So You Want To Work Overseas? Long Vent......raor

Decorating By tasteebakes Updated 23 Feb 2010 , 12:36am by tasteebakes

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 3:23am
post #1 of 53

Arrrggghhhh... Okay I was offered this "dream" cake decorating job overseas...

We sold our house, sold our donut/cake shop and went to California to stay with relatives over summer 2009 while we waited for our work permits to go through.

After a whole summer of waiting (held up because my new employer didn't get his paperwork in as fast as I did) we finally arrived here at the end of August.
Now I was hired to make specialty cakes for a wholesale bakery. This is a new position at this bakery, one he wants to get in to. They do tarts, lamingtons, donuts, sweet and savory pies, etc. All wholesale. They also do what they call "slab' cakes in carrot/cream cheese and chocolate/ganache. They also do 9 and 11" carrot, choc, banana, orange/yogurt, etc.
My contract also states that I am to replace the existing, aging (66) cake decorator as shes retires.
Cut to reality..
I arrived at the end of August and my employer says I'll be spending the first month learning the job. Great! I've never made Lamingtons or tarts, I'd be thrilled to learn. First day on the job, aging lady isn't there, they tell me, we will probably get along like a house on fire.
Second day on the job, aging lady isn't there, she called in, asked if the American was there, and said she wasn't coming to work...

???

Third day, I come to work and am told she has been in and crying already...about me. Great.

That's the start...I went out of my way to get along with this lady. Lots of Yes's and okay's from me

. She was still a total b**** *moderator edited* to me. Then it comes out there are some other hard feelings in the bakery because two of the other girls told the owner they could do the cake decorating, yet he still hired me. Still they are nice enough and seem to hold any hard feelings they have againest him and not me. seem to.

Okay, so a month of learning the job goes by. I am generally made to feel unwanted but push past it because my employer wants me there...right?

Month two, after asking, when will I be doing specialty cakes. I am given the job of making the 800 plus muffins they make everyday and told to use any extra time to make cakes. So that's 36 hours of muffin making a week. By hand, with an ice cream scoop. After 1600 squeezes to the ice cream scoop each day for 2 weeks, I can tell you..carpal tunnel is in my future if I continue down this path.

Okay, now get this...the aging decorator (I use the term aging decorator, because thats what it says in my contract) couldn't get fired in th US because she wouldn't get hired to begin with. She ices her cakes with barely any icing and the cakes show through the sides. The round cake boards these cakes are on are SMALLER than the cake that is on them. Needless to say, they are not beautiful. I let it go, not really what I'm here to do, yet. I make the great cakes, right?

Then I notice the storage of the cakes, Baked all at once on the same day. left on racks until the, you guessed it, aging decorator can store them, sometimes overnight into the next day. Then they are stored open, on bread racks in the large walk-in cooler. Because she is aging, she wheels the racks in and out of the chiller, let's the cakes come down to room temp, puts them back, repeat, repeat, until that cake gets oredred and decorated. Yes, some cakes have come back with complaints of being dry...you think?

I do not want to attach my name to dry (oh I didn't mention the straight, sweet royal icing they ice with) cake. I plan to live here until thay kick me out lol

Couple of more vents,
They store the canola oil in an open bucket under the hand sink (at least when I'm there, I keep it capped) Eggs are stored at room temp (which I guess is the norm here)

I greatly reduced my hours. I could go on and on about things at this bakery but you would never believe me...ugh!

Oh and everyone goes on and on about this aging lady and how awful she is when she is not around, then when she's there thay are sooo sticky sweet and nice and ha ha ha to her face.

Oh girls, you know I said something to her about the things she's doing! Oh I forgot to mention licking her fingers and cutting the tips of parchment bags with her TEETH!!!

Once I clocked out went around the corner and listened to her go on and on about how much she hated me and my coworkers/friends were silent. Of course I came back around the corner and told her not to talk about me and that everyone there tells me everything she says and to never talk to me again. Thankfully she hasn't said a word to me since. I guess my coworkers didn't like me upsetting the norm around there though. They want to talk crap about her but not be called on it.

I would think something might be worng with me, I might even think...am I being a b**** *moderator edited*? But everywhere I've ever worked I feel I have been well liked and appreciated. I know I have because my supervisors give me raises and tell me so... This place is just weird.

