Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Water / Flour / Yeast / Salt...and Brains

Good Evening World,

Can you believe it L.A.B. Rats, we are heading in on close to our 300th Blog Post (this is #298).

On the gossip front, what can I say?

In the last 6 months the Russian and Ukrainian hits on this site have gone through the roof. Right now the Motherland ranks 4th in viewership behind the USA, Germany and Canada.....but watch out you Canucks, the Russians are right on your tail and about to pass you.

Prevet Comrades!

Also I would like to reiterate, if you have not checked out Freerk's Blog Site entitled....THE BREAD LAB, you really should. He has it posted on Facebook as well.

That Blog Site has been a source of insperation to me.

I am getting to the point in life where I do not have many goals, but one of them would be to go to Holland and bake with Freerk.

When I get to post #301, I might start a new theme, if any of you have topics desired, just shout at me.

Anyways, I do like round numbers, they can serve as starting gates or finishing lines.

Well, with that said, submitted below is yet another rant that I wrote for FOOD SERVICE NEWS, which is a rag that gets sent out to all of the big fish in the Minnesota Hospitality scene.

Mostly people with purchasing power.

They also are online, and if you ever get a moment, you should check them out..if for no other reason, to read Mike Mitchelson's column.

In addition to being the pub's editor (and a fantastic job he does at that) the man is a great writer that touches informitive topics, more often than not, before they hit the main stream.....

OK kids, today we are going to talk about why some of you have found greatness, and what some of you might want to consider....if you want to climb the ladder.

Separating from Colleagues

About a year ago, I received an e-mail indicating that Peter Nowiki was leaving his full time post at the Super Mom’s baking plant in Saint Paul Park. His workmates put together a lavish send off and invited many of the people that had worked with Pete over the course of his career.

I had mixed emotions about attending. I knew it would be rude if I didn’t go and pay my respects, but at the same time, I was nervous because he was the last of my mentors, and it looked like he might be getting out of the show for good.
In a way, I felt as if I were burying a Father.

When I got inside, there were so many people wanting to speak with him, I had to wait to get a viewing. It was kind of like trying to talk to Don Corleone on the day of his daughter’s wedding.
When my opportunity came, Pete assured me that he wasn’t ditching me 100%, not yet. Instead he thought he might get into some part time consulting.

Well, just the other day I received news that Mr. Nowicki was elected as President of UMBA.
For those of you who don’t follow the baker’s guild, UMBA is short for the Upper Midwest Baking Association.
To be assigned to this post isn’t just an honor; it’s also a lot of hard work and responsibility.
The more I started thinking about Pete’s appointment, the more I began to reminisce.

I’m pretty confident that today I am close to the same age he was when he took me under his wing.
With that in mind, I began to realize that in every mentorship, if the process goes as planned, there is a point where the positions of student & master will invert.

I’m not certain we are at that stage yet, but since my Bread Master is wading into new territory, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind him of some of the basics he taught me.
The first time I met Pete, it was 3 O’clock in the morning. I remember I was standing towards the back of the plant when I noticed a burly silhouette walking towards me…
“The names Peter Nowiki, I’ve just moved here from Milwaukee, and I’m going to be the guy you report to…everyday.”
Then I noticed he took and interest in my shoes. I had one red / canvas Chuck Taylor on one foot, and a purple one on the other.My new boss continued…

“What are you hoping to learn while working here?” he asked.
Without flinching I responded…

“I just want to become a solid baker. I want to mix well, run an efficient oven, and maybe work my way up the ladder.”
Pete stared at me the way fathers do when they realize this might be one of those rare occasions where their son was being sincere.

“How serious are you about advancing?” he asked.

Basically I told him I’d do anything, and that’s when the tension broke because he grew a quick smirk and told me for starters I needed to wear matching shoes, and the color of those shoes shouldn’t be a shade that’s found in a rainbow.
Next he informed me that it wasn’t his place to tell people how to live their lives, but then he hinted that if he wanted people to take him serious, he probably wouldn’t have a mullet like mine. Eight hours later, I rocked my first flat top in over a decade.

The training continued…

“I’ll tell you truthfully Danny, cosmetic features certainly do have a bearing, but if you really want to separate from your colleagues, the formula is simple. If you want to advance past other people who are vying for the same position, all you need to do is show up to work every day, keep your work station cleaner than anybody else, and impress management with any skills that revolve around organization.”

That was it. At first I thought he was pulling my leg.
But now that I look back, truer words have never been spoken because these are the elements that opportunities are made from.
Sure, there are a million other skills that a young baker needs to acquire before they make their way up the ladder, things like production, costing, communication, etc.

But those duties are seldom given to employees that don’t rise to the occasion.
Anytime somebody would enter Pete’s office to voice a complaint against another employee, he was famous for saying…

“Don’t worry about the other guy, worry about yourself, and remember…cream always floats to the top.”
Attendance, Cleanliness and Organization, if you think about it carefully you might agree with me that organization is the umbrella for these three virtues.

For the longest time I thought peoples lack of organization was due to laziness, but recently I have been exposed to some pretty alarming information that makes me think my generalization might not be well founded..
Many scientists are now subscribing to the theory that organization is hard wired into our DNA.

Most of us are familiar with the seven stages of grieving. Well, adolescent development has a similar structure, but according to the data I researched, they claimed that organization is the last level in a youth’s development.
However unlike the grieving scenario, complete steps of children’s development can be passed by. Many of the leading authorities claimed up to 40% of kids never plug into gaining organizing skills ever.
Organization can be bypassed and the affected youth will never know it.

Often time’s people simply believe that organization is automatic, or an entitlement.
Dr Jay Giedd did an interview on PBS’s Frontline and claimed that by age 6 the brain is already 95% its adult size. But the gray matter or thinking part of the brain continues to thicken throughout childhood as the brain gets extra connections.
During our twenties we need to prune back that gray matter like a gardener works on a hedge. If we don’t, our ideas will become overrun, or choke each other out.

This pruning is done consciously by embracing numbers and systems.
The part of the brain that is last to develop is the front cortex, and sure enough, this is the part that focuses on judgment, organization, planning and strategizing.

So if organization isn’t predisposed in your make up, does that mean all hope is lost for you?
Dr. Geoffrey Putt of Akron Children’s Hospital says there are ways all of us can sharpen that part of our mind.

*Use Checklists
*Establish Routines
*Implement Reminder Systems
*Be Consistent

Maybe I’m getting a little more scientific than you desire, but indulge me just this one time.
Pete Nowiki is back in the game, and I just want to send congratulations, and let him know that I still value everything he taught me.

Good luck Sir, and Give them heck.

1 comment:

  1. Exercise. Especially exercise where limbs cross the center-line of the body. Dumbbells, taijiquan, kettle bell, and calisthenics are examples.