jackiegran Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 12:58pm
post #1 of

Hello all, 

 

I am generally pretty new to cake decorating. I have worked for quite a few different bakeries. It has almost turned me off from the business. I'm wondering if anyone else has had these issues working for a bakery:

 

1. Extremely low pay. 

The pay tends to be very low and expectations of you are extremely high. The highest pay I have received is my current job that pays $12 an hour, and I'm pretty sure it won't go up from there.

 

2. Disgusting working environment.

Dirty kitchen, flies, frozen cakes, old pastries. I am constantly seeing this.

 

3. Working a free "trial" day.

Every bakery I have worked at makes you work an entire shift for free to test your skills. It seems quite illegal but they all do it.

 

4. No breaks.

This is actually illegal and I have seen this at EVERY bakery I've worked at. They do NOT let you take a break. As a decorator, your hours are long and you are on your feet all day. I worked at one recently that said you can eat lunch, but you have to work and eat at the same time.

 

5. Near impossible to even get a job.

There have been times where I was unemployed for months because of quitting an awful bakery job. There are so few jobs in my area (Long Island, NY) and they are extremely competitive. 

 

I guess maybe it depends on the location, but this has been every bakery I have worked at in the past 2 years. Most of them I left after no time at all because of these conditions. It is very off-putting to someone trying to break into the industry. Business is very slow for my home business (not sure how to market myself) and does not pay the bills. So I will have to continue enduring the nightmare that is working for bakeries.

76 replies
cakegal1195 Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 1:18pm
post #2 of

I feel for you. I am in northern Va and have encountered similar things. Very low pay (same as you), hard to find jobs, but I do have to say my current bakery is very clean and "requires" breaks. The last one i worked at (on the other hand) WAS disgusting with no breaks. For them to even suggest you eat WHILE you work seems like a sanitary violation! Truth be told, its not a great career unless you become a very succesful owner!

Norasmom Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 1:46pm
post #3 of

If you are working in illegal conditions, these need to be reported.  The only way things will change is if someone acts.

