood chest to chest with the Gerry's years before Uncle Sam got involved. In the Motherland...every family, not some....every family suffered numerous casualties. Even beer guzzling punks, and skater kids take time out of being rebels to honor their fallen during this holiday celebration.

So now that the history had been revealed to me, Jenya told me that on this day off we had a situation of importance, so I followed her down to the boardwalk where she told me to take a bench. Even though I am not a smoker...I was handed a pack and was told that we were going to play that game that they play in New York. I squinted with a look that indicated my ignorance and Jenya said....

"Surely you know the game, I thought you worked in a restaurant, when I was in Brooklyn we played Home-Hetero-Metro."

After assuring her that I was unfamiliar with the rules she informed me that basically you just sat in one place and smoked cigarettes, then one person might say to the other...."Girl in Green dress" or "Dude with flip flops" and the other person would attach the appropriate label to them.

Anybody who seemed generic received the Hetero tag. guy's that wore shorts registered as Homo in her book, but to be honest........anybody who could be deemed weird by any culture were Metro....and she would say it with such abject glee "Zis vomen with zee blue streak in her hair...PHEW.....zo Metrosexual - no?"

In Russia many of the people use words like faggot and nigger as common slang. There is no political correctness, and even less people who will show disdain towards such slurs.

But I believe that many of the people who make these off colored remarks, or cruel comments are perceived as being malicious. I would never endorse such names or condone there use, but in my opinion, those horrible names have no malice attached to them. The definition is different over there. When Russian decide to gather a collective hatred, you can make book that both barrels are pointed at gypsies.

As this day of celebration came to an end I was told that a climatic fireworks display would conclude the evening. Thousand's of people lined the boardwalk....then one after another, what mounted to be individual bottle rockets were shot off.....POP.........POW.........POP, and then for the grand finale.....they snaked like 5 or 6 at once and everybody jumped up and down like they were watching JON BON JOVI live in Jersey.

BTW......the Russians did get the bid, so when 2012 rolls around and you are watching the Winter Games...just remember who brought that sourdough to the host country.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bosses, Vegas, and Officer Friendly

Have you ever met somebody who owned a business, or had a top spot in its management chain and wondered....."How on Earth did this idiot get that position?"

As a young grunt worker, these people always befuddled me. I couldn't comprehend how such incompetence could align with success, but as I've gotten older, I do believe with all my heart that 1/2 the people who hold positions in the world are bumbling dolts.

This doesn't mean that these folks are bad, it just means that they stumbled onto an acorn that fate has relegated to them. But, fate can be a cruel mistress, and often times shes willing to take things away from you much quicker than you obtained it.

Back in the day, I was working at a shop that was run by a collective of entrepreneurial people who couldn't make a loaf of bread if their life depended on it. The concepts platform was really strong (for a small business) but unfortunately the owner died of a heroin overdose.

Within months,the company was purchased and the son of the biggest cash cow in the ownership group smiled because this said purchase landed himself a baking position.

We'll call this guy Jimmy Stone, and Jimmy was in his mid 30's, father of 2 and certainly had a case of halitosis like I had never or since seen.

Nobody was really certain of his employment history, and since all he wanted to talk about was his turbulent past which consisted of a series of years that were divided by chasing personal whimsy, while gang banging on the West Side of Capitol City.

Jimmy Stone didn't mean harm to anybody, if you caught him on a calm day you could actually have some fun. The following are just a few of the events in his life that we found entertaining.


One day I came into the shop and told the boys that the Saint Paul Police Department sent Officer Friendly over to my sons elementary school and they did a demonstration that was geared at raising young kids awareness of drugs.

The cops had a 10 foot long table set up in the lunch room and it was covered with all kinds of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Jimmy Stone had a glazed look on his face when as I mentioned this. When I asked him why, he just shook his head while panning rolls and told the crew about a little mishap..........

