These are not interns, these are people who have no schooling and just want to come over and hang around and get free training, free knowledge... while slowing down production.
I'm not trying to be snarky when I ask: How do you know all these people who approach you just want to "hang around" and get all your trade secrets and then leave?
I'm in my late 30s and am making a career change from corporate marketing to custom cakes and desserts. I am not going to go to culinary school but I don't think that makes me any less hard-working than someone who has a mandatory culinary school externship to fulfill.
I have cold-called and worked for a few cake designers and did PLENTY of grunt work, which is what I expected. I am there for them to do the things that they don't have the time to do, and in exchange, I get to learn a few tricks of the trade along the way. It's not like what I've learned is classified information! It's all out there, on youtube, on flickr, etc...
one of the local cake shops in Austin actually advertises that you can watch their chef make their cakes for a day (for a fee). i hope to sign up for this one day
Thanks for posting these links!
I don't mind answering a couple questions but I don't like that open ended "Will you please tell me everything about how to do this?"
Especially here since its very easy to open a home kitchen for decorating....everyone wants to do it! haha.
what you are doing is still considered an internship, you did not ask to just come over and get shown everything and hang around. And no as I said in the original post these are complete strangers (one or two people who know someone who knows me asked, but mostly just strangers). Everyone out there who keeps confusing this as being in regards to interns you someday will find out what I am talking about if you start your own shops. This is a different deal. Strange.
I am glad a few people here have found the links helpful. They were very helpful to me as I transitioned from Exec. Pastry Chef into purely cake biz.
I know I was frustrated and went on a rant, which I seldom ever do. I am glad that some of my follow CC members get what I was talking about, it's nice to know that some of the rest of you know what I was saying.
I apologize if I offended anyone who is trying to learn - this is not aimed at interns and people who work in exchange for learning the ropes. When you have your own place people ask all sorts of crazy things and most days I take it in stride but once in a while it is just a little much.
I'm glad to see this topic since I have been wanting to ask someone...I am in a town that only has Michael's Wilton basic class which I took twenty years ago and do cakes for my own pleasure. I took a gumpaste class years ago from a local cake decorating supply shop, which closed and now there is nowhere to go to learn. I was wanting to ask one of the local bakeries that advertise beautiful gumpaste flowers on their cakes, if they would be willing to hold classes (paid for, of course) but didn't know if this would be considered out of line?? Please let me know how you would feel if I called your shop and asked if you would teach classes.
Asking for a class (which would be paid for) is always ok. It's flattering and great. Don't hesitate. I do not know if you ever travel for classes but Nicholas Lodge ISAC (International School of Sugar Art) is worth every penny!
Good to know...thanks for answering
I guess if I had payed a lot of money to learn what you did that would irritate me too. As for me, I taught myself a lot of the things I know from the internet. I grew up knowing how to do the basic Wilton decorating bc my mother was a Wilton teacher and had been decorating cakes since before my brother(1977) or I was born(1979). Believe me I'm not perfect at fondant or gum paste work but I always try to do something new on each order I do, so I further my knowledge. I just offered a couple of days ago to help out someone I went to high school with. She needed a few basic tips. I personally am not bothered by this situation bc I learned all I know for free so I don't mind passing on a few tips on decorating here and there. I totally understand where you're coming from with your frustration!
thanks for the understanding.
let me also say... I must have done a really bad job writing my original post as it seems I've made a lot of people think a lot of things that aren't true about me and what gets on my nerves. I am really not that difficult of a person. Let me clarify - what gets on my nerves is people wanting to "come watch me" or that open ended can I come over and you show me EVERYTHING question - like that would even be possible anyway if I wanted to. Does that make sense? I mean at first I was flattered with these calls but then after a while when you get so many of them from people you don't know and they are all asking to come "watch you" (not work with you, not asking for just a tip or two), but come "watch you" work all day? How would you feel if someone went to work with you and just watched you all day while you were trying to concentrate on your work? And let me clarify something else - when I worked as a cake decorator and when I had a job training decorators I worked where everyone could watch me and no problem, but ALL I was doing was decorating cakes. I was not weighing ingredients and baking them, I was not answering customer phone calls and ordering ingredients, I was not doing the book keeping/financial side of the business, I was not multi-tasking like I am now as a small business. With all that I am juggling at this point having someone "watch me" would be too much. I really think when they ask this question that they think they are just going to be watching the final stages of decorating a wedding cake or something exciting. Basically I guess I just had a bad day and was tired of being asked if I could be "watched" by a stranger, in my pro kitchen which happens to be a 500 sq.ft. addition attached to my home. and the open ended teach me everything is I have to say a bit insulting. It's one thing to ask to learn a technique it's another to ask to be taught everything for free.
True, True...I totally understand...you needed to vent and it's totally fine
I've enjoyed reading this thread. My mother was a cake decorator some 25 years ago and I learned from her, also while in high school (over 20 years ago) I took a food service class and was deligated to decorating and airbrushing cakes because my teacher saw a talent in me. I have been decorating cakes as a hobby and for family all these years. My mother passed on to me all of her decorating tools, pans, ect.
