Editor Maggie Hennessy explores how to balance running a successful business and satisfying a passion for the craft of baking.
This summer has been great for satisfying my baker nerd side. First, I had the opportunity to attend WheatStalk in June, where the nation’s best bakers converged to demonstrate their razor-sharp skills and share exciting new ideas in artisan bread production. (Read more here, here and here.)
Then last week, I traveled to what some (like Food & Wine magazine) are calling their favorite new food city, Minneapolis. There I sampled some truly special, “New Nordic” local cuisine at The Bachelor Farmer and interviewed sharp-tongued pastry chef-turned bakery owner Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart at the bustling Midtown Global Market. (Be on the lookout for the full story on Salty Tart in our September issue and a photo gallery of Gayer’s amazing 400-sq.-ft. bakery on www.modern-baking.com next month!)
One of the things that stuck with me long after the interview was over was Gayer’s dedication to remain at the bench, even while juggling a growing bakery (with plans for a second location) and two kids.
“I always want to continue to bake,” she said. “It’s hard to balance, and I struggle every day with this. But I want to be a pastry cook.”
This kind of enthusiasm for the nitty gritty of production that draws me into the bakery industry. But even Gayer admits that it’s not easy to maintain that role amid the daily grind of running a business, which she learned the hard way while working for a wholesale bakery for two years prior to opening Salty Tart.
“It was the first time I had a computer or a desk,” she said, laughing. “I had to find things like new packaging that goes around the sides of the cheesecake so it doesn’t touch. And I thought to myself, this is not what I want to do.”
It got me thinking about the range of personalities and skill sets that pepper the bakery world, much like restaurants, which I covered for two years before coming to Modern Baking. Some people come into the industry with an eye for what kind of business would thrive in a given market. Others simply want to create and share wonderful, interesting products.
Fortunately, there’s room for all kinds of personalities and talent in the small business and, more specifically, the bakery world. And it certainly makes things that much more interesting for us consumers.
It also got me thinking about striking a balance. How do you hold true to your passion while maintaining and (hopefully) growing your business? Or if the business side is your passion, how do you keep your bakers and decorators excited and challenged from a creative perspective?
Just a little food for thought on this Tuesday.