Automation isn't always a bad thing, in fact.....sometimes it makes the foods you like more assessable. If bakers practice proven mixing methods with their doughs, and the product receives permission to ferment at its own pace, it doesn't really matter if the loaves are rounded by mechanized means or shaped bu hand.
Efficient systems drive down the production hours and that way the consumer doesn't have to absorb so much of the cost.
Some of the nicest bakeries end up shutting their doors because they are to stubborn to realize that they won't be able to pay their bills if they have to provide staff enough to roll hundreds of baguettes, or round thousands of burgers buns by hand.
Time is money in the Food Show and every second is a cash register.
One of the top horrors that can take place in a bake shop is when a piece of equipment that typically gets taken for granted, abruptly comes to a screeching halt.
This almost always happens at the worst time like on a Friday afternoon, or 2 a.m. when you are all alone. Pans of dinner rolls, racks of sourdough boules scream to whoever the God of baking is "Help Us - Help Us......don't let us become a bread orphans.
I too like to scream out to God during my personal moments of distress, but if it's a Friday afternoon and my bun popper blows a piston, prayers come after calling the mechanic.
You might not know it, but there really is a tiny cult of people on the globe that do nothing but fix equipment in bake shops.
The tools of production in a bakery are as different than those in a kitchen, as a boat engine is from a planes.
Like Magicians and cable cars, bakery mechanics are a field that are fading away at a pace quicker than I want to acknowledge.
Now, some of you Motorheads out there might say.....
"But Klecko, I think I could change the belt on your Blumhoff, or I'll bet I could fix that start switch on your spiral mixer."
Sure, there are some things that any gear daddy could tackle, but I'd be willing to bet you a dollar to a monkey that you wouldn't know where to find the special blades inside my ciabatta machine, and even if you did, would you know the differences between the German version and the Italian?
Another thing that puts the baker at their mechanics mercy is that OSHA has different demands that only a grease monkey can appease.
I'll never forget the time their inspector crushed us with a 5 digit fine because a baker confessed to crawling into an oven with out understanding the essential protocol.
Yeah, I think its safe to say that if your shop has a trust worthy mechanic....they w/o a doubt are the most valued player on your team.
C'mon Klecko, we get the point, you think they are important, but surely they are not more important than your top baker?
The mechanic is like the fricken Calvary. When chaos rears her ugly head, that's when Mr. Good Wrench blows past everybody.
You can find a baker at the grocery store, but what are you going to do when some baker who wasn't paying attention got his arm trapped in a bread divider and only the mechanic can free this poor soul from level 10 pain.
For the last decade I have had the honor and privilege of working with a mechanic who I would say is nothing short of a blessing.
As a Pollock, I hate to admit this, but my mechanic is an Italian, well kinda, the whole story gets a little confusing.
I don't know if I believe in predestination, but when I look at the course of Maurizio Tava's life, and the journey(s) that were required to get him into my humble space in Saint Paul....I can tell you w/o wincing, there had to be angels involved.
OK, like most stories, its best to at a beginning.
A long time ago, Maurizio's Great-Great Grandparents were living in a small village in Italy.
Somebody whispered into their ear that there was an exotic refuge across the sea where wealth and happiness were an entitlement.
This Nirvana had a name, and that name was America.
This new world was growing fast so it was suggested that the Italians hawk what they owned and book passage on a cruiser as quick as they could....oh yeah, the best kept secret at that place was a city named Saint Paul.
In Italy, it is more common to pronounce Saint Paul as Saint Paulo. They mean the same thing, but the former is an English pronunciation, while the ladder is Spanish.
So the Tava clan take their cash and head to the place in Italy and book their tickets for Saint Paulo.
For days and nights - weeks and weeks they stood on the deck, stared at the waves and said prayers while they were anticipating their destiny.
The trip seemed like it lasted a life time, and as they finally pulled into the port, the Tava's all marveled at how exotic the terrain was.
They were living in a time where you couldn't Google images, or go on the internet to fetch data, but even with that said...they were surprised to see that New York City had palm trees.
OK....this is were it gets good, Great-Great Grandfather Tava walks up to a customs guy, produces his paper work and mentions that there might be some confusion. He was told that he would be landing in NYC.
Then the Abbott and Costello routine begins, the counter guy says.....
"Mama Mia, It says here on your ticket that you are heading to Saint Paulo!"
Mr. Tava looks at him, furls his brow and says.....
"Yes, I am going to Saint Paulo, but by route of NYC."
Both guys are speaking Spanish during this discussion, the counter guy is really perplexed.
"Mama Mia, I don't think they would send you to NYC to head to Saint Paulo...it is too far away!"
Mr. Tava stops to register the events that are swirling around his brain...
"No we take a train from NYC to Chicago, and from Chicago we go to Saint Paulo."
The counter guy finally gets it, his face turns as red as a good tomato sauce before blurting out.....
"Mama Mia, you are trying to get to Saint Paul in the United States. Currently you have tickets to get you to Saint Paulo, that is here...in Brazil. You are on a different continent.!"
OMG.....can you imagine, Maurizio swears that this is what really happened to his ancestors.
The real "son of a gun" about this deal is that their money was almost all spent. they didn't have enough to relocate.
So the Tava's made their new base camp in Brazil.
Well, as time passed, the children of the Great-Great Grandparents (who would be the Great Grandparents) decided to travel to Brazil and make sure their parents were OK.
Eventually they too decided that they would stay in Brazil.
So within a few years you had 1/2 the Tava's in Europe, and the other 1/2 in South America.
When I mentioned to Maurizio how bizarre his families tale was, he just smiled and said....
"I know, us Italians will do anything to get away from you Pollocks."
After our laughter ceased, just like the people who get caught on Scooby Doo, I still had one more question.
"Maurizio, this explains that your family needs a GPS, but it doesn't explain how you got here, in North America."
The mechanic smiled and continued.
"I've got an Uncle, and he lived in Italy during WW2. When the war was over, America opened training programs. I guess it was cheaper to do that than rebuild all of Europe, but my Uncle came to America and was trained to be a machinist. When his training was complete, he sent for his parents, and eventually I received an opportunity and came over as well."
Either way, I'm glad that whatever had to happen did, because finding a solid bakery mechanic is like finding a needle in a haystack.