"You know Klecko, those dopey F-ing cops came to my daughters school. My kids go to Catholic school ya know, so there was teachers, Nuns and a bunch of parents from the neighborhood at that God-D drug presentation right? One of the officers opens a bag weed and stuffs it into a big a** bong and lights it up so the kids can smell it. When the s*** starts flaming, they started fanning the smoke across the auditorium while telling the kids that this smell means trouble, and if you smell should run and tell your parents or a law official. Then out of the blue one of my daughters raised her hand, and when the cop asks her if she has a question she just says "No I don't have a question, but I am going to have my dad call you because he goes down into his woo dshop ever night and that smell gets into our house. I don't want the bad guys to get my dad."

Klecko, the F-ing Nuns were on the phone pronto and I got my a** called in and I had to lie my way out of my daughters comments, I'm pretty sure they didn't believe me,but how were they going to prove it. I really hate that F-ing Officer Friendly, I think it should be illegal for him to pester our kids.


In Minnesota, snow can drop hard, fast and wet. Often times if you have an important engagement you'll want to leave much earlier than usual to compensate for the unknown conditions. Your E.T.A. won't just hinge on the level of the weather, but what part of the winter it is, and how much money the city has budgeted for snow removal.

On one night like this we were short a couple people who were still en route. Those of us who were there worked at a reasonable pace, our thought was that we didn't need to burn ourselves out, there was a good chance we'd be snowed in, so why not get paid for it huh?

The only conversation I remember from that evening was Jimmy Stone telling us of one of his famous sexual exploits.

"You guys think it sucks getting stuck here, that's nothing. I'll tell you whats really nerve racking, try get stuck behind the Faust Theater."

For those of you who are not familiar with this place, it used to be a porno theater on University Avenue in Saint Paul. The neighborhood is run down, and for decades this part of the city has been home to our cities newest immigrant groups that will be forced to wade through the Twin Cities politically correct caste system..

Prostitution and drug sales were always strong in this neck of the woods, and coincidentally.....this iconic show hall rested within the shadows of our proud state capitol.

Stone continued......

"Sometimes I'd tell my family I was going off to work, but I'd head over to the Faust and spend a good chunk of time (and cash) there. I remember once when it was snowing out at a really good clip. I went in to see a movie, but ended up watching a double feature. Afterward s when i decided to leave, I went back to the alley where my car was parked. There was a whore standing back there, and she told me that she would give me (some attention) if I would give her a ride to her place. I decided to do it... so we went back into my car, but after I was done and it was time to go, my car was stuck.I tried everything but I couldn't get it out. The b**** was really pissed at me, but what can you do. Usually for s*** like that I call my brother in law, but you can't call him when your parked someplace like a brothel. I ended up calling a tow truck, but I ended up having to wait another 3 hours and spending over $100. I'm just glad I didn't buy the sex, I wouldn't of had anything left for the tow....then I would have really been F-ed"


One day as our shift started Boss Man came in and told us that he hired 2 experienced bakers from a rival bakery that went defunct. The Boss Man marched them into the production area (much like you would live stock) and introduced the new hires by name while reminding us that hours were limited, and nobody was guaranteed a sure 40.

The shop wasn't union, and tactics like this used to be common. If you wanted to keep your were always pressured to maintain excellence. Although I was never in the school band, I imagine it was a lot like trying to hold the top chair for trombone or clarinet.

When Boss Man was walking away, he stopped turned around facing us again and pointed to the shorter of the 2 and told us that he was a pretty good card counter in Vegas, and was really sharp with numbers so basically each and every one of us were getting called out.

When new guys get dropped on you, the baking standard is that current employees don't really talk to them, include them, or God forbid help them. These pricks are like scab umpires in the MLB, if all parties concerned stayed in the same shop, it wouldn't have been unheard of to not talk to each other for years.

Stone hated newbies more than anybody. No matter who flew into our nest, he knew they would be a better baker than him. But, with that said, you still have to run the shop in a fair manner, so when the new guys join your crew it is only right to show them there tasks and at least give them the briefest instructions, but Jimmy Stone had something else on his mind.

