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Becoming a Baker

Posted on August 21, 2014

It's been a while since our last post so we thought why not hand over our blog to one of our former students? Ian Waterland it's all yours...

A happy set of coincidences resulted in my arrival at The School of Artisan Food in October 2013.

My Mum made all our bread growing up and I had made a few loaves here and there with mixed results, but I was by no means proficient in baking. I re-discovered real bread at a bakery in Devon and I had been on a one day course at River Cottage where Aidan Chapman showed us some of the basics - I loved it. When I heard about The School I knew Sarah my wife would love it and she went to do a one day patisserie course. On her return she mentioned the year long diploma in bread and I jumped at the chance to change direction and become a baker.

With support from Sarah and a career development loan from The Cooperative Bank, I applied and gained my place on the course. Was this a leap into the dark, a risk and signing up to a year of the largely unknown? - YES. Was it much harder than I imagined it would be, difficult to juggle home life, hard work and exhausting? - YES. Was it an amazing experience and worth every bit of the effort? - YES.

The huge amount of practical, hands on time baking accelerated me from novice to pretty competent in my eyes and amazing in the eyes of most people I know. The wide variety of styles and types of bread and patisserie were inspiring and amazingly good. The detailed technical and scientific knowledge I gained, seeing and learning about the realities of modern food production, really were food for thought. Weeks spent on placement in real bakeries put the theory into practice. Visits to windmills, a dairy, micro-bakeries and not so micro-bakeries made me think long and hard about what I wanted to do with my new found skills and knowledge and in particular what I wanted to go into my bread. The creation of a business plan as part of the course enabled me to hit the ground running at the end. The written assignments and experiment and task exercises cemented the knowledge gained. The lunches on offer are The School putting their money where their mouth is, showcasing real food. It was a packed year from top to bottom.

Overall the buildings and setting of The School and the people there, create an amazing learning opportunity. I tried to grab it and get every last bit of value from the investment. I even ran a pop up bakery, where I live for a few weeks, to put it all into practice towards the end of the course. The written work was challenging, learning new skills is tiring and the course whizzes past at an alarming rate (especially after Christmas), but as life changes go it has to be up there. The network of people I have from being on the course is hugely useful, the baking world is a real family.

Two months after the end of the course (and one heck of a final days baking under exam conditions) i am setting up my new venture. It is exciting and just a little bit scary. Support from The School is ongoing and it is time to translate the learning into reality. If you want to see what I am up to go to visit my Facebook page or email me at [email protected]

Ian Waterland completed his Advanced Diploma in July 2014.

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