Saturday, July 25, 2009

mr. earl knapp

Good to be back in the bakery! Once I'm away for three or four days, I'm ready to come back. I really stress about things when I'm gone. Who's emptying the dehumidifier, who's pruning the flowers, did they rotate the yeast when it was delivered, lttle things like that wear on my mind. I know the cakes will be decorated, the baguettes will be baked, the day to day stuff assigned to other folks will still be done. It's the damn little details.

I chose to be gone last week, because the upcoming week is going to be brutal. Our lead day guy, Arturo, who doesn't take care of any details, but sees to it we have plenty of buttercreme, cake layers, cup cakes, muffins, on and on. The guy has been here twenty plus years. Over that length of time, you've become an important part of the scheme here. Oh, yeah, he makes all the cookie. Not by himself, but he get everything organized, makes the mixes, runs the machine, even bakes them.

On top of that, next weekend is the ICES, International Cake Exploration Society(I think)convention, out at Pheasant Run Resort. The same weekend is a regional RPIA meeting here in Chicago. Not sure what the RPIA stands for, but it's a group of progressive bakers, from around the country that have formed a buying group. Also, that weekend the RBA, Retail Bakers of America, is hosting a master baker certification exam, here at Kendall College. Turns out that I am certification chair for the RBA. I've been on the certification board for seven or eight years. I took over chairman as of January, 2009. This upcoming weekend we will be testing 12 applicants over a two day period. Truth be known, four of the twelve, are testing for CB, certified baker. The CB stage is the middle step towards master baker.

The whole process has become pretty involved. We have elevated the process to three levels. CJB, certified journey baker, is the first step. The title is based on years experience, and a written test. The second step is CB, certified baker. Again based on years experience, written test from a study guide, and an eight hour practical exam. CMB, certified master baker, is based on years experience, a second written test and a twelve hour practical exam.

The written test is broken down into three categories. Chemical leavening, yeast leavening and sanitation. The CB practical includes white bread, enriched dough, yellow cake, pies and cake icing with time requirements. The CMB practical exam involves baguettes, yellow cake and danish dough, along with five undisclosed products. The yellow cake that is baked needs to be iced and decorated with time requirements.

I am the lead judge next weekend. I can't judge directly, because one of our bakers, Marc Levy is being tested for CB. Here at Bennison's, we also have two bakers that have applied for CJB. They will do their written test here in the next two weeks. We also have one CMB, besides myself. Efrain Tirado, has been here at the bakery for twenty plus years as well. He had no problem passing the exam. If you are a baker, you'll have no issues. If you are someone who bakes, you're gonna have issues. We have had another fellow who earned his CMB, while here. He was the youngest to ever do it. We have another testing for CB next weekend, that started the process here, but has since moved on the live in Arizona.
My duties this upcoming week, are to organize all the judges, have the proper ingredients at the site and prepare formulas books and scoring sheets. We test twice a year. The last test was held at the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York, last November. We plan on testing there again in October.

The one question I get asked, all the time, is "why do you get involved in these things"? Fellow bakers ask me, my family, kinda funny, I don't have any friends that aren't bakers, customers as well. I believe ya gotta give back. I think back to many, many folks folks who gave of themselves so I could compete in Paris. It's an endless list of names. I think back to my little league days. Mr. Earl Knapp, coached me for three years. Lookin' back, he didn't have much. Bunch o' boys. Kindofa southern guy. Used to come to practice right from whatever mill job he had. His hands were still dirty, as well as his clothes. But he was always there. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 5:30pm, behind Emerson School. Unless there were games of course. Weekend games as well. He didn't have to be there, maybe he thought about someone from his childhood. Maybe he had a debt to settle. Maybe he enjoyed baseball as much as I do bakin'.


Blogger Laminatrix said...

Or maybe he realized that you have to give it away--whatever it is that you have to give. I understand (and appreciate) why you do what you do.

It's worth pointing out that probably part of the reason Arturo (is he gone? you started to mention him and then got diverted) and Frankie and Filemon and Camilo and Valencia have been with you for decades is that, all things considered, they'd just as soon work with someone who loves the baking and who still has flour on his shoes.

Tried the flaxseed bread from GCM today (and a loaf of semolina sesame, of course); it's pretty good. Are you going to do the cherry bread again? I didn't get to try it last time.

July 25, 2009 at 10:50 AM  

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