Dan is passionate about “all things baked” having owned two artisan bread bakeries for 20 years in southeastern Michigan, USA. Once Dan retired he continued baking for family and friends from his home kitchen and decided he still had the desire to be “back in a bakery” pursuing his passion.
I came by a unique opportunity as Principal of the Zingerman’s Bakehouse BAKE! School in Ann Arbor, Michigan to extend my love of baking by teaching home bakers the fine art of baking. The school is a hands-on bakery where the emphasis is on teaching techniques to students so that they can be successful in their baking endeavors in the home environment. All skill levels are welcome and family classes are a big hit.
I’ve always been an early riser so I am the designated morning dog walker for my family. My Labradoodle, Pasquale, and Papillon, Cricket, and I hit the road at 5:00am for an hour walkabout town.
Upon returning home I settle in with a cup of coffee in my home office and engage in planning activities for the school. It is during this early morning period that I reflect back upon the many discussions I’ve had with students and also read through class evaluations. This is an enjoyable beginning to my day because I begin to brainstorm on potential content for a new class, revising content for an existing class or considering developing a guest baker/chef class. I always tell students that 60% of the ideas for changes in class offerings are via their input.
We are currently at the start of a new six-month semester and the crew is continuing with test bakes to further refine the flavour profiles of each baked treat. This is a lot of fun since ‘taste testing’ is an informative and interactive experience for all of us. We recently did a trial run of our holiday cookies class by including students who attend classes in addition to those of us with professional baking experience. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to turn a critical eye to how a class is structured to convey information in the simplest manner possible.
I really enjoy teaching any one of the 65 classes offered over the course of the semester covering breads, pastries, cakes, dinner series, savoury and whole grain baking. The class size is a maximum of 12 students, which allows for a very interactive experience where baking chemistry is discussed along with a technique so that students develop a better understanding of the natural biological and chemical processes that are occurring in the mixing bowl and how these processes influence flavour development.
The fun factor in my job is extremely high and contagious! The sharing of baking knowledge and recipes with students is a large component of the school. Observing students enjoying themselves in class, marvelling at what they just made, forging new friendships with each other and us and then freely offering their suggestions and input on how we can further improve what we do is absolutely delightful for those of us in the school. Making people realise their own potential in doing something is very rewarding.
The work week is generally Wednesday through Sunday with both day and evening classes running from 3 hours to 4 hours each. Part of my work life is the management of the school, which involves the typical management work of scheduling, ingredient sourcing (as much local as possible), testing recipes and reviewing and evaluating content for student guides.
The end of my day can vary depending on class times so I enjoy a dinner meal at the shop or head home to enjoy dinner with my family.