The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Building a bakery section with bad equipment

melbakercornwall's picture

Building a bakery section with bad equipment

Hi all! I’ve read posts on this site for years but didn’t decide to join until today - I think some of you may be able to help with the situation I am in.

Long story short is I was offered an incredible position - create a bakery section in a five-star hotel in a beautiful location. All sorts of promises were made but a month into working at the hotel (in the pastry section, as the bakery does not yet exist), my pleas for ANY new equipment are falling on deaf ears and being responded to with a hard no.

The situation is this: I’m expected to produce bread for two restaurants (multiple variations), eventually working towards replacing all outside suppliers of bread and creating products for retail.


Despite promises, I have now been told I will have no dedicated area in the kitchen (just the very small pastry section of one restaurant for a few hours in the morning). I will not have a fridge of my own (sharing a small part of the pastry walk-in, which fluctuates between 2c and 19c throughout the day and evening). I will most definitely not have a retarder/proofer. I will have access to two Rational ovens. I have received a hard no to buying a spiral mixer (even second hand) - the mixers are a very old, malfunctioning Hobart which has a habit of ripping dough to shreds and a Kenwood patissier XL. 

At this point, I am questioning why I am hired as even basic organisational concerns I have are shot down. It has been a struggle to even get my employers to commit to buying some decent flour.

Any words of advice for using the above machinery/for my sanity would be greatly appreciated. 

GaryBishop's picture

idaveindy's picture

There's a video somewhere  about a guy who uses hand-mixing, big tubs, and a shared ktichen to make artisan bread to sell at famers' markets. His volume was impressive.

Maybe you could get by with "make do" for a while, room temp fermentation/proof, etc.   And if you impress the customers, the boss may get you what you want to expand production.

But if "make do" doesn't work, then you get the blame.


Other platitudes:

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing right."

"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."  - Benjamin Franklin.

troglodyte's picture

I wonder how the people here (including me) can answer your question? It is such a personal decision. Bad boss problems are common in every field and each one is unique. 

What has helped me in such situations is to be candid, open, and honest. I would give them something like the following letter, with the expectation that you will be quitting anyway:

"I was asked to produce bread for two restaurants in our five-star hotel. I cannot do it. When I was hired, I was told that the hotel would set aside the necessary space and buy the equipment we need to make the bread. I cannot in good conscience waste the hotel's money and my time considering the recent negative decisions about work space and equipment. Both are essential to produce quality bread, so I have decided to leave. When I joined the staff, I was eager to establish our hotel's reputation for the best artisan bread. I feel sad that we could not work this out. I wish you and our hotel future success and thank you for the opportunity."

Then leave. Even if the boss yields, you can never trust them again. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I would rather work at a minimum wage fast food restaurant (again) rather than stay at a job where there is no respect and I may be setup for failure.

You don't want to work in a situation where expectations are five-star bread made in a one-star space with one-star equipment. They will push you there because they know that people do not like to admit, "I cannot do it within the constraints you set." Trust me, you will be the scapegoat if it doesn't work out. Don't let this boss set YOU up for failure because they promised their managers "artisan bread at no additional investment cost to the hotel." If they lied to you, who else did they lie to?

-> In my opinion, your true goal is to leave on the best possible terms and minimize "burning bridges." Do it quickly to avoid accusations and recriminations. Do not let them suck you into a debate over petty details. The details do not matter any longer. You are done with them. 

-> The Bottom Line:
Your integrity should never be for sale. Have faith in yourself. 

Now ... if you must have that job no matter what ... I cannot advise you. Hopefully someone will suggest something less drastic. 


mariana's picture

What you describe is a common setup for nearly any restaurant that has a separate pastry department. They share it with bakers.

In our kitchen in a Spanish resort hotel we had the same setup. Bakers, a team of six, were sharing space and walk-in fridge with pastry chefs, the shifts were not overlapping though. Bakers were working night shifts to bake fresh bread and rolls for breakfast and for sandwiches, salad croutons, rusks, etc.. All bread was yeasted, direct method, no preferments. They were not responsible for pizza dough though. The chefs were making their own.

We were baking bread for six different restaurants for about 1000 customers daily. So we did have a large spiral mixer. You already have good bread flour, repair you Hobart or learn to mix in it, it's a good mixer, and the rest is to select the bread recipes and to figure out the schedules for fermentation and baking, to hire more bakers as your volume will grow.

clevins's picture

They shouldn't have to spend their own time fixing an old, malfunctioning mixer. That's not reasonable (it might be reasonable for the place to pay someone to do so, but expecting the baker to do it in that kind of place is not, IMO).

A mixer is basic equipment and if management isn't willing to invest in the basics, they are, again, not serious or not competent. And when OP says It has been a struggle to even get my employers to commit to buying some decent flour it's time to cut losses.>

mariana's picture

Of course I didn't mean that the baker would repair the mixer personally.

Simply report the malfunction to the manager or the head chef and request the repairs. The kitchen manager would take care of that. I doubt that without a good Hobart mixer in working condition their pastry department would be able to continue working either. 

I only meant that there is nothing special about spiral vs planetary (or fork, or diving arm, or large capacity high speed cutter, or dough sheeters etc.). They all work, they develop gluten. If the size of the bowl is sufficient, Hobart is good. I speak from experience of using one in our restaurant in Montreal. It kneads bread dough very well. 

The question wasn't about what to do in order to quit. The OP asked how to organize a bakery (or bread baking flow) in such conditions. If there is no good rapport between a baker and the resto management, they can invite a consultant, they would organize the process, check out the equipment and train bakers how to use it, etc. Here, we can only chat on this forum, express our opinions or share experiences, but on the ground things are more serious and real and there are a lot of important details that are invisible to us from here. 


rondayvous's picture

I agreed (I assume the choice here was made months ago) with Mariana. I would have gone further to say that if it were within my capabilities (likely) I would have repaired the Hobart (with permission).

‘After working (not in bakeries, but other forms of production) for over 50 years there were basically two types of people. Workers, who defined their jobs and would never think of doing things outside of that definition, and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, even when they are employees tend to do whatever it takes to succeed. Mariana is obviously the latter. 

‘This is not a judgment, just an observation as the world needs both types of people and both can do well.

‘My advice to the poster would have simply been, what type of person are you?

clevins's picture

They don't want an actual bakery and if they say they do but refuse to build out for it, then they're incompetent. 

Look, you could research what comparable resort type places do, or something and show them the investment other successful similar ventures have made. But... why?