A Classic Day at Ottolenghi, open shift.
Before I started at Ottolenghi, I was an account manager for a healthy snacking company, having just graduated from university in Geography. I therefore naturally, had absolutely no idea what a day in a kitchen looked like. Quite the career change if there ever was one. A friend asked me the other day what I do on an average day and, as I was when I realised how each day was run at our shop, she was quite surprised how much we manage to squeeze in. That leads me to the idea for this post, I’m going to run you through an average day at Ottolenghi as a pastry chef. This will be a three part series as whether you start at 5.30, 7 or 8 will determine what you are in charge of that day.
5.30 – when starting at this time, you are essentially in charge of baking and plating all of the morning pastries for the shop. You are therefore multitasking to the next degree using both the ovens (before the savoury team arrive at 7) as efficiently as you can to bake off c. 20 trays of goods, as well as finishing off the goods and plating up them up to go on the display. Wow, even typing that out gives me a little anxiety.
7.00 – by this time you want to have everything baked off and plated to go upstairs for the display. Something I thought I would never have to think of as a pastry chef, is the game of tetris we have to play with the plates to make sure the display looks aesthetically pleasing when everything comes together. It’s an art form that requires a lot of practise to perfect, and is perhaps the most underrated part of our job! Once all the morning pastries are up, we have to get started on getting the cake display tip top before the shop opens at 8. Much of this is the same as the baked goods process however we bake most of the cakes the afternoon before the day of their display, so in the morning we just decorate them before getting them up. As well as this, we are in charge of making all the morning pots for the shop (yoghurt pots/ muesli pots) as well as the fruit salad.
8.00 – by this time you’ll have 1 or 2 of your colleagues arriving to help our with the rest of the morning. We aim to have at least half of the cake display finished by this time so there are options for our first customers, should they wish to eat cake for breakfast! We aim to have 12-18 options of cake for our customers, depending on the day of the week, therefore the rest of the morning consists of decorating the rest of the cakes to get them upstairs. 10.00 – we aim to get all of the decoration done by this time so that we can get started on the prep list for the day. Each evening, we will draw out the prep list for the following day, so we know and have a grip on everything that needs to be done. When you start at 5.30, your role that day is the big mixer cakes and some stove top work. We use the big mixer for big batch cakes, e.g. cakes that we make in huge quantities because of their popularity. On any given day, if on the big mixer, you could for example be in charge of baking: 9×12 slices of brownies, 4 litres of cheesecake mix and 8 carrot cakes, as well as a few stove top tasks such as caramel sauces and fruit confit.
2.00 – Once you’ve finished your mixes, baked them off, de-moulded and wrapped them for the next day, you are nearly ready to head home. On this shift, you are also responsible for ordering, which requires a completely separate post, but in essence, is placing any orders of ingredients that we need for the next few days. On a good day, if you’ve opened, you will aim to finish around 3/4. I love opening, because I am the kind of person who likes to get the day done early in the morning, in order to free up the afternoon for your own time.
We try to squeeze in a 5 minute lunch break if we aren’t too busy but it’s not always the case. It’s funny because I always feel less needy of a break doing 10 hours on my feet, than I ever did in my last job but I suppose time flies when you’re having fun, and hence the importance of doing what you love. Can’t wait to tell you about the 7 and 8 shifts too!
That’s enough for now,