No icing tips, grass tips, ok..there is about 4 tips. Two of which are big cupcake icing tips. About 4 colors of food coloring, in powder form. No turntables. You have to bring your own knife, spatula, cutters and guard them with your life. Oh and they wash the floor Once a week. They do scrape it with a stick that has a blade on it 4 inches long, the first time they handed me the "stick" and told me to scrape the floor I thought they were screwing with me!

Yes, i have advised the owner of all this...nothing. Oh and I guess he head butted the wall in a meeting the other day (heresay, but still...)

I have heard that occassionally paychecks come late, up to a week, and heard a rumor that this is one of those weeks. I keep checking my account online...

Okay, I could write a book. Thats my vent....

52 replies
loulou2 Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 3:42am
post #2 of 53

WHY WOULD YOU MOVE HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD FOR A JOB LIKE THIS-I ASSUME YOU HAD AT LEAST SEEN PHOTOS, TALKED IN PERSON ETC??

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:06am
post #3 of 53

Wanted to move here anyway...must have job offer to get work visa...open door, walked right through.

Company reimbursed some moving costs, immigration costs and paid for hotel for first two weeks here...

Yes, saw photos..but did not meet in person.

I know..I know...

Rebealuvsweets Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:26am
post #4 of 53

Oh my gosh, that sound like a job from h---. Why do they have that old lady working still. She sounds useless to me. When I worked in the bakery for a market, we had to clean the floors every night. It sounds aweful... Good Luck, hope things get better for u....

chachagyrl22 Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:28am
post #5 of 53

There are allot of things to be learned here. Good for you that you were strong enough to take a risk like this. My husband went to Greece for a job. Things didn't work out but the experience of him going over there(good and bad) gave him a different prespective. At least, when you are the icon_wink.gifthumbs_up.gif

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:34am
post #6 of 53

Greece was actually my first choice. It looked like working as an illegal alien was the norm there though and I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder all the time...

globalgatherings Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:37am
post #7 of 53

Okay, I really enjoyed your post, yes I must be a sicko!!! But wow, how interesting. Come on, you gota just laugh at some of this. I know it must be frustrating, but how cool to see another part of the world and to work with people from a different country. Gain whatever knowledge you can from this experience and truly try to enjoy it. I think it's great and I also think you're very courageous. A lot of people wouldn't take a chance like this. Wow, I'm impressed and kind of jealous. Have fun and good luck to you. Please keep us updated!

P.S. Oh and try to give the old lady a break, I feel her pain
Sincerely,
An "Old Lady " in the U.S. thumbs_up.gif

Ruth0209 Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 5:08am
post #8 of 53

Wow, that just sucks. Can you move to another job, or does your work visa tie you to that employer? It sounds like a pretty disgusting work environment with dirty floors, stale cakes, and an old hag chewing off parchment bags with her teeth and licking her fingers. All that's pretty alarming.

Is there any way you can appeal to the guy who hired you to give you a chance to improve some practices? Maybe from the angle of taking the business to the next level in terms of status, profits, customer base? I'm just thinking out loud.

I feel for you. I've been in some pretty hateful work situations. I hope you're at least enjoying living abroad and doing some fun site seeing. The best of luck to you!!

CakeDiva73 Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 6:35am
post #9 of 53

ROTFLMAO!! I totally missed the part about chewing off the parchement bags and licking her fingers - Dear God. You are a brave woman.... icon_smile.gif

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:20am
post #10 of 53

Sorry I just had to vent...sometimes being so far away from anyone I know and can talk to...I don't get to do any venting.

I'm gonna go covert and take some photos of the bakery, lol. Might as well have fun with it...

Here is one, just of the grocery stores. When I said eggs are left at room temperature and that is pretty standard here, I meant for the country. This is how there sold. It must be safe or theyy wouldn't be doing it??? I thought there was a solmenella danger...

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:24am
post #11 of 53

Oh here it is....lol
LL
LL

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:28am
post #12 of 53

My visa does tie me to the job icon_sad.gif

But I think if I find the same job, same city, different employer,,,for $200 I can apply to change employers.

