Real Bakers

Recently I attended a four day trade fair in Sydney. The ICTF (International Catering and Trade Fair) is held once every two years. In 2006 it was at the Sydney Olympic Pavilion. The fair has a large area dedicated to bakery equipment, and a display bakery where apprentices and bakers participate in baking competitions. Feeling mildly provocative, I decided to register for the fair under my trading name, which is simply "Artisan Baker". At the fair's entrance, I was presented with a large name badge identifying me as "Graham Prichard, Artisan Baker". Pinned to my shirt, I entered the cauldron of industry representatives and trade qualified bakers.

For the first two days I felt like any other attendant, striking up some worthy conversations with bakers and equipment suppliers. On those days I was accompanied by one of the best bakers in Sydney, Chris Brown from Fuel. On day three Chris had to work, so I attended on my own. The first sign of trouble came from a salesman, who looked at my badge and asked "So Then! What exactly is an Artisan Baker!" His tone was dismissive, and surprised me after two days of positive contact with other fair goers. "Well", I replied, "An artisan baker actually gives a damn about the people they are baking bread for". Or that's what I should have said. Remove "actually gives a damn about" and insert "considers" and you have a better of idea of what I said.

It was a gentler reply though still not the one expected by the rep. The expectation is that you will start ranting on about sole baking, hand molding, sourdough, organics, etc. Such qualities might be a way of showing that you give a damn, however there is no point being too prescriptive about what makes an artisan. What counts is how a baker makes decisions about process.

Sitting in my car preparing to leave the fair, I noticed that there was a voice message waiting on my phone. I love voice messages! (Graham listens to message) Oh. That's odd. This is not a message of love. It is two industry rep's making fun of me behind my back. It would be funny except that only ten minutes ago these people were treating me like a good friend. Play Sound, "He's not a Real Baker", gloats the WP Reedy rep, who also states proudly on his card that he is a Master Baker. True. My baking qualification is a "Craft Baker". This means that I worked under qualified bakers for several years before applying to an industry body to have my skills and experience recognised. I worked for a further 3 years running my own wood-fired organic sourdough bakery, but never attended a day of formal training.

To be a real baker, you had to go to "Real Baker" school and learn the art of industry sponsored, chemically-assisted bread manufacturing. The key art of baking, fermentation was treated as a problem to be controlled by industry additives purchased from your friendly industry rep. The damage to the craft of bread making and the motivation of bakers was huge.

I did enroll in the trade course once, aiming to complete the trade by correspondence. My first assignment was to describe my bakery to the instructor "Master" baker. The paper came back with red pen scrawled all over it (Chembake? Was that you?). The pride I had in using simple methods was dismissed as being old and unsophisticated. A real bakery without commercial yeast or bread improvers? Impossible! A wood fired oven? You mill your own flour? Absurd!

At that time bakeries in my part of the world were expected to be operated by a qualified baker. Bakers applied for "Craft" certification partly to ensure that their business was legitimate. You did not want to take the chance that at some point in the future there would be trouble because you didn't have a "ticket" to make bread.

It is such a relief to facilitate this web site in an age where un-ticketed Artisan Bakers make the best bread available. One of the first things I was asked (by my Dutch landlord) when setting up my own bakery was "Are you a Master Baker, or a Masturbator?". Actually, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

Apologies in advance to all the real bakers who do give a damn and consider themselves artisans. If you are a baker and do not consider yourself to be an artisan, then why are you baking at all?

Graham Prichard

7 comments

Love that read Graham!

 

 

Wanking and weightlifting could be another mutually exclusive way of putting it as well aye? I mean those sacks are heavy!

Jeremy, I thought that I would just casually update the archive with this early blog, and that no one would ever actually read it again. Of course I had not considered that a two-headed baker would be lurking in the depths of this site, waiting for the 'M' word to appear once again and draw a connection to their own life experience.

It is a pleasure to have another thing in common with you Jeremy. I don't know why every other male baker is in denial. In fact for my honours degree in fine arts I did I sculptural piece which I called 'spermentation'. One day I will work up the courage to post a photo of the work on the site....knowing that you will truly appreciate the depth of this work. Graham
Do you wonder why we both are turning are heads away in these avatars? Spermentation, hmmm that is a new take on fermentation, actually a play on words and the act of creation itself?

Jung or Freud should be here with us!

Jeremy}:)
[quote=Jeremy]
Jung or Freud should be here with us!

Jeremy}:)[/quote]

We don't need them Jeremy. Sourdough is the best therapy. I have not baked in a while which probably explains my mental state. Yes, our heads are facing away because no matter how open minded and revealing we are...ultimately we are (I expect) heterosexual. Gees. Whoever thought that word would come up on a baking site! How do you feel about your mother and father Jeremy!? Please, tell me about your childhood....tell me about your relationship with the leaven. ;)Graham
[quote=Graham][quote=Jeremy]
Jung or Freud should be here with us!

Jeremy}:)[/quote]

We don't need them Jeremy. Sourdough is the best therapy. I have not baked in a while which probably explains my mental state. Yes, our heads are facing away because no matter how open minded and revealing we are...ultimately we are (I expect) heterosexual. Gees. Whoever thought that word would come up on a baking site! How do you feel about your mother and father Jeremy!? Please, tell me about your childhood....tell me about your relationship with the leaven. ;)Graham
[/quote]
My relation to levain, sour, sticky and always rising!
That should be my new signature?

Jeremy
Jeremy that sounds like a very healthy relationship, but I would not use it as your new signature because we live in a world which is politically correct about being politically incorrect, which I know you already know because you are just pulling my gluten strands about using it as your signature.

Now..Jeremy..did you know that this-morning I was contacted by a baker on the QE2 that has worked there for many years and wants to consider a longer stay in Sydney!? Amazing. I have asked him to provide photos/video of his QE2 bakery and I will help him look around Sydney.

Jeremy do you have any photos of galley kitchens from 'your time' (it is not over yet!).

Graham
very interesting.
In Canada, at least in Ontario, it is hard enough to find an experienced baker. Let alone an actual school for 'real bakers'. Many people come into the business from a cooking background, and learn some bread baking along the way. Which turns them on to the baking field itself.
I like your idea of an artisan baker. I believe it to be true. What would be the point of making bread, if you did not put your heart into it?