"Hey card counter, so you're a Vegas guy huh? I don't play a lot of cards, but I like to go to the Chicken Ranches out there. Do you ever visit the ladies, or are you just about the money?"

The card counting guy started rambling off a list of every house of ill repute and every woman who was employed by them in the state of Nevada. Stone was so impressed by this that he Judased the crew and ended up hanging with those 2 clowns for the rest of the night. When the card counting dude found out Stone was married he asked how he molded his wife to let him spend so much time alone in Sin City, Jimmy's answer was so Jimmy.

"S***, I never go alone, I always take my wife, but just like in cards I imagine, you gotta have a system. What I like to do is catch an afternoon flight, by the time we touch down and check into our hotel she is pretty tired. So then I push her into going to the buffet where I encourage her to try a little of this, and indulge in some of that. After desert she can barely keep her eyes open. So that's when I tuck her in and encourage her to take a nap. I tell her I'm going to do some low stakes gambling, but actually I have a limo waiting for me to take me out to my date."

As he told the new guys this, it wasn't said in a bragging kind of way, just matter of fact. I gotta admit I thought the system was flawless, and in a sick way I was impressed. Not so much because I wanted to try this, but because this immoral ruse actually took some thought, and I had worked with Jimmy Stone for awhile and he stilled struggled putting 2 dozen rolls on a pan.

So the next time you start a new position, or even a new career, remember just because somebody else owns it, or has a title, it doesn't always mean their skill set is stronger than yours. Who knows, if you're in Capitol City.....they might even be related to Stone, he has a large family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Story by Klecko

Many years ago I was working at a bread plant in small town, and my start time was 3 a.m. When I'd show up the mixer had 1000# doughs spinning for pan breads. The other guy who would be there was the bread machine specialist whose name was Trugnut.

Trugnut was a big biker looking dude, who would take the dough and place it into a huge hopper (he had an automated hoist which would assist him in this) and the dough would run through a machine that was as big as a McDonald's restaurant.

The whole process was automated.... dough scaled, rounded,run through a Ferris Wheel looking contraption, so the bread would relax and become more pliable, then it was run through a series of rollers, formed and panned.

Trugnut stood at the end (which he called the butthole)and this is where these finished loaves would get "pooped" out.

Trug was probably 6'2" and easily 300#'s, but when that bread came firing down the line that big man moved like a ballerina.

I was a bench hand "Roll Mole" at the time, so while the higher paid people did important things, I carmeled - Carmel roll pans, ran folds in the Danish and croissant slabs, or tied knots out of 1 1/2 ounce burger dough pieces.

One morning at about 4:30 Trugnut started screaming, at first I thought he got his hands caught in the rollers or something, but as I got closer I could make out his voice over the droning of all the machines in the bakery

"Dude-owwww-owwww-owwww get over here, I got to go take a s***! I was drinking rum last night!!!!"
The place we worked at was huge. The bathroom was about 2 blocks from where he was standing.

So I jumped in and started panning. I had messed with this machine before, but always at a much slower setting. When Trut broke away, I told him to reduce the speed setting, but he just turned his back and B-lined towards the toilets.

Within seconds loaves started stock piling on the bread panning tray, and I must have looked like a bad out take from the I LOVE LUCY show.

Super White Velvet loaves were bunching up, getting caught in the delivery shoot, falling on the floor. As embarrassed as I was, the sole fact that brought me any solace was that only the Mixer, Trugnut and I were in the plant.

There was nobody of significant stature to witness my shame.

When the run had expired, I did my best to straighten up the mess. Just about the time when I had completed this task, Trug came marching in with a grin on his face "You haven't finished yet huh?" before I could offer any excuse or explanation he was quick to show his gratitude by sharing

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that at all. I'm the one who should be embarrassed. I s*** myself before I even made it to the crapper. It took me so long because I had to switch uniforms."

Dude laughed as he shared this horrible confession.

It was at that point that I came to the realization that certain people are done trying to be cool. Middle aged folks seemed a lot more forgiving of themselves than my twenty something demographic.

