Germany's bakers are struggling through some difficult times. The number of apprentices has been declining for years and many businesses fear that the energy crisis will have severe consequences for their production.
Despite all that, Marcel Dahne nevertheless decided to train in the trade, and the 19-year-old now works in the branches of the organic bakery Fahland in the eastern cities of Potsdam and Brandenburg. He talks about his first steps in his chosen profession.
My path into the profession
Even at the age of nine or 10 I liked to bake cakes or biscuits for Christmas. I was relatively good at it and didn’t really need any help, so when it came to the question “What do you want to do after school?”, I opted for an internship in a bakery. I really liked that and eventually I started my apprenticeship as a baker.
I definitely didn’t want to work in a company where I would stand at a machine all day and just press a few buttons. And I also looked around specifically for organic products, which is why the Fahland bakery was the obvious choice.
I regularly move between the company’s different branches. We have a night shift that starts at one o’clock and ensures that fresh rolls are ready early in the morning.
Basically, however, we follow the concept of a day bakery. The focus is on scheduling production for the day as much as possible. As dough makers or during the so-called table shift, we start at six in the morning. Then it’s just a matter of taking care of the production of our breads, rolls and dishes for the day.
We have different posts and each shift has its own set tasks. Sometimes I am the dough maker, responsible for making the different doughs for our products such as grain rolls or pumpkin cakes. The ingredients have to be weighed and put into the kneader. The so-called table shift takes care of preparing the doughs, and then we have an oven layer, who is responsible for actually baking the products.
The rewards – and challenges
One of the best things for me personally is that you see the results of your work – you can go to the shop at the end of the day and say “I made that!”. You have something real in your hands.
Of course, the job can also be exhausting, and you have to be physically fit. Bakers have to carry heavy sacks and knead dough. But I think you get used to the working hours over time and I have no problem with it now.
Working in an organic bakery is also different from working in a conventional one. All our raw materials come from organic farms. With conventional raw materials, you can usually assume that you will always get the same product if you do everything the same way in production.
This is different with organic products because many things can differ from batch to batch, from harvest to harvest.
The flour, for example, can have a higher or lower starch or protein content. So you always have to ask yourself: Do I have to knead the dough longer? Do I have to keep it colder or warmer?
These are factors that make organic baking more challenging than working in a conventional bakery.
Cliches I keep coming across
One is, of course, that the baker always has to get up so early and virtually only works at night. But bakers can also work during the day, have a lot of free time and can do things with friends. That has simply changed.
Another thing I often hear is that our work is now only done by machines. That’s not true in our case either. In principle, we only have two machines and clearly distinguish ourselves from industrial companies and other bakery chains where machines do almost everything. Every product goes through our hands at least once, twice or even three times. That was important to me from the very beginning when I chose my employer. – dpa