Episode 1: A Chat with Summer Bakes

Summer Bakes owns and operates the Perfect Bite Bake Shoppe in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She is a true inspiration having discovered the world of baking as part of her recovery process from an eating disorder. This talented entrepreneur is proudly self-taught, introspective, and insightful –it was an absolute delight to talk to her. Our conversation unearthed many interesting questions, topics, and tangents. Take a listen and feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Post #1: Ep. 1, Part 1: What makes a “professional” baker/pastry chef? Does formal education equate professionalism or technical proficiency?

One of my first questions to Summer was to find out how she personally defined her baking education. I quickly learned that she is self-taught, having mastered her skills from cookbooks and constant experimentation. Yet she made sure to describe her education as, “definitely not professional.” I was immediately struck by this phrasing. Not only does it raise big questions like...(click to continue reading)!

Post #2: Ep. 1, Part 2: Are our societal views on food and baking and pastry arts education connection?

“The [societal] system itself is broken. How we view food and how we interact with our environment, is not sustainable. And I think just having our food education or our culinary education…be so rushed and hectic, just shows how little we value that. The people who are making our food are really important and the people who are growing our food are really important. And having food be grown locally and made locally should be something at the forefront of people’s minds in terms of health and having a sustainable economy. But people don’t think of it like that.” This was a very eye-opening statement for me. As Summer spoke, I realized that the current state of our baking and pastry arts educational system may be linked to a greater issue...(click to continue reading)!

Episode 2: A Chat with Martin Barnett

As a Red-Seal baker, Certified Bakery Specialist, educator, business owner, and advocate, Martin Barnett is an inspirational contributor to the Canadian baking and pastry arts industry. He is currently the Executive Director and General Manager of the Baking Association of Canada (BAC) tasked with the notable duty to guide the association’s relaunching in the wake of the pandemic. His involvement with BAC, on both the provincial and national levels, began in 2005 and in 2012 he became a director. Between 2002-2018, Martin was both an instructor and the Chair of the Professional Baking and Pastry Department at Vancouver Island University. More recently, Martin is the owner, principal, and consultant at Seraphina’s Oven; a community, home-based bakery school in Ladysmith, British Columbia, where he is continuously developing new training courses for his community and engaging in his own life-long learning!

Post #3: Ep. 2, Part 1: The Baking Association of Canada and the State of Things

In 2014, Martin wrote an article titled “Easing Labour Pains,” featured in the Baker’s Journal. He spoke about the difficulties bakery owners were facing to find qualified candidates for vacant positions at the time. One solution that was discussed was to increase the number of Red Seal certified bakers in the industry by signing up those already working, without the certification, as “junior affiliates” to their local BAC chapter, thereby forming a network of members who would have their competency in the trade evaluated by qualified employers. Once evaluated, a...(click to continue reading)!

Post #4: Ep. 2, Part 2: To Regulate or Not to Regulate? And the Advantages/Disadvantages of a Low-Barrier of Entry

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...(click to continue reading)!

Post #5: Ep. 2, Part 3: To Regulate or Not to Regulate? continued…The History of the Apprenticeship Program in Canada

“40, 50, 60 years ago, the bakers in Canada a lot of them were European trained… (there was a lot of immigration from Europe to Canada) …and the bakeries that they opened reflected their training. They passed that training on through the apprenticeship system…Pretty much everybody learned the same type of thing. There were very few in-store bakeries, like the big grocery chain bakeries, but the ones that did exist also employed those scratch bakers that needed to be trained. You had Safeway who was a big player in the apprenticeship system because they wanted their bakers to know how to bake from scratch. So, it was a very vibrant, trade and government engaged system that trained our bakers. This was the model in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Around the end of the 70’s and 80’s the industrial baking suppliers started dealing..."(click to continue reading)!

Post #6: Ep.2, Part 4: How Do We Answer the Consumer’s Call for From-Scratch Baked Goods?

In Martin’s 2014 article, Easing Labour Pains,” he mentions how the consumer at the time was starting to demand more from-scratch baked goods from the industry. I asked Martin if he believed that this demand was still present today in 2021? “Absolutely, and I think that most of the small bakers, pastry shops, and chocolatiers that have opened up [and meeting this demand] aren’t aware that there is a baking association and are probably thinking that they are working in a vacuum. Or maybe, in the YouTube community. Or maybe they’ve turned to the bread baking guild of America. But we must engage with..."(click to continue reading)!

Post #7: Ep. 2, Part 5: Revisiting Our Training/Educational Needs: Why Making the BAC Membership More Robust is an Excellent Starting Point!

Among the many tangents we discussed during our conversation, Martin shared with me one way in particular he believes BAC can address the potential gaps we have in the industry’s training and educational needs and it starts by taking a look at the current BAC membership program: “One of the situations I have inherited at the Baking Association of Canada is that there is two categories of membership, affiliates and bakers. An ‘affiliate’ is like a supplier or a yeast manufacturer…and a ‘baker’ can be…Wonderbread or it can be the individual family run artisan bakery down the road. Or it can be the chocolate maker on the high street. And I think that categorizing all those different subsets of the..."(click to continue reading)!

Post #9: The Relationship Between College Certificate Programs and Industry: Part One- The Industry

In an ideal situation the college programs are meant to produce qualified candidates who will take up vacant positions in the industry, while employers maintain consistent, minimum requirements for entry-level jobs (i.e., a candidate must have a certificate in baking and pastry arts). So, what is happening on either side of this relationship that might be contributing to the labour crisis?...(click to continue reading)!

Post #10: The Relationship Between College Certificate Programs and Industry: Part Two- The Colleges

You would think it would be safe to assume that those who choose to receive formal training in baking and pastry arts by pursuing a college certificate are students with the dedication, commitment, passion, and love for the craft of baking. As mentioned in part one of this reflection and according to their program instructors, the 1-2-year college programs have consistently high enrollment, however, there is still a labour shortage in the industry. I believe this is do, in part, to the fact that...(click to continue reading)!