On Failure.


I love what I do. Srsly, I am a baker and I really love my job. I love it for a number of reasons, partly because of the way it came to me and partly for what it does for me. I picked baking up completely by chance in college as my term-time job when I had to adjust my work schedule to fit a class, and I pretty much haven’t been able to, or wanted to stop since.

Growing up, we spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a family, preparing recipes that have been handed down and new ones that were researched exhaustively before embarked upon, ie kalbi or osso buco. But when I was seventeen, something changed when I set foot in a restaurant kitchen on an internship in an upscale Peruvian restaurant. Something about the (mostly) controlled entropy of a constantly running commercial kitchen just set me at ease, strangely enough. The steady routines, the smells, the burns, the various 1/9 pans of garnishes, the tedium, it all offered so much potential in my mind.

And that was pretty much it, I’ve been working in kitchens at least part time since, for the last seven years. I love cooking, but since my first early mornings in the bakeshop, shaping and baking fifty-odd loaves of bread every other morning before class felt more like magic than tedium, so I started reading and experimenting with baking in my spare time.

I perfected my scones. I made and killed around six sourdough starters. I ate a lot of donuts — new found appreciation. I baked my first loaf of brioche, with a beautiful soft crumb and a tender mahogany crust. I started using words like crumb and tender to describe bread. I burned some buckwheat brownies. I made the most delicious BLT ever on my no-knead bread with local VT thick cut bacon, homemade aioli, heirloom tomatoes from the market, and fresh picked arugula. Now that was a day.

After college, I stumbled my way into a professional baking job in a small cafe, followed by an internship at an amazing woodfired bakery, and two more jobs as a pastry cook in fine-dining restaurants learning about plated desserts and sourdough.

I’ve found a path in this profession because I love making things and having a chance to improve every day with a new, better product. And I have succeeded because I have followed this passion. Really, one of the main things I love about baking, though, is that it makes me learn from my failures. It forces me to take note of my mistakes, to point them out, and to dissect them in an attempt to learn what I did wrong and how I can fix it. Is it my method, technique, ingredients, ratios? I’m never going to be able to do something perfectly if I don’t figure out why I am currently failing at it. And I like to thing that nothing is a waste of time if I learn from it, so I’d better learn from my mistakes.

So, with that in mind, I have decided to throw myself into a new adventure. As I write this, I’m waiting at my gate to board a plane to China, no plan or real idea what I might do when I get there. Just a backpack, a suitcase, my sourdough starter (of course), and a promise to try everything that comes my way and pick myself up after my many inevitable failures.

Wish me luck, I hope you’ll keep up with me as I wander.

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