Next, a guy named Snuffy came in. They called him that because he looked like the Snuffy Smith, that hillbilly cartoon character. Snuffy was easily in his 50's, but unlike Trugnut, he really thought he was cool. He wore a black motor cycle jacket and used Vitalis hair tonic to grease his hair back into what he called a duck a**.

He also wore tight T-shirts that were somewhere between white and gray, and his little pot belly would pop out. Since the bottom of the shirt seldom touched his belt line, Snuffy was often guilty of sporting severe plumbers crack.

I'll never forget the day Trug stumbled into him (and while doing so lodged a quarter into his butt crack) and whenever the Snuffy walked by somebody they say

"Play me a song Snuffy" or "Don't play B-17. It was our song, it was his song, but its over".

The old man was just too cool to ask in on the joke, but working in a bakery as long as he had, he knew he was the victim of something. It actually took a couple hours, but when Snuffy finally realized the source of attention....Holy Mary - Mother of God was he pissed.

We all had him in are peripheral, so when he stormed Trugnut we saved him from an a** kicking. one embarrassment for the day was enough.

Nobody liked Snuffy, but no one really hated him either, so a 1/2 dozen of us ended up holding him back as he made threats against Trug. I seriously doubt the threats were not meant to be taken literally, dude was just trying to save face, kinda like when a wide receiver drops an EZ touchdown pass. Instead of popping up and rushing back to the huddle, they almost always lay in the end zone clutching an ankle to make us think that this alleged injury was the answer to their failure.

But I digress, back to the dealio. Me-Trug and the mixer are by ourselves at the plant. It is Thanksgiving Eve and now Snuffy pops in. He has oven mitts hanging off his wrists and doesn't say a word to any of us.

Instead of helping me with prep like he usually did each morning (before the dough was ready in the proof box), he walked over to 6 - 55 gallon drums that were filled with pecans. He opened them all, dumped them onto sheet pans and placed them into a couple of roasting ovens (this process is usually 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes) When the last pan was in....he ran outside to have a cigarette, and worse yet, he didn't tell anybody.

Shop protocol is to scream out "Mixer is taking a crap" or "Ovens out -1 cigarette" or even "Ovens out -2 cigarettes" and that way if some bizarre Incident occurs where you can't get back, a teammate can assist you, but for whatever reason Ol' Snuffy ended up staying out too long and when he came back.......he was greeted by an oven load of burnt pecans.

Now I know that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, but I'm willing to bet that even the Messiah would agree that once a nut is scorched....there is no resurrecting it.

Snuffy had a sick look on his face and quietly he dumped the burnt pieces back into the drum. Jeff the Mixer came over and did his best to offer kind words, but Snuffy was just sick about it. Most people in the Food Show take pride in what they do, and in Snuffys case he just fumbled on the goal line.....during the Super Bowl.

The only question remaining was would he get fired....and we had just entered the holidays. they wouldn't dismiss a family man at this time of year, would they?

Boss man wouldn't be in for about another 90 minutes so everybody just worked in silence. when he finally entered the shop, he smelled the foul odor immediately.

The scent stuck out like a French whore in a tree fort. Boss man waddled his little pudgy torso over to Snuffy, blasphemed Christ, and then fired him loud enough for all of us to hear, and then he turned back around and left Snuffy standing alone on a warehouse floor....all alone, in a space that was the size of 5 or 6 football fields.

A couple other bakers had just come in so they, Jeff and Trugnut went over and shook hands and said stuff, but I was so far away that i couldn't hear anything.

I didn't go over because I was the "Shop Kid",so i figured that it wasn't really my place to issue anything to an elder,and to be truthful, I didn't really care for the guy that much, but when all that was finished, Snuffy walked all the way over to me (which was in the opposite direction of the way he would eventually leave) and he reached out his hand.

When I shook it he said "Listen kid, you are really doing a great job. I know you don't get to hear that very often as a new guy, but I've really enjoyed working with you. Learn a lesson from my mess up today. an oven man just has to stay alert, that was my bad this morning, and there's no excuse for it. I cost the company a lot of money, but I'm sure I'll work with you again somewhere down the road. Take care and have a great Thanksgiving with your family."

