“Burnt-Out Baker” is my three-word autobiography. Here’s the long version of the story:
Several years ago, I had a great job teaching linguistics at a major research university in Canada. Almost everything about the gig was terrific, but there was one catch: my husband couldn’t work in Canada, so I lived apart from him for three years.
One day, I had a brilliant idea: I loved to bake. Everyone loved my baking. Why didn’t I do this for a living? Everyone needs to eat, so I should be able to find a baking job anywhere.
So I moved back home to California, got a Cordon Bleu certificate in baking and pastry (with honors! And special mention for perfect attendance, too!), and landed a job at a glitzy five-star resort not far from home.
For a while, it was great fun. (Can you say “free, all-you-can-eat cookies”?)
Then the head pastry chef resigned. Soon after, three other people on the pastry team resigned. Then the sous-chef and another senior cook quit. None of them were replaced, and the six of us left were putting in 70-hour work weeks to do work formerly done by 12 people.
Yes, I’ve read Kitchen Confidential. I knew going in that professional cooking would be grueling. I love a challenge (I regularly put in 60-hour weeks in my old academic gig), but this job was now beyond grueling. My hands hurt so much I couldn’t sleep. It seemed as though I saw my husband and family even less than I did when I was living in Canada. The surreal amounts of bureaucracy involved in getting anything done would have made Dilbert’s office look like a hippie commune.
So I quit.
But food continues to be my passion. I still love to cook for friends and family, and share stories and cooking adventures with friends new and old. My belief is that every dish tells several stories: the story of its ingredients, the story of the culture and circumstances that brought it into being, and the stories of the people who make and share it.
The stories of the dishes I love are here. I’d love to hear about yours!