Hers another funny pic. No marshmellows here! Tomorrow I will attempt RKT with these, marshmallows! It's all I could find...hope it works...
LL

nanamama Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 3:46pm
post #13 of 53

Tasteebakes - - here - - I'm giving you a BIG CYBER HUG cowboy.gif from Texas. I can not even imagine some of the practices you mentioned, plus having to deal with the gossip and backstabing! More power to you. Is it possible to order more tips, colors, etc.? Showing the owner how you could "raise the bar"? I sure hope he is open to new ideas, sounds like it needs a whole new renovation.

Just remember you always have us here cheering you on and we are here for you to vent anytime. Email me if you want and we can chat my private email.

You are in my prayers

Auryn Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:07pm
post #14 of 53

Oh man,
what a pain in the arse.
When is the old lady supposed to retire?? is this something of a "when she wants to retire" kind of thing or is there a specific date already set in stone that you can look forward to as your goal??

Don't worry about the eggs, a lot of places around the world do that.
You can do that when the eggs haven't been washed as they have a protective enzyme coating that prevents them from going bad. They can stay out like that for weeks and even months without going bad.
You have to refrigerate eggs after they have been washed- so your safe.

I know New Zealand has health codes, what do the bosses say about her very unhygienic behavior??

jennicita Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:26pm
post #15 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Auryn


Don't worry about the eggs, a lot of places around the world do that.
You can do that when the eggs haven't been washed as they have a protective enzyme coating that prevents them from going bad. They can stay out like that for weeks and even months without going bad.
You have to refrigerate eggs after they have been washed- so your safe.




That explains a lot! I live in Germany and get so frustrated with the eggs. It doesn't bother me that they are stored at room temp - there's a best by date on the carton and it says when to start refrigerating them. Plus, you just don't see people falling down in waves due to salmonella bacteria so it must be OK.

Anyway, the thing that bugs me is the stuff stuck TO the eggs! Feathers and, um, let's just say "worse" can be found in many cartons. I kept wondering why they couldn't seem to wash them properly here. You may have provided me the answer I've been looking for for years now!
Thanks!

Jenny

Ruth0209 Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 4:43pm
post #16 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by jennicita

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auryn


Don't worry about the eggs, a lot of places around the world do that.
You can do that when the eggs haven't been washed as they have a protective enzyme coating that prevents them from going bad. They can stay out like that for weeks and even months without going bad.
You have to refrigerate eggs after they have been washed- so your safe.



Anyway, the thing that bugs me is the stuff stuck TO the eggs! Feathers and, um, let's just say "worse" can be found in many cartons. I kept wondering why they couldn't seem to wash them properly here. You may have provided me the answer I've been looking for for years now!
Thanks!
Jenny




The reason they're washed in the U.S. is to get all the poo off them so there is no contamination when you crack them and the egg comes into contact with the outer shell. I think I'd wash them thoroughly when I got them home just to be safe. Do people routinely do that in Germany? Maybe it's not a big deal, because as you said, people are not dropping dead in the streets from eggs with poopy shells. We do tend to be freakishly paranoid about germs in the U.S.

KHalstead Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 5:04pm
post #17 of 53

I really think the best way for you to make this situation is
1. stop talkin to the crabby old lady "aging lady" I mean lol, you'll only wind up saying something you'll regret

2. even though you're dead dog tired, take the boss up on making a cake in your "spare time" I'll guarantee once the customers get a chance to have one of YOUR cakes the boss will have no alternative but to have you make more of them!

miss_sweetstory Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 5:20pm
post #18 of 53

As a fellow expat, I have a lot of sympathy. In addition to unpleasant working conditions, you've also got a lot of life adjustments going on. Really, even though you wanted to make the move, don't underestimate how the massive change you've made could be affecting your outlook and your perception.

When I moved to the UK six years ago I thought it would be pretty easy. They speak the same language! They eat the same food! They watch the same TV programs! What I didn't expect was how much effort simple things, like going to the grocery, would take. (Finding what you want, or even figuring out what it is can be a huge task!) I profoundly underestimated how subtle cultural differences and expectations would affect my ability to settle. I didn't realize that I was going to feel like an outsider. All of this can really magnify issues and how we feel we are relating to other people.

