The current course focus on retail operations, having half of the class taking care of the school’s bake shop for two weeks and the other half taking care of the catering and production. Today I’m going to talk about the catering and production, where I spent the past two weeks.
It was a good experience, the closest to a real-life bakery experience one can get while in school. Apparently during summer there is a decrease on the number of special orders, but we still had plenty of work to do. Some days were just so repetitive in terms of recipes and products that it was a good training on how to get better and faster doing the same thing.
I had the opportunity to take care of the production list for a couple of days, and it was harder then I thought. Not only I had to review the orders, and make sure we were producing the right items, I also had to forecast what we would need in the days ahead. But I’m glad I took on the task.
Within the production list, there were orders from the other half of the class, for the merchandising project they were doing. More on that next week, as it’ll be my turn to do this project. But just to give you an idea, students are divided in teams and are asked to develop a merchandising theme, including a special product to sell.
The two initial groups took our regular recipes to a new level, with added flavours and special packaging. It was all good until the end of the week when we got a special order of 12 dozen of sugar cookies decorated as soccer balls. The “soccer ball cookies experience” was so far probably the toughest time for me in school.
On Friday, when we got the order I was responsible for the production list for Monday, it also coincided with a change in instructors and since no one in class, other than myself, had any experience decorating intricate cookies, the project became my responsibility.
Not sure it was lack of planning or lack of directions, but the team responsible for selling the soccer cookies didn’t end up bringing us a template, a picture or even a sample of the cookie they wanted. And that was when I started stressing about it. During the weekend I sent some emails to the classmates enlisted to help with the cookies, with video tutorials on cookie decoration, I printed a template of the ball and hoped for the best.
To make the story short because of the lack of experience and other administrative problems, it took us a good 2 hours to be able to start decorating the cookies. And by then, everyone involved in the process was feeling overwhelmed. It was not only tough on the cookie decorators, but the rest of the classmates that end up having to take care of all the production of the regular products.
We kept saying it was a learning experience, and it sure was, but when you are stressed about something it is hard to see the big picture.
The whole experience helped us with the planning and execution of the next special products (cookies decorated like the facebook logo for example); helped with our piping skills, to the point I want to start making more decorated cookies, but the best outcome in my opinion is that it united the team. We still worked hard after that, but after the soccer ball cookies were done we spent the next days, joking around and laughing, as we never had before.
Now thinking back of what I could have done differently, I could have waited for the team responsible for selling the cookies to come up with directions or a template, should they want the product done in time. I could also have chosen a simpler soccer ball template, I could have enlisted more people to work with me, but in the end going through the whole experience as a group was definitely one of the best learning experiences we had so far.
And as in “What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas” I will refrain from telling you about the dough sheeter dance and the joke of being average, but after these two weeks we became a tighter group. And that by itself was worth the trouble.