MINNEAPOLIS -- A new partnership forged between the National Baking Center here and the American Institute of Baking, Manhattan, Kan., is expanding the educational opportunities for supermarket in-store bakeries.
The link-up this summer between the two organizations has spurred the development of three, new four-day courses that are particularly applicable to the ISB, said Kirk O'Donnell, the AIB's vice president for education.
The courses -- on trouble-shooting, retail baking management, and creative decorating/wedding cakes -- have a strong store-level focus, which makes them firsts for the AIB and the Baking Center, which is a division of the Dunwoody Institute, a privately endowed trade and technical school here.
The AIB's curriculum at its Kansas campus deals with large-scale production and other wholesale baking concerns and the National Baking Center until now has focused on traditional, from-scratch artisan bread baking.
"What we're trying to do, by introducing these new courses in Minneapolis, is position the center to be a full-service retail/in-store bakery facility," said O'Donnell.
It also makes sense to keep the AIB's commercial-oriented courses and its newly developed retail courses on separate campuses, at least for now, to underscore the difference in the focus of the classes, he said.
"We're trying to target-market to those people in in-store baking and in retail baking, so it doesn't make sense to send them materials about our hamburger bun courses [and other commercial-baking courses].
"We've designed these new courses specifically for retail and have put a new team together that has experience teaching that type of class," O'Donnell said.
The first retail trouble-shooting course is set to begin Sept. 18 and will be repeated again in February. It offers information that would be valuable to a supermarket bakery director or supervisor who has responsibility for overseeing multiple units, O'Donnell said.
"They'll pick up ways to quickly identify what's causing a problem, whether it's a flour problem or a yeast problem. Or it might be the temperature or they might find the frozen dough isn't being used correctly. It'll also show them how to set standards and pinpoint key things they can tell people at store level to keep the product up to par," he said.
Another course, "Successful Retail Baking Management," will be of interest to in-store directors, O'Donnell said. It puts strong emphasis on making money in the best way suited to a particular operation.
"For example, we'll talk about the choices available. On the one hand, you could do traditional guild-style baking, setting your own sourdough. But you could also use mixes and frozen dough. We'll talk about the trade-offs, the benefits and the drawbacks of each, depending on the profit you need to make," O'Donnell said.
And he noted that there will be hands-on production.
"We'll actually bake, and then they can have side-by-side mix, frozen-dough, and scratch [products] to compare: how each is handled, what it tastes like. It gives them a chance to go to one place and really get the true story."
Instructors will also take the class through P&Ls and offer tips on how to control labor costs.
"There are some little shortcuts, work practices you can take to control costs, without compromising quality, that an accountant wouldn't know, and there are things about accounting a baker wouldn't necessarily know. We'll combine some of them," O'Donnell said.
That course will be held Oct. 3 to 6 and then will be repeated in February. The creative decorating course set for next spring will emphasize special-occasion cakes and wedding cakes because in-store bakeries and stand-alone retail bakeries do a large part of their business with those items, O'Donnell said.
"They did something similar at the center about a year ago. We've taken theirs and added some things. We'll get into showpieces, the pulled sugar that you can make decorations from that look like blown glass, for example."
O'Donnell said more courses will be added here as the center and the AIB find out what's needed.
"We've been doing research to see what issues are important to the in-store bakery and other retailers. This is a start, but we'll design and refine additional courses to work into meaningful certification programs."
An area in-store baker told SN he sees the AIB's involvement in the National Baking Center as a very positive thing for the industry.
"It'll be a plus all the way around. I think a broadened curriculum here will pique interest. It might get more young people interested when they see there's a variety of directions they could take in the baking industry," said Darrell Mickschl, bakery manager at Jerry's Foods, Edina, Minn., who is a Certified Master Baker.
"Just from my viewpoint or from a local standpoint, it'll be great to have the opportunity to maybe take an advanced course right here without having to travel out of the area," he added.
A fourth course that's scheduled here for next spring will focus on how to run a doughnut shop, and the center's ongoing courses in artisan breads will continue.
"We have in-store bakery people taking our artisan bread-baking courses, and we talk about the importance of knowing the basics of baking bread. You can apply the basic knowledge to your business even if you're using a mix or frozen dough. When you know the chemistry and physics of bread baking, you know what happens when you freeze it or how to compensate if you're freezing it," said John Miller, director of the Dunwoody Institute.
Partnering with the AIB is a particular boon to the National Baking Center because in addition to giving the center a broader curriculum, the center can benefit from the AIB's strong marketing network, Miller said.
"I think it's good for both of us. It gives them another campus, and it gives us both a bigger story to tell."