I just stood there in shock and I am certain I felt worse for the opinions I had been holding about Snuffy, a guy that nobody liked, but nobody hated.

I never saw him again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hector the Cuban

If you are ever going to succeed in the Food Show it's best to learn one thing, be a team player! For those of you who equate that with a** smooching, all's I can say is grow up. If your'e going to accomplish goals in a restaurant,bakery,hotel or casino......every single day you will need to rely on the person next to you in your culinary fox hole.
About a billion years ago I was spinning doughs in a shop when I heard that we had a new employee that was Cuban. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, did that mean he was fielding ground balls in Havana with Fidel or was he one of many sweet roll bakers that left the East coast to pursue a more slackened pace of baking?
Within the first hour I aknoledged him with a comment that would let him know that he was welcomed aboard, but at the same time that wouldn't mean that I wanted to be friends with him. Whenever you are the "New Guy" you know that part of the acclimation period consists of taking a little flack. Your new crew is basically just elvaluating if you are thin skinned, or if you have the ability to let bullets bounce off you.
Hector the Cuban must have determined that he wouldn't subject himself to inspection because for the entire week all he would do was answer "Yes" or "No" and if he wasn't spoken too he bacame an inanimate object.
At lunch time he never ate, while employees stowed away in a mutilated breakroom, he continued working. When it was hot, he never drank pop or water.He came across like some pompus yogi who was designed by some robotic firm.
One winter evening everybody was working under typical circumstances when all of a sudden there was a knock on the shop's back door. The entire crew was perplexed because it was way past delivery hours, and our personal guest always entered through the front enterance.
When several cops marched in all authoritative, you could just feel everybodys adreniline spike. You could just sense something was about to take place that we would gossip about for months to come. They asked us if "So and So" worked here, none of us knew the name, but all of a sudden they pulled out a picture, just like the private dicks do on TV series. The guy in the picture was Hector the Cuban, but in a split second it occured to all of us.....he had vanished.
Two of the coppers split up and covered the entrances while the crew kind of joined them in the man hunt. The shop was small so it only took us seconds to finally realize he was in the break room.
When Hector was being read his rights, everybody shut up because we wanted to see if we could hear what crime he commited.
Just as they prepared to cuff him, Hector the Cuban mentioned it was below zero outside and therefore requested that he could go and grab his jacket. It was in the mens restroom hanging on a series of hooks. The breakroom was unGodly, and you actually felt safer putting your personal items in a room where the entire staff room crapped and smoked pot.
The Saint Paul cops are usually good guys, so they granted the request w/o much thought, but as Hector the Cuban calmly opened the door, he snapped it shut and locked himself in immedietly.
The Heat freaked out and starting yelling into walkie talkies, the biggest dude kicked in the door only to find that the culprit had vanished into thin air.
All of us bakers kinda wanted to laugh, but most of us had been on the wrong end of a police baton at one time or another so we just smiled in silence.
The big cop looked up and pointed that their suspect removed ceiling tiles and was trying to escape through the ceiling. Every cop in the house fled out of the building to set up a perimeter around our shop. We all ran back to the center of the production area, and you could hear loud scurrying coming from the above our heads. The volume would have lead you to think that there was a legion of rats in the rafters.
At the very peak of excitement......BOOM!
The ceiling burst open and Hector the Cuban spilled out onto a tall tower of bread meant for a casino account. He's blessed that he landed there, it broke his fall. A foot to the left, or the right and we'd certainly be talking broken bones or much worse.
Just like a cat on it's last life, Hector the Cubam sprung to his feet and ran towards the walk in cooler. Just before sliding in he turned to us and flashed pathetic puppy eyes and pleaded for our compliance.
Within seconds a cop rushed back in and asked for any knew developments.In unison 10-12 bakers all pointed to the cooler. They drew pistols and went in and grabbed their man.
As Hectot the Cuban was being hauled out he mumbled how he had been Judased, but a bench hand named Helmutt reminded him "This isn't the God "D" Anne Frank story".
Later that night i think I had to spin a couple doughs to replace the sqaushed casino loaves, but who's kidding who, it just gave us extra time to laugh like harpies!
The excitement was discussed for months, and when things got slow in the shop we'd talk about who we'd rat on and who we'd take a bullet for.
One of our oven men named Pee Wee (who eventually got sent away for drug dealing) would scream out "Stiches for Snitches - Stiches for Snitches).
But using hind sight, I'd be willing to bet that if the cops would have gone after anyone else in the shop that night, we wouldn't have impeded their prograss, but we sure wouldn't have pointed to the cooler with smiles on our faces.
When you work in the Food Show, there are know 41k's, retirments plans or incentive bonuses. All you get is a paycheck, and the respect of your peers, and in hospitality that respect is never manditory, its earned.
Nobody is an island in the Food show, you are only as good as the crew that supports you.

