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CHEF'S TABLE: Bakers always rise to the occasion

'Week after week, I get to see our students' faces as they walk down our halls holding their latest creations with pride,' says food columnist
2022-01-19 Baker bread
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“Eating something fresh out of the oven is like a hug you can taste.” — Regina Brett

The art of baking has always intrigued me. My love of cookies, pies and a crusty loaf of bread are no secret.

Even though I love and enjoy all the pleasures that a warm oven can put out, I’ve never really been able to do more than get a decent set of biscuits out or pull off an above-average loaf of sourdough.

It's not that don’t appreciate the work… I do! But I think it's just better left to those who’s skills far surpass mine. As a young cook, many come to that fork in the road.

Baking or cooking? It's rare to find someone with exceptional skills in both vocations. They are two sides of a coin and, although similar, require a very specific mind frame and set of skills to excel at.

I chose cooking. Besides, it's always such a great treat to try an amazing treat prepared with care by someone who is committed to the love and art of baking.

I don’t think I’m alone in my admiration for bakers. Television and social media are bursting with baking contests, specialty shows and video clips that run the full gamut from ridiculous to sublime. Even with the push for us to “cut out the carbs,” the demand for baking is strong.

It's as if the pleasure of fresh baking speaks to a deep part of our collective minds. After all, it was the cultivation of wheat and creation of bread that was an integral part of human development and took us from a society of nomadic hunters to farmers and builders. Bread, baking and its place in our culinary universe seems to hold a special reverence for many people.

Over the past few years, with our time at home increased, there has been a renewed interest and passion for many home cooks to try their hand at baking. With the flush of new bakers, we first saw yeast disappear off the shelves of our stores, followed by the flour and other baking ingredients as their ovens and homes all filled with the alluring smells and tasty treats.

As the character Sancho Panza in Don Quixote said: “With bread all sorrows are less.”

The business of bread-baking was first industrialized in the beginning of the 20th century. An American inventor and engineer, Otto Frederick Rohwedder is credited with the development of a prototype bread-slicing machine in 1912, and then went on to create a fully operational machine that both sliced and wrapped bread by 1928. An amazing accomplishment when you consider just how many of us benefit in our daily lives from his invention and the convenience of a quick sandwich!

In the world of baking, there is always something for everyone. Baking and bakeries fill a need for all of us in our lives. Oftentimes, it’s the baked items and breads that come as our first introduction to a new food culture or special tradition.

Here at Georgian College, classes in baking and pastry are an integral part of the training that we provide our hospitality students.

The baking and pastry faculty in our department are all truly artists and masters of their respective crafts. The skills and experience they bring provides our students the opportunity to learn what they need to become accomplished cooks and bakers.

As part of our two-year culinary management program, students get a taste of the fundamentals of basic baking and the recipes that are common for North American food service, such as breads, cookies and cakes.

In the more advanced classes, the chefs provide a glimpse into more of the artistic and technical skills required to create beautiful decorated cakes, torts, pastries and chocolate work.

And for those students who want to delve a little deeper into the world of baking, our one-year advanced baking and pastry program goes deeper into some of the more specialized recipes and skills required for a career in a commercial bakery.

The fact that I get to see our students doing this work is really inspiring to me. Week after week, I get to see our students' faces as they walk down our halls holding their latest creations with pride, a smile and the look of accomplishment in their face. It means that I’m looking at someone who has just discovery something sweet and maybe a new passion.

As a guy who loves a good cookie or loaf of bread, I know I’m in the right place.