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Part 2: To Regulate or Not to Regulate? And the Advantages/Disadvantages of a Low-Barrier of Entry

by Dina Hamed

During our hour-long conversation, I asked Martin whether he believed the baking trade should be regulated:

I resist over regulation because it narrows creativity, entrepreneurial pursuits and creative pursuits. But at the same time, I really like the European model where to open a bakery in France you must have a diploma...And every bakery owner has gone through the same system. So that’s why when you go from one bakery to the next in Paris and you will see 50% of the product is the same thing…your baguette is a baguette…within the parameters of their training…But that’s a cultural thing too. They have over 150 years of baking in France, and they wanted to be regulated. The mills were the ones who started the schools…and everyone went to those schools…and you couldn’t open a bakery unless you had that diploma…The bakeries all bought into that system. The bakers financed it, so it was in their interest to keep that system going. They believed in…[it]. Their apprentices went through it and the apprentices in 20 years time will go through it…We don’t have that system here in Canada or in North America. (Barnett, personal communication, September 29, 2021)

It sounds to me like we need to unpack what “over regulation” and what an adequate amount of regulation for the baking industry in Canada would look like. Right now, the industry has a low-barrier of entry (Roe, 2019). Having formal education, even a 1-2-year certificate in baking and pastry arts is not required by all employers. This writer, before enrolling as an apprentice and getting her certificate, started out as a pastry cook with absolutely no baking experience. I asked Martin, what he thought the disadvantages or advantages to having such a low barrier of entry into the industry could be?

I think you should let people come and work if they want to work. And if turns out that they have an interest, they have good hands and they like doing what they’re doing, then encourage them to do that and enroll them in the apprenticeship program. (Barnett, personal communication, September 29, 2021)

He then gave me an example of how a low barrier of entry into the industry actually served his bakery, Rising Star Wholefoods Bakery in Victoria, B.C., over 30 or so years ago:

We had about 20 staff and we had a driver…who would hang out a little before his driving shift and...a little bit afterwards...One day he asked, ‘can I work on the bench?’ So, we had him work on the bench. Then the next day somebody was sick, and we needed somebody to mix…He had no training in recipes, he could barely understand a recipe…but once he was shown…I barely had to look at him. He just knew how to stop the machine, his texture was good, and his mixing was good. That was innate learning…And of course he stopped being the driver, he became a baker, and got his Red Seal. But imagine if he hadn’t been allowed to help. We would of missed out. (Barnett, personal communication, September 29, 2021). 

To this day Martin keeps in-touch with his old driver turned baker, Robert, and watched as his colleague’s journey changed over time:

He did baking for about 10 years, then he did a welding program…and became a welder…So I think that’s the other thing we have to recognize is that baking isn’t necessarily a lifetime career for people anymore…I’ve seen some great bakers and pastry chefs have wonderful careers and then 10-11 years down the road they’re doing something else. And I think that needs to be recognized as well. It’s not a forever job. The hours are hard, it’s physical labour, and if you’re going to stop and have a family it’s quite difficult to struggle. (personal communication, September 29, 2021)

So, the questions must be asked. Would industry players, big or small, even want more regulation? Will the industry buy into a system like the one in France mentioned above if it means missing out on acquiring people like Robert? Who would benefit from regulating the trade and how would those regulatory measures effect our current educational system?

References

Roe, J. (2019, January 26). Bakery Industry Analysis. Retrieved from https://bizfluent.com/info-8637863-types-oligopolies.html