Rising in the bakery world

Rising in the bakery world

Dedication to the craft, a pride in your product and physical strength are just a few ingredients you need to be a baker

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Training centre graduate Sakura Leung with some tools of the bakery trade.
Training centre graduate Sakura Leung with some tools of the bakery trade.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP
It is uncommon to see a girl working in a bakery, but Sakura Leung Wai-yi, 22, is determined to be a baker because she loves seeing people enjoy her bread. You may not think physical strength would be a factor, but it is. Leung knows she is at a disadvantage when making bread because she is not as strong as her male colleagues, so she hits the gym four times a week.

Get started:

There is no standardised training system for bakers in Hong Kong. People interested in the industry can learn on the job as an apprentice or take training courses.

I got my basic training from the Hong Kong Professional Bakery and Confectionery Vocational Training Centre. In one year, I learned how to make bread, Chinese pastries, cakes and cookies. I also received training in food safety and occupational safety.

Moving up:

Trainees handle most of the cleaning and help out the bakers. In the bakery, everyone is in charge of a work station. Bakers prepare the dough and then pass it on to a colleague who shapes it and puts it into a proofer to make it rise. Another colleague in charge of the baking will take the risen dough from the proofer and put the loaves into the oven.

The preparation of the dough and the baking are done by more experienced bakers. The steps to climb in the career are trainee, junior baker, baker, senior baker and chief baker. Senior and chief baker are management roles that control the quality of products and oversee the operation of the bakery. The chief baker is also in charge of marketing the bakery and product development.

Race to the top:

Bakers need to be passionate about the craft. Making people happy with your food is all the motivation you need to excel. Serving food is a great responsibility, so a baker has to uphold high hygienic standards. A baker should also be physically fit. A loaf of bread can weigh up to two kilograms, and a baker has to put 30 to 40 loaves into the oven and take them out. It's tough work.

Rewards and benefits:

A trainee usually starts at around HK$9,000 a month. Experienced bakers can earn up to HK$20,000.

A day in the life: I go to work at 8am and finish at about 5pm. I am assigned to a different work station every day. One day I might be in charge of preparing the dough, the next I might be the one doing the baking.

I get five days off every month. Christmas and Easter are peak seasons for bakeries, and we have to take fewer days off then. Bakers who work in centralised bakeries supplying bread to shops might have to work overnight shifts as these operate 24 hours a day.

Jargon:

Proofer: a chamber used in baking that encourages fermentation of dough through warm temperatures and controlled humidity

Hit the powder: preparing the dough

Spatula: A common tool used by a baker to shape the dough

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