edibleink Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 1:49pm
post #4 of
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-K8memphis Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 2:56pm
post #5 of

~~~ramblings~~~

 

yeah that's the way it is--not saying it's right

 

sure you can report it but kiss your job and resume good bye too unfortunately

 

i'm not saying it's right i'm just saying yeah that's the way it is

 

sometimes working for a grocery store bakery improves the working conditions a bit sometimes not though plus you get benefits--can make manager

 

yeah it's very demanding labor

 

maybe if you can get in with a caterer who does their own wedding cakes and does food also--things can possibly improve because they are not putting all their eggs in the baking basket

 

you either jump ship and veer into another line of work or suck it up and vow to make it better when you are the head decorator or can get your own place going

 

but that head decorator job in a bakery is often a family thing or only available if somebody dies--srsly

 

bakery business is a penny business--makes very little profit look at a loaf of bread--no profit there--danish phffft no profit really barely break even after you pay for the time to make it

 

that's no reason for a place to be dirty but not a lot of the green stuff

 

wedding cakes--yes better/nice profit margin--can be a solid business 

 

another possibility is working for a nice hotel in dessert land--they offer muy benefits--but the work load can kill yeah there too

 

that's why it kills me to hear some folks bash big box and any kinda hourly bakery person--they are busting a$$ and taking hits from all sides--the disrespect is shocking to me

 

oh well

 

hang in there & make it happen for yourself

 

♥♥♥ dream baby dream ♥♥♥

 

hey, we need a gordon ramsey for baking to go into bakeries & get them cleaned up like kitchen nightmares only bakery nightmares

 

i worked for this one place, a central baking facility that trucked it's wares out to the many different stores--backed those delivery vehicles up to the doc--left them running and the diesel fumes inflated the building every morning so after cranking it out all night you felt giddy almost--then you could be there 14 - 15 hours a shift on the weekends--straight up decorating--not icing--just speed rack after speed rack after sped rack loaded with iced cakes to decorate--oh god if someone made a mistake it was like a police interrogation--they had a refrigeration unit on the roof that 'cooled' the decorating room--no windows--every time that unit kicked on the smell of dirty socks was dissipated only by the trucks backed up to the doc--hey it's a job

 

they had an efficiency expert time management guy come through to check the place out--he was escorted everywhere but the decorating room--bwowahahahaha

 

hang in there!!!! i feel yah!!!

BakingIrene Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 6:14pm
post #6 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackiegran 

3. Working a free "trial" day.

Every bakery I have worked at makes you work an entire shift for free to test your skills. It seems quite illegal but they all do it.

4. No breaks.

This is actually illegal and I have seen this at EVERY bakery I've worked at. They do NOT let you take a break. As a decorator, your hours are long and you are on your feet all day. I worked at one recently that said you can eat lunch, but you have to work and eat at the same time.

 

#3. Check your state law for minimum wage.  There might be a loophole.

 

#4 with regard to breaks, check your state law.  If you are part time, you get only short breaks in most places.

 

#4 Eating while decorating is GUARANTEED to get the entire place shut down by the board of health.

Jess155 Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 6:38pm
post #7 of

#5  Don't quit a job until you have another one lined up.  In a down economy it's even harder to find a job when you have mulitple jobs in a short span of time, say 5 years, and gaps in your resume.  Even awful employment is better than unemployment.

kpny Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 6:41pm
post #8 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackiegran 

Hello all, 

I am generally pretty new to cake decorating. I have worked for quite a few different bakeries. It has almost turned me off from the business. I'm wondering if anyone else has had these issues working for a bakery:

1. Extremely low pay. 

The pay tends to be very low and expectations of you are extremely high. The highest pay I have received is my current job that pays $12 an hour, and I'm pretty sure it won't go up from there.

2. Disgusting working environment.

Dirty kitchen, flies, frozen cakes, old pastries. I am constantly seeing this.

3. Working a free "trial" day.

Every bakery I have worked at makes you work an entire shift for free to test your skills. It seems quite illegal but they all do it.

4. No breaks.

This is actually illegal and I have seen this at EVERY bakery I've worked at. They do NOT let you take a break. As a decorator, your hours are long and you are on your feet all day. I worked at one recently that said you can eat lunch, but you have to work and eat at the same time.

5. Near impossible to even get a job.

There have been times where I was unemployed for months because of quitting an awful bakery job. There are so few jobs in my area (Long Island, NY) and they are extremely competitive. 

 

I guess maybe it depends on the location, but this has been every bakery I have worked at in the past 2 years. Most of them I left after no time at all because of these conditions. It is very off-putting to someone trying to break into the industry. Business is very slow for my home business (not sure how to market myself) and does not pay the bills. So I will have to continue enduring the nightmare that is working for bakeries.

 

   Does this mean that it's now legal to bake from our homes on Long Island?   Last time i looked into it, I was under the impression that it was not allowed in either Nassau or Suffolk counties.   If something has changed, that's wonderful news.

jason_kraft Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 6:47pm
post #9 of

ANY does not have a cottage food law, but the state has a home processor exemption that may allow you to sell wholesale products only (not directly to customers) from home as long as the county does not override this exemption.

kpny Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 6:56pm

Jason - thanks.  that's what I remember from last time i looked into it.  OP - sorry I changed topic on this post.

Stitches Posted 9 Jan 2013 , 8:12pm

