Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Shift, Universities and Pitbull Concerts

Ahoy Mates,

Tis I....your surly captain reporting from the bakery on a Saturday morning.

Working the Saturday shift in our plant (like many) is either complete chaos....or perfect tranquility.

Saturdays the only day of the week where our production is shut down, and although there is no need to have bakers around....
You still need one person to answer the phones in case of emergencies.

I don't have any scientific date to base this on, but I've found that once one account calls in with a messed up might want to batten down the hatches, cuz more than likely the levy is about to break.

Many of the times this shift is occupied by our companies CFO, but today he has adventure on his mind.

Last night, as soon as his shift was completed, his wife picked him up and the two of them drove to Canada to catch a "Pitbull" concert that is taking place tonight.

When he told me about this romantic interlude, how could I not volunteer to help out.

I had a situation this week, and I wanted to write to you guys about this earlier, but I wasn't sure which angle to address it from...LOL, could it be that the Last American Baker has become prudent?

Several weeks ago, I receaved a phone call from a guy who ran the bake shop at a major university.

He told me that he wanted to learn more about bread and wondered if I would ever have time to stop by,perhaps I could take a tour of his new - upgraded bake shop.

At no time was there mention of recompense, or some kind of consultant fee, so I figured dude just wanted to network and show off his toys.

Well...we set up a date during the Spring break, and early one morning, in the middle of last week, I tossed Hennessy into my bread truck to come along as well.

If theres one major difference I learned over the years, pastry chefs love field trips, where as bread bakers would sooner be left to their routine.

So eventually we pull into the campus, park.... and then make our way into the building.

This structure is new, it glistens, and as I entered the foyer...I couldn't help but feel as if I were goinging into some state of the art Mall in Vegas, Paris or Moscow.

If you tilted your head back and looked upward, there were multiple levels.

Coffee shops, drug stores, gift shops, postal centers and who knows what else.

The student at the check in center tells us that the bake shop was underground, so we'd have to take the elevator to floor minus one.

I just started to laugh and asked Hennessy if she ever noticed that engineers do everything in their power to isolate bakers from the rest of the world.

So now we meet the baker guy, he tours us around his shop, and then he asks whats the best way to make a 6 ounce bread round.

In baking, most dough cutting machines are set up for rolls (1 1/2 to 3 ounces), steak buns (4-41/2 ounces) or pan breads which run between 1 1/2 - 2 pounds.

I'm guessing that somewhere in the world,if you need a 6 ounce dough divider, maybe in the Yucatan such a piece of equipment exsists, but in most shops it would'nt be utilized often, and in most bakeries space is a precious commodity.

So I tell the guy they'd have to go old school and run plates of 3 ounce pieces on the Rondo (bun rounder) and double the pieces up and round them by hand.

Dude says.....

They'd freak out, they just spent a fortune on this shop and want our production to be automated.

I asked if he got to sit in on the planning sessions for the new layout and now he looks down at the floor....

"Nope, neither the bake staff or the kitchen were allowed to attend the meetings, the board decided how to set up our space.

Ha-Ha-Ha.....whenever somebody mentions a "board", I always laugh. Can you imagine a room full of suits sitting around figuring out what equipment was to be needed in a facility that demands mass ammounts of top level products for their students and staff?

Much of their equipment was new, but off brands from companies I've never heard of.

Most of you know that Klecko isnt a motorhead, but I have been going to industry and trade shows for 30 years. It's rare that I walk into a shop and most of the brands are unfamiliar.

Odds are that somebody on the board had a brother in law from a kitchen equipment store, and they unloaded some inventory they that got stuck with.

That's just how life works.

So anyways...I regress, I tell "guy" that they will have to double round their 3 ounce pieces by hand whether the managment gets upset or not, and then he responds.....

"Well, my bake staff doesn't want to do it, they said they could get carpal tunnel from repetitive motion."

Hennessy and I look at each other as if we're in a Twilight Zone episode...then I stated the obvious...

"So if the crew won't do their job, fire them and get somebody who will."

Now the bake shop guy begins to explain there is more to it...

"You can't just fire people here. it's harder to get rid of a University employee than a Union worker. My staff are all related to people. People on the board of trustees, people of esteem. The job here really is a good gig. We all get high wages, a stellar 4-1K and medical & full dental. Nobody can afford to lose this job."

Klecko stands befuddled, at this point it would have been easy to say "Thanks for the tour." unplug and take off, but I couldn't resist....

"Wait, so you're telling me that the Chef gives you orders of what you need to make to support his menu (6 oz bread bowls) and the board says they won't buy you the proper equipment, and your bakers are engaged in mutiny, and won't take your instruction?"

This my friends is the plight of the institutional baker.

I know it's hard to walk away from the gravy train, but as we made our way through the main kitchen and satellite kitchens, everybody looked miserable, even the janitor came over to b**** about how he was being treated.

I don't know how long I could endure that enviroment for any price.

As I was walking back to the bread truck, my mind went back to an artical that I read in the waiting room at the dentist.

It was written by some food columnist who interviewed Paul Newman shortly before his death.

The journalist asked how a movie star could create food products that were not only popular, but profitable.

Newman said something like......

"We've never had a single meeting, everybody just shuts up and does their job."

Those are words I don't want to forget.....OK, the phones are starting to ring...which means Big Papi will need to put out some fires.

Have a good weekend friendo


  1. Klecko, Kevin is fond of using the phrase "economic blackmail." You should have heard some worker bees who were at our house last week dissing management. Oy vey. Worker bees should be listened to! And work should have some joy in it. Great post. As always.

  2. Apparently, the bread makers in the settler days of fur trading were forced to keep the community oven going until the early dawn, no pay. I took the kids to see the French trading fort in northern Wisconsin. The bread was the pay!