Originally Posted by cupadeecakes
Oh goodie, War Stories! When I first interviewed at a bakery as a decorator / pastry chef I had a working interview that basically lasted all day. I was offered $9 / hour and was told that I would would come in at 4am and leave at noon (or earlier if I finished all my duties). Once I started the job I was then informed that it was a salaried position and that the hours were from 4am until I finished my list, which was always HUGE! AND that I had to work 6 days a week. So for about 8 months I worked 6 days a week from 4am until usually 5 or 6:00 PM. They worked me like a dog but I learned so much about baking, decorating, and the business aspects while working there. I still look back on it as my "pastry boot camp". But I do feel for you, it does suck!
I love war stories too :)
Your story is very, very familiar to me, minus the salaried position. When I was first hired as a simple clerk with the understanding that I'd be taught to both bake and decorate, I was offered $7/hour. That was above minimum wage in my area at the time. I learned the ropes simply by watching first (the manager didn't trust brand spankin' newbies until they'd put in their time doing the scut work), then learning things piecemeal. I learned to decorate with old cake boards, a deli container of icing, and a bunch of pre-cut parchment cones. He let me borrow the more "esoteric" tips to practice, so I ended up learning to make a mum before making a rose! He also made me practice my writing during every single shift until I could do it legibly and in a straight line. Baking? I trailed the head baker twice a week starting at 2AM until I learned the entire sequence, then they gave me his days off.
For years I worked overnights 6 days a week. I'd do the bake first, then start on the decorating as the first shift came in to bag the rolls, slice the bread, pack the cookies, etc. Our cake layers came in frozen from a local wholesale bakery, so I had an easier time in all I had to do was fill, stack, ice, and decorate. In time I graduated from doing Deco Pac sheet cakes to doing what we called "fancy" (aka time consuming) cakes. We had a projector-type thing where you'd slide in a drawing, turn on a lamp, and the drawing itself would be projected onto the cake. You just had to follow all the outlines. I remember one particular cake that took me 4-5 hours because of all the detail!
You don't get rich by any means in this business, but if you stick with it, people will recognize your talent and will pay you accordingly. Or maybe, given the economy of late, I should say "should".