That said, "aging lady" sound like she had no intention of going anywhere and recognizes you as a threat. Bakery owner sounds like he knows he has problems, but is to weak to address them head on. He also knows he has you somewhat locked in because of your visa status. Also, remember that his expectations of how fast change will occur, and yours may be very different. (Some of that may even be cultural.) Right now your life, your very ability to live in NZ, centers around this job. If he hasn't had a similar experience, he may not appreciate that or your concerns. Have you tried to nail him down for a more specific timeline to take on decorating? Conditions in the bakery sound gross (except the eggs, unrefrigerated eggs are the norm throughout Europe... however, once they are refrigerated (or washed) they must continue to be stored that way).

I really hope that this works out for you. I hope that time improves the situation. If you want to vent some more just PM me... I always have an ear for another expat!

MikeRowesHunny Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 5:36pm
post #19 of 53

Being an Expat anywhere is harder than people might think. As someone who left their home country 8 years ago, and still doesn't feel at home, I can attest to that! At least you moved to another English speaking country - you have a great advantage there!

The egg thing has been normal for me my whole life, I'd never heard of stores storing them in the fridge until I joined this site!

Plus, I'm sorry, but I've never met such a big bunch of germaphobes as Americans icon_wink.gif! There really is such a thing as too sterile & clean, it's why the allergy rate in the US is as high as it is - the immune system is never given a chance to function & build resistance. I'm not saying that most of the practices in this bakery are good though! My kitchen and cake decorating practices are definitely cleaner than that.

miss_sweetstory Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 5:47pm
post #20 of 53

[quote="MikeRowesHunny"]

Quote:
Quote:

At least you moved to another English speaking country - you have a great advantage there!




I like to think of us as "separated by a common language." icon_razz.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeRowesHunny

Plus, I'm sorry, but I've never met such a big bunch of germaphobes as Americans icon_wink.gif!




Yes, I resemble that! icon_lol.gif

KHalstead Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 5:51pm
post #21 of 53

maybe the "aging lady" can market her stuff as "immune boosting cakes" because germaphobe or not, if I find out someone's BITING the tip off the piping bag with their TEETH! I am sooooooooooo NOT eating that cake!!

Loucinda Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 9:19pm
post #22 of 53

I am just referring to the egg thing.....if I remember right, the eggs will stay fresher if they are NOT washed. There is a protective natural coating on them - once they are washed, then they need to be refrigerated because that protective natural coating is now gone. (I may be wrong, but this is what my Gramma told me - they farmed their whole lives and used their own eggs)

CutiePieCakes-Ontario Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 9:39pm
post #23 of 53

My mother has always brought the eggs to room temp before mixing into any recipe - she says because they mix in better not being chilled. Makes sense to me, so I do it, too.

And good luck with this old woman. Sounds to me like she's being forced into retirement and is fighting it all the way. Unfortunately, she can't/won't deal with the owner, so she's putting all her anger onto you, her replacement. Once she's gone, perhaps things will settle down. If not, or if you don't want to wait to find out, start looking now for another job. The hygiene there sounds horrid, so not sure if I`d want to stick around long enough to make a customer sick either. But if you do, perhaps you can slowly bring them along so that it becomes the norm to clean every day, not just once a week.

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:04pm
post #24 of 53

She was suppose to retire on my arrival or just move to the less strenuos (sp?) job of sandwich maker in the front. After my arrival, she refused and said her title is "Cake Decorator" (lol)

Labor laws are completely different here and I guess it is almost impossible to get rid of an employee who doesn't want to go. Especially a "native' kiwi and replace them with an immigrant.

I just want to say I love it here, it's beautiful, I love the ocean, island life, even the rain. The school system is awesome. We couldn't have dreamed of a better school for our girls to go to, it;s amazing.

That said. There is alot of prejudice againest immigrants here. I imagine it to be like America during the melting pot era. There are people here from everywhere! As Americans we are somewhere between Rockstars and Outsiders...most people can't believe we would leave! They say, do you know how hard it is to get into the US? Makes us grateful we can come and go as we wish.

This bakery is 95% immigrants from Brazil, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Samoa, etc. Needless to say, none of them want to HAVE to go back to where they came from and english is not their first language. I believe there has been a long history of pushing these people around. I see and hear alot of "what? I don't understand what your saying?" Most of the speak english fine...but they are lead to believe that their engish is lacking. I know alot of spanish speaking americans that I have more trouble deciphering what the are saying than anyone here..

the problem for them with me is that I speak and understand english just fine. The few times I have had trouble with my paycheck, the error has been corrected immediately. Other immigrants who have had trouble with their checks tell me it takes weeks if it is corrected at all. It's the "I don't understand what your saying to me" card getting played.