That's the way the business is everywhere. If you want to make more money learn how to "frost" with grout. You're compliant list is relatively small, wait until you've been in the business loner and you run into ***ism, racism, language problems, retarded employers who don't belong in business and jealous co-workers............ just to name a few.

 

You can contact all the authorities you want and make all the points you can with employers and co-workers but the reality is, you can only control and regulate yourself..........so if you love what your doing........you tune out the garbage and get into your art. Then find websites like this, where you can find others that can relate.

BrandisBaked Posted 10 Jan 2013 , 10:55pm

AIn Idaho, and many other states, an employer is not actually required to give you breaks and/or lunches. It is up to the employer if they wish to provide such "benefits".

BakingIrene Posted 11 Jan 2013 , 4:18am
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandisBaked 

In Idaho, and many other states, an employer is not actually required to give you breaks and/or lunches. It is up to the employer if they wish to provide such "benefits".

It's not a benefit to the employee.

 

In states/provinces with workplace regulations, anybody working more than a 4 hour shift gets one paid break calculated at 5 minutes per hour worked. 

 

That is to make sure that somebody working an 8 hour shift doesn't injure themselves on the employer's property and doesn't acquire kidney failure.  A full lunch break (like an hour) is not paid if you get two paid coffee breaks for an 8 hour shift. 

jason_kraft Posted 11 Jan 2013 , 4:30am

ASurprisingly most states do not require rest breaks, and more than half do not even require meal breaks. NY does require meal breaks (30 minutes for shifts of 6 hours or more), but it does not require rest breaks unless there is a night shift.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/meal-rest-breaks-rights-employee-29773.html

An anonymous call to the local occupational safety and food safety organizations would seem to be in order.

BrandisBaked Posted 12 Jan 2013 , 5:48pm

AIt is often seen as a benefit by employers, which is why I put it in quotes. Personally, I think it costs employers more in the long run to deny breaks and meals, but greed can blind employers to many things.

embersmom Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 2:49pm

If you work for an established bakery as opposed to, say, a mom-and-pop type of place, it's in their best interest to stick to whatever the state labor law is regarding breaks.  Where I work, for instance, you HAVE to have a 15-minute break for every 4 hours worked.  If you work an 8-hour shift you HAVE to also have a 30-minute meal break.

 

A few years ago somebody (a current employee, I'm presuming) reported one of our oldest wholesale bakeries to the labor board for making all employees work off the clock during wedding season.  After an investigation, the bakery owner was found in violation of the labor law, had to pay back pay to all those employees, and ended up having to close for a time before he had enough capital bankrolled (through bank loans, I imagine) to reopen.  It was a big story, but it didn't shock anybody in the business because that's just the way things were  :shrug:  Everybody has since cleaned up their act, at least on paper.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were still places operating as such.

 

There's also the profit margin, as somebody upthread mentioned.  Baked goods are, by and large, cheap to make.  You make money by marking up the price because the loaf is "artisan" or includes ingredients not found in ordinary bread.  You mark up the price of decorated cakes because of the labor involved.  You have to sell a ton of bread (or cake or danish or whatever) to break even, never mind making a profit.  Therefore, it's in the bakery's best business interest to pay a lower-than-average salary, simplify decorating techniques, and extract as much labor as humanly possible, the idea being that if you're truly dedicated to the profession, you'll spill your blood, sweat, and tears every single time.  Is it fair?  Is it legal?  The food service/restaurant industry has been built on this model since time immemorial.  It the industry's way of separating the dilettante from the professional.  If you stick around long enough, you can make an actual living wage,  It boils down to the question, In your heart of hearts, how important is this work to you?  The people I've known/know who are dedicated don't even ask this.  They just know.

 

I've known many people broken from this industry -- the young person whose dreams are dashed to tears, the experienced independent decorator having to "lower" herself because she desperately needs the money, the jaded veteran who no longer gives a whit about quality...you name it, I've probably seen it.   And it's a tough business, depending on where you live.  More competition means less profit all around unless you're already established and/or very very very very very good and/or you can distinguish yourself from your competition.  It's not enough to be an excellent cake artist -- if you want to go into business for yourself, you also have to have (or have access to) the business chops to make your business a success.

 

(Sorry for this being longer than I intended -- evidently I'm in a rather chatty mood!) :)

-K8memphis Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 3:55pm

words of wisdom, embersmom

remnant3333 Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 4:21pm

Boy, it sounds like a dictatorship to be working for a baker that is greedy, inconsiderate and mean!!! I am so sorry for those of you who are having to go through this!!! I know it can not be legal for any company to force people to work for one whole day without getting paid for it!!! They should be reported to the labor board!! I did not know that it was that bad!!! Will be praying for you to find a decent place to work where they will treat you better!!!!
 

embersmom Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 5:15pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by remnant3333 

Boy, it sounds like a dictatorship to be working for a baker that is greedy, inconsiderate and mean!!! I am so sorry for those of you who are having to go through this!!! I know it can not be legal for any company to force people to work for one whole day without getting paid for it!!! They should be reported to the labor board!! I did not know that it was that bad!!! Will be praying for you to find a decent place to work where they will treat you better!!!!
 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stage_%28cooking%29

embersmom Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 5:19pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by -K8memphis 

