BIG CAKE CAN EAT YOU UP
I do not look too much at cooking on the telly and on the phone it pops up on regular scrolls as the algorithms know all about any food sites I follow and my culinary search history on Google. There is one aspect of TV cooking that really succeeds for me though and that is any show with baking and especially when the amateurs are involved. They are prepared to let all inhibitions go and face any disasters that might befall them with a challenging recipe in front of millions of viewers.
There is a wholesomeness to the journey of making cakes both with the artistry and of course the temptation to our sweet tooth. When we are young and baking as kids it is often out first attempt at creating anything at all in the kitchen be it simple buns or scones. We often then develop our desire to keep any cooking going as adults on the back of this exposure as kids. It certainly kick started my chef career when those first apple tarts I made with my mother came out of the oven at nine years old.
I was also privy to the making of one of the baking shows a few years ago as it was filmed where I was working and I was fascinated talking to the amateur competitors asking them why they were doing it and even more intriguing was hearing that they would seriously consider swapping their well paid private and public jobs in the morning to run their own little coffee shop. I might have been a killjoy and dissuaded a few of them when I told them the real margins on food and how many hours they would work in a week.
Of course some of the contestants and past winners have gone on to have very successful food and media careers in baking but you need plenty of luck and work for that to be realized. If someone is so determined to make it then nothing will stop them and that is to be admired. The baking world is not a cakewalk however as any operator will tell you. The shadow of big cake is always looming where large manufacturers can knock out the same product for a fraction of your costs.
If ever there was an economies of scale rule in food it is with bread, pastry and desserts. It just does not add up to making just a few cheesecakes and creamy sponges in your home kitchen and selling them at the farmers market. With the price of ingredients so high now as well as packaging and transport costs never mind stringent hygiene regulations then the battle of the value to consumers is already lost even if your product tastes ten times yummier. That is all before rent, rates and employer costs if you expand. You are simply left with crumbs from the industry pie that you may never even get a sniff of a slice from.
If you do get a chance to compete with the big boys be ready for a right old bun fight. The supermarkets will want your wholesale price way cheaper than what you were selling directly to your customers for and so there will be pressure to cut more and more corners as you strive to make any tiny profit. The ingredients and preservatives list will get longer and longer on your label as the expiry dates are stretched further into the future by your clients. Then you will truly question the integrity of your artisan craft and the products will just not taste the same as when you first made them fresh in your domestic kitchen.
The moral of the story is sometimes business is a cruel world and some artistic professions will just be labours of love, I have seen so many gifted and dedicated cooks and bakers have a go and then throw in the kitchen towel. The ones that survive and thrive are the chosen few who got the breaks, made the clever moves, met the right people, heeded the sound advice, found a niche in the market, could see the future and rode their luck. That is some recipe for success and every ingredient must count. Just one slip up and you get a soggy bottom.