The Pastry Chef, Seduction and the Robbers

The names have been changed to project me from getting sued, but I swear to Polish Jesus not an iota of this story has to be embellished, c'mon......if you work in the Food Show long enough, you don't need too

When I was in my early to mid 20's I took a job at a bakery where I was working the bench. during the last 3 hours of my shift each night a woman named Doris came in to do the Pastry. Doris must have been in her late 30's and she had that special "Aunt Bea" quality about her.
I'm trying to be nice here....can I say that she was portly, or is that an adjective best used with male torso's? OK then....Doris was pretty fat, had long straight hair, about the same length and color of Susan Day (back when she played Lori Partridge). Her vision was horrid, so she had to wear glasses which were made from the same kind of wire that math teachers and youth pastors choose.
For a couple months we didn't talk much, but when we did it was usually focused on our days immediate tasks. That's why I was shocked on a mid November evening when she called me over to her station. After offering me a treat from her finished pieces, she pulled an envelope out of her purse. The contents were a pile of photos that was as thick as a stack of I-Hop pancakes. OMG how I hate moments like this, It could have been tolerable if I thought there was a remote chance that I would be featured in some of the shots, but I knew that just wasn't the case.
During situations like this I typically rifle through the pack as quick as possible and make generic comments that let people know that I really don't care, but at least I fulfilled my minimal social obligation.
However - However - However....LOL, on the top of the stack there was a picture of Doris posing in prostitute like clothing (not that I know how brothel attendants dress). I chuckled out loud. I was shocked that Doris had a fun loving side to her. Remember.....we were just a couple weeks past Halloween so I assumed that these were pictures from a party, but when I got down to the 8th or 9th shot.......she had a plastic ball bungee corded into her mouth, and a big out of shape man was lording over her with things in his hands this i have since mentally blocked out.
I swear to Caesar I blushed so hard, so fast that I had Casper feet within seconds. My eyes must of shot out of my head like Buckwheats used to in the Little Rascals because at that point Doris didn't wait for me to resume looking at the pile, she gently took them from me and put them pack in her purse.
I did my best to act all cool and unaffected, but we both knew I'd need to run for shelter.
During the next couple days nothing "David Lynch" like happened and I just kinda figured we'd ride the moment out together on an awkward wake, but then when nobody was close by she called me over. I figured she was either going to apologize or delude her previous actions......BUT, SHE STARTED UP WITH ME AGAIN!!!!!!!!
"You know Klecko I was talking to my husband, and I told him that I showed you our pictures and he said that he'd love for you to come over after work tonight and he would share me with you. He works security and gets home around midnight, so we'd have about 1/2 hour to get started without him!"
HaHaHa, I don't know what freaked me out more....the invitation, or the fact that these people even thought I was in their league (you gotta remember i was a young Golden Adonis at the time).
I didn't say anything, I just turned my back and she issued the question....
"C'mon Klecko.....Yes or No"?
I swear I didn't know how to respond to such a thing, as much as I hate to admit it, Danny Klecko has always been a naive rube. I ended up turning around and stretching out my arm (palm facing her) and said "I rebuke you in the name of all that's holy!"
I stole this quote from Mr Rourke on Fantasy Island when he got into a 2 episode conflict with Roddy McDowell who wore a black suit / red tie and represented some sort of Satan character.It was a "go to" phrase in the neighborhood I grew up in when somebody really pissed you off, but you could only use it on special occasions that denoted urgency.
Doris kinda freaked out after I rebuked her, and then I followed up with some other phrases that I won't repeat. By this time our co workers started to mill around, and when my supervisor came to investigate I yelled out loud enough for all to hear that Doris was trying to "do it" with me and her husband at the same time.
The supervisor turned and looked at her and asked her if the allegations were true, and to the ol' girls credit she said "Yes-yes they are." and then she punched out, went home and never came back.
A couple weeks later on a Tuesday night (i remember cuz i always had Saturdays and Tuesdays off) I was watching the news and they showed video surveillance film of a bank robbery. The culprits were Doris and her husband. They got caught and ended up getting sent away for a long time.
When I look back there is an element of disbelief in my mind, but w/o a doubt the hospitality industry introduces you to such a diverse element.
For awhile I kinda felt bad and painted scenarios as to why Doris still had some redeeming qualities, but as time marched on. I became content that in all journey's you're going to get weirdness placed in your path, how you respond to these situations (not if you resond) will define your charactor.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pastry People