Anyway. I'm th big boat rocking American I guess. I come from a pretty great country and if me trying to make things right gets me sent back to my country then so be it. I wouldn't feel that way if my kids were growing up english speaking kiwis and I was getting thrown back into a bad (country) situation. This happens alot, and it is sad...

Speakin of Minnesota. A South African friend of mine said he had another American client, from Minnesota. I said in my best Fargo accent... "Minnesoohtah?" Needless to say, it was lost on him, lol

cheeseball Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:10pm
post #25 of 53

Well, now I can stop wondering what folks around here have against keeping eggs in the fridge!

tasteebakes Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:11pm
post #26 of 53

I speak English just fiine...lol...except for all my typos.

On the eggs, I wanted to metion for large recipes we get buckets of unpasteurized eggs in. These are cracked eggs in a bag in a bucket. I'd never seen anything like it. These are refrigerated but then brought out onto the floor as needed, where it sits, un refrigerated, and starts to stink. They have told me hw stinky these tgg buckets get.

These are not my practices when I am there. I made a decision early one not to lose my good habits for this one bakery. I have a long career ahead of me. So sometimes it takes me longer than the would like. But i will always be clean and sanitary. I do not leave dripping raw eggs and muffin mix and chocolate fingerprints everywhere in my wake...What takes them 5 hours might take me 6 1/2 hours but by God, I turn out a clean, quality product.

janeoxo Posted 4 Nov 2009 , 10:42pm
post #27 of 53

As a chicken and duck keeper, eggs should not actually be kept refridgerated, and as mentioned before they should be at room temp for baking.

My eggs are never refrigerated and last for weeks on the rare occassions they make it that long, they are normally eaten before then and also on occassions they are washed if excessively muddy or maybe a bit of poo on, and they are still fine.

They also should be kept with the smaller end on the bottom not the large end as you always see in commercial boxes.

jammjenks Posted 5 Nov 2009 , 4:37am
post #28 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by janeoxo


They also should be kept with the smaller end on the bottom not the large end as you always see in commercial boxes.




Now you have me curious. Why is this?

janeoxo Posted 5 Nov 2009 , 8:48am
post #29 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by jammjenks

Quote:
Originally Posted by janeoxo


They also should be kept with the smaller end on the bottom not the large end as you always see in commercial boxes.



Now you have me curious. Why is this?




I am not sure of the exact reason, must be some science thing going on, but they are supposed to stay fresher longer kept in that position. I read it in "Keeping Pet Chickens" by Johannes Paul and William Windham.

majka_ze Posted 5 Nov 2009 , 9:11am
post #30 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by janeoxo

As a chicken and duck keeper, eggs should not actually be kept refridgerated, and as mentioned before they should be at room temp for baking.

My eggs are never refrigerated and last for weeks on the rare occassions they make it that long, they are normally eaten before then and also on occassions they are washed if excessively muddy or maybe a bit of poo on, and they are still fine.

They also should be kept with the smaller end on the bottom not the large end as you always see in commercial boxes.




I have actually disagree with a part. The reason is that you as chicken keeper have always "fresh" eggs. Even few weeks is considered fresh, when speaking about eggs.

For long term storage, it is better not to wash the eggs and keep them cold (think root cellar), without temperature changes.
The problem is when storing eggs without root cellar. The best you can do is to store them in the fridge, but not in the door of the fridge - again, you get more temperature changes then storing the eggs in back of the fridge. The temperature changes can dry out the protective "fill" in the pores and allow the eggs to dry out. The same reason is why we shouldn't wash the eggs. It can promote salmonella growth, too.

As for storing on the narrower end of the egg:
The reason is that in particular the blunt end of egg is very porous and the air bubble there is actually a kind of "lungs" for the egg. This way the inhaled oxygen inside the egg changes to carbon dioxide, which in turn the egg exhales. Again, in temperature changes the air bubble expands and gets smaller again, further decreasing the egg quality.

End of today's lesson.

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