words of wisdom, embersmom

Thank you.

 

I don't like bursting bubbles.  I don't like dashing hopes and dreams.  OTOH I believe that you shouldn't go into something with your eyes closed,  Bakery work is less cutthroat than "savory" work, but it can be just as cutthroat in other ways.

-K8memphis Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 5:37pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by embersmom 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stage_%28cooking%29

 

yes and though it's spelled s-t-a-g-e it's pronounced stahj with a soft 'a'

remnant3333 Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 6:38pm

Though I see what the word stage says in wikipedia it also says something about it originating by the french. This is America not France.  I had no idea they did this in America too!!! It still does not make it right, just my opinion!!!! Glad I do not have to work in a place like that!!!!
 

-K8memphis Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 6:52pm

staging is industry standard --not that it's allowed everywhere

 

it might be restricted some places

 

but it's the culture of food service

 

not as much in pure baking establishments per se as it is in restaurants

 

it's done all over the u.s. all the time

 

even when chefs just work a day or two for another chef

 

not even as an internship

 

just as a favor or to spend time with a friend even

 

it's often referred to as staging

-K8memphis Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 6:54pm

now the people who were employees of the place

 

that gypped them out of legitimate pay

 

hey, that ain't staging

 

that's stealing

FromScratchSF Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 9:24pm

K8 and others are right on the mark - it's industry standard if you want a job in food service outside of fast food and chain restaurants.  At least you aren't trying to get a job at a Michelin star restaurant - they expect staging for many, many hours and even then - even after you've worked there for free for 6 months -  they may never offer you a job.  But you get to say you worked there which makes you more hireable to other restaurants.

 

If you want to work for me first you have to bring your best baked good to the interview on your own dime (and be prepared to be quizzed about it from the recipe, the brand of ingredients, and the techniques you do).  If you pass that part you have to stage for me for at least one full work day, and my current assistant staged for an entire weekend wedding - about 20 or so hours.  It's perfectly legal and I'm not a horrible person for having that standard.  Lets keep some perspective - I do not have the time or resources to teach someone how to tort and ice a cake like a pro.  I do not have time or resources for some to play with cake on my dime to figure it out.  And even if they DO know how to ice a cake, they never know how to make flowers, work with isomalt, do figures, etc. - complicated stuff that I'm willing to teach but I'm not willing to pay anyone to learn - I'll pay them when I can tell them "make 300 green hydrangea" or "make 3 ruffled peonies with apple centers and cosmo tips" and they just do it to my standard.  So I pay my assistant for production days, but if she wants to learn my flowers or any of the other decorative details she stages for that free education.  

 

Edited to add:  If this is a run of the mill bakery you've been trying to work at you can expect to work one shift for free, but after that if they want you to work there more they should start paying you.

 

And yes, restaurants are gross.  People really have no idea what goes in in the kitchen.

jason_kraft Posted 13 Jan 2013 , 11:45pm

AStaging also happens outside the food industry...when hiring for business analysis/IT positions some companies will give candidates real business problems and either have them come up with solutions on their own or work with existing employees to put something together (after signing an NDA of course). I have no idea if this is legal or not but for some jobs it is the price of admission.

-K8memphis Posted 14 Jan 2013 , 12:24am

i walked into a bakery for an interview for a deco job 

 

was handed a sheet cake and told to make a beer bottle sculpture

 

  • for a pending order

 

  • no picture

 

  • no pattern

 

  • no computer

 

  • didn't even know if they wanted 2-d or 3-d

 

  • do they want chocolate icing or brown?

 

  •  10,000 questions in my head

 

  • no advance notice of anything other than a face to face interview where you talk

 

and sure i have had to decorate before in an interview

 

the time they gave me cold stiff white icing for a chocolate cake and nary a crumb on it when finished

 

but the beer bottle cake srsly took the cake

 

it's just not how i roll -- i plan and sketch and get proportions straight

 

i did it but thought i might explode--i wanted to bolt repeatedly

 

working conditions were not a+

 

i had to ask for whatever i needed--not even supplied a viable work station

 

i had a postage stamp to stand on and had to move when other workers needed to get by

 

i did everything but the fine print on the label--i just couldn't fake that

cakefat Posted 14 Jan 2013 , 1:37am

I worked at a michelin star resto in NYC, many years ago and it was common to work for free for at least the first week or two and bust your butt in trying to get that job and make a great impression (not just a good one!)...actually all the restaurants that I worked in -in NYC- did the same thing. It's a common practice and that's the way it goes. C'est la vie, chou chou!

Annabakescakes Posted 14 Jan 2013 , 2:19am

AI was buying supplies at my cake shop one day, and saw they were looking for a decorator, so I filled out the application, the clerk gave it to the owner, and she was going to call me, then saw I was a decorator, so she had me come back right then and pipe some borders, roses, and ice a board. I got the job and found out that they typically have someone do a cake, but it was bake day, and they didn't have one ready for me. I got to see the biggest messes when people interviewed, it was rich! Some I felt bad for, but you weren't allowed to help. I was self taught, without even the Internet when I started there, so I can see helping, and teaching, to see if they pick it up quickly, but when I get to the point where I will need help, I'm going to do this staging thing, because like Jen said, no way can I afford someone messing about on my dime. Show me what you got, then we'll talk!

Norasmom Posted 14 Jan 2013 , 2:45am

This just reminds me of what doctors go through before they become doctors...so it's in every industry.  Same for teachers...you student teach first.

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