The following question was sent to me by an industry friend "Hey Klecko, are all Pastry people temperamental?"

The source wasn't looking for an answer, as much as looking for somebody to commiserate with. He was working on project with a collegue and apparently the two of them got into a knock down drag out. The first thing you need to realize is that the pastry camp is huge.

If somebody asked you if you liked birds...what would that mean to you? Your perception might be the cute Red Robin that graces your lawn plucking earth worms from the;earth on sun filled mornings. The person who asked it might have had a Pelican that spends have it's day pooping sardine looking stuff all over their favorite boat.

I don't have all day to erase ignorance, so let uncle Klecko split Pastry People into 2 camps first (and remenber, these camps could be split again, and again, and again) and perhaps later if the spirit moves me, we can take the topic deeper.

Pasrty Worker and Pastry Chef

The Pastry Worker often times executes their pastry menu in addition to other menus such as bread and / or cakes. they often times spend the first couple years of their training on a sheeter where they prepare Sweet / Puff Pastry / Croissant / Danish doughs.
When this task is complete and often times it will take up 1/2 a shift) the Pastry Guy / Girl will do doughnuts, coffee cakes, muffins, tie figure eights, roast nuts, and pretty much attend to the production of wares that you might find in grocery stores, gas stations or diners. If you had to make a general charactorization of this person....they are affable, hard working but not intense, have varied interests...and maybe most importantly, won't finish their career in this field.

The Pastry Chef often times (more often than not in fact) will not even work in a bakery but in a restaurant. Many of these folks have culinary educations and have to have the ability to work hard w/o being supervised. They are the only person in the building who knows how to do their job. Very few concepts can afford more than one Pastry Chef or a person with the itteligence to direct them. In my opinion this indavidual has to be more diversified than anybody in the hospitality industry.
As a bread baker there just is not a huge difference between making a German Rye and a Whole Grain basket, but in the world of preparing peoples most coveted treats......the menu changes often. Pastry Chefs also have to come in to their space and do most of the work prior to the Chefs coming in or their need for certain pieces of equipment will collide. Therefore Pastry Chef is stuck alone listening to Talk Radio by them selves as they stir compotes or bake high end scones.
The down side to being a Pastry Chef is that there are a lot of people doing it, this has really deluded their pay scale. Although there are not a lot of proficient people in this market...managment typically has the upper hand. They flaunt (through inuendo and akward silence) that they have raw talent banging at the door.
Yes my friends...if you find a talented Pastery Chef, hold onto them with your life. Like an honest mechanic, they are hard to replace.