I was asked to make a wedding cake for a friend of the family's daughter. When she asked me what I would charge her before I could answer she threw in the "because it's not like you are a professional".... I tried not to be insulted. I am not a professional. I am basically self taught. So I decided to take the Wilton classes at Michael's. Unfortunately Course 1 and 2 didn't teach me anything new. I would love to go to pastry/ culinary school but am almost 40 and have 4 kids and husband and I already own one business auto related.
The wedding was called off so I didn't get to do that cake but it got me thinking about expanding into a business. "Becoming a professional" My state doesn't allow home based kitchens that I know of. I can't seem to get anywhere with the local health dept. I don't have the money to launch out to renting a building. I don't sell that many cakes!
Since word has gotten out that I "do" cakes and cookies I too have people asking me for my recipes. Some I've developed, some I've searched the internet for, gone through all the trail and errors of finding just the right recipe and then everyone wants it. Even though I am not officially a business (I hope to be some day)I feel guilty telling people I won't share my recipes.
I always feel guilty going to the local bakery and asking if I can buy a large cake box as we don't have stores that sells them nearby.
I respect the cake decorator and all their professional training. So I guess I'm just a rookie trying to make my way into this world of cakes. But I do feel I have ability and talent and knowledge more than the average Joe. But until I have a store front I am made to feel like I am nothing and shouldn't get a fair price for my time, talent and artwork. So what is a girl to do?
... I would love to go to pastry/ culinary school but am almost 40 and have 4 kids and husband and I already own one business auto related.
You are NEVER too old to follow your dream.
Great thread. Thanks OP!
Don't let people make you feel that way. People become Chefs various ways. Your mom taught you a lot and you have learned more a long the way. My husband grew up working in his family restaurant starting at age 14. It is all he's known his whole life. Worked there 20 years before his father sold it off (after promising my husband the restaurant would be his one day and that he was building his own future and working 100+ hours a week I COUNTED especially as a newly wed I COUNTED!) his father sold it and did not give him a dime. My husband was crushed. He had no idea how to write a resume or go on a job interview, he'd been the manager of his dad's restaurant for years. He never got to go to college, or work anywhere else. I wrote his resume and applied to jobs for him as he was lost and depressed with the whole mess, he ended up with a great job with a corporate restaurant chain. He has 20 years of on the job training and 15+ years of management experience. Just because he did not go to school or study with a stranger does not mean he is not a professional. Don't think that just because your parent taught you their trade that your "not a professional". You can always take continuing ed cake classes. Pastry school really does not focus all that much on cake anyway, it's a drop in the bucket among bread, croissants, plated desserts etc. Don't get me wrong I think it gives me a huge edge as I know a LOT of recipes and techniques I would not otherwise know. But a pastry degree is not required to do cakes. A pastry degree is usually required to be an Executive Pastry Chef - but not a cake decorator.
p.s. when I say continuing ed. I do not mean those wilton classes either.
I mean Nicholas Lodge, Colette Peters, Things via ICES, continuing ed. cake classes offered by The Culinary Institute of America, professional level continuing ed. you do not have to have a degree to take those classes and YES they are expensive but much less expensive than a culinary college degree and much more relevant to cakes.
When we started seriously thinking that we might open a business, we thought it would be good experience to work in some of the local shops, but I didn't think it would be fair to them to go work in them when the thought of becoming their competitor. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
I've taken several classes with Bronwen and a great one with James Rosselle, Jason Ellis and Joshua Russell, besides seminars and stuff at various cake competitions. I want to take more, time and money is the biggest obstacle right now.
I have not gone to culinary school although I think it would be cool to go. I've been a computer programmer for 20+ years and opening this business is a second career. In the few months we've been open, we've been to a bridal fair and had a booth at a business expo. The biggest surprise to me was the people, at both events, that wanted to come take classes with me!
I think teaching would be a lot and it has been something I've thought about. I need to get the business off of the ground first and feel like I have the skills to teach. Regardless of that, I was EXTREMELY honored that they thought enough of my work to even request that. So far, no "let me come watch you and learn everything" though... thankfully....YET.
Thanks for the encouragement...I did a shower cake yesterday and got an order for a graduation cake and a sweet 16 birthday cake from 2 different guests all because they loved it so much. Big boost to my confidence.
I don't know if this has been stated, but I know that some professionals charge a shadow fee. In my town, the sofisticated wedding planners charge anywhere from $500-$1000 per day if you want to see what a day in the life is. I think bakers and decorators should do the same thing.
I mean, honestly, I never shadowed anyone. I learned the skill from my Wilton courses and by becoming a member of CC. But if someone wants to shadow me for a day for a fee like that, I'd put something together to show them in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, I think I may just do that!
for a fee like that I suppose I could deal with being "watched" for a day. LOL