There are generally two different routes to becoming a Manager in a restaurant: through the front of the house or through the kitchen.
Craig Dickson, Manager and Lead Baker of Savary Island Pie Company spent 17 years cooking in the kitchens of many fine-dining establishments including Château Lake Louise, Le Soleil and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. He now finds himself managing the front of the house hiring, firing and training staff, dealing with customers as well as managing the kitchen.
After graduating from university with a degree in history and sociology, he enrolled in Algonquin College’s Culinary Arts program after realizing his calling was in the foodservice industry. Following the program, he challenged the trade qualification exam to get his Cook Certification. A growing interest in baking precipitated a move from the Fairmont to a smaller café/bakery to gain the experience of baking products from scratch. Initially it meant accepting the attendant decrease in pay but it has provided him with baking experience and the opportunity to manage. He is now taking baking courses at Vancouver Community College with the goal of getting his baking certification.
A Lead Baker starts work at 4:00am with the rest of the baking crew so they can get products ready for the breakfast trade and the wholesalers. Being Lead Baker also includes ordering and maintaining the inventory. Craig says the environment is fast-paced and at times chaotic. “On a typical day, I can have the bread and the pies ready to go into the oven at the same time, staff issues to deal with, and customers lined up to either buy food and coffee or to purchase bakery products.”
Craig admits the work is physically very demanding and the starting wages can be low – unless you have your credentials! The early start time also has an impact on one’s social life. On the other hand, there are so many rewards working for a small independent operation including using your creativity and feeling involved in every aspect of the business.
His advice to someone considering a career in cooking or baking is that there is no easy way to get ahead – you have to work hard and set goals for yourself and that includes going to school and working to get your baking or cook certification. A trade will always get you a job!