Way of a baker in order to continue Triathlon
Could you tell us why you decided to be a baker?
I misunderstood that bakeries start early in the morning so closing time is also early. At first I wanted to continue Triathlon that I had been doing since my college days, so I was looking for a job that I can spare time for training. Other than a baker I also applied for Chuo Oroshiuri Ichiba market. It was a choice came along my life style.
At last I narrowed down to bakeries and got 2 unofficial offers from 2 companies, and one of them said I had to start from delivery, so I chose another one which I could start from actual breads making. That was the old classic bakery in Kobe called, “Cascade” .
The word of one part time worker that made baker’s world to a fun environment.
So you started with no experience at all?
Yes, Actually I graduated on the same year when Hanshin Earthquake happened, and since “Cascade” was a bakery based in Nishinomiya main branch, my entry was postponed indefinitely. I also lived in Higashi Nada area where the damage was critical, so my house was collapsed totally and we were all forced to live separately. I only had bake breads once so I did not have any experience.
At last I was able to enter in June, which was 2 months delayed, and I started at Central factory. When I was placed at each shop, I was taught from the basic from my seniors about baking breads. I can recall that a female part time staff told me, “You can do really well. I have never seen someone given such opportunities after a week.” and I was very glad.
I actually was very confident when it comes to work. That word made me enjoy work up until now when I entered bakery field.
Was your family environment grounded for craftsman?
My father also very skillful, making anything using woods, and my mother was a knitting teacher so perhaps she was also not lacking skills. But I never thought I was suited. I have a brother who is 3 years older than I, and he was very good at painting and sculpture. Only part I was better was just physical education. My grandfather was a craftsman using metals, but everyone in my family used to say, “Grandfather’s genes were passed to the older brother.”.
That is why I went for Triathlon, and when I got the job, none of my parents expected me to become a craftsman, so they only said, “We will buy you a suit. “ The time when I realized I am skillful was when I started to see work of my staff members after my independence.
The next step to brush myself in order to continue life-time work.
In this field how do people take steps to become a real craftsman? And how did you practice when you entered the company?
At “Cascade” I learned from oven. Cream pan (Rolls filled with cream) and anpan ( breads filled with anko.) were the best sellers and there was a particular time and temperature for baking them, so they were best for the new learners to study the process for the first time. At “Comme Chinois”, which I worked the longest, oven was considered as a final ascertainment process, so every store has different ways by policies of each chef and kinds of breads they sell. For example, in such big stores in Tokyo only bakers who are at a certain level in kneading breads that requires skills are given chances for hard type breads like baguettes. By the way, at “PAINDUCE”, dough making and oven are considered as difficult process which requires much skills of craftsmen, so they were assigned to veterans.
How long did you work at “Cascade” ?
3 years. I was assigned to the store and after 2 or 3 years, I was managing as a second guy, and also assigned the number part. And I thought and realized, “It is impossible to continue such job for life which can be mastered in 3 years.”
That means there is more possibility for potential competitors.
Back then I was already married and had a child, so thinking of my future I told myself,
“I need to go to the higher level.”, then I aimed for the next step.
Your speed in decision making is very quick all the time.
If I think now, I can think that this way of thinking was quite immature though. But after experiencing Hanshin Earthquake my sense of speed was surely changed. There must be other people who had been impacted by the earthquake more to their lives, but even for myself, I faced death of my neighbors and classmates. I faced the reality that you never know when you die. So deep inside of me there is a mindset that I should immediately do what I want to do without a regret and make a mark quickly.
Meeting with the master who taught real “Delicious”
So which store was chosen as your next step?
I was marking some stores to learn, but since bakeries start really early in the morning, the major premise is to have a house near the store. I had a family and it was hard for me to relocate, so I was looking for a stores which I can commute by a scooter from Takarazuka, and I visited Mr, Koyama of “Melk”, Boulangerie in Toyonaka.
But it was a very famous store and there were many people waiting to be trainees, so I was knowing I was being reckless but I asked to enter the store on holidays to widen my skills.
Along the way I was introduced “Comme Chinois”, which was starting get into a news, by Mr. Koyama. He had taken care of me for 6 months before I entered spending a lot of time for me. I cannot thank him more.
And you will meet a master of your life at “Comme Chinois”.
He would get mad at me for calling him my master. He considers me as a partner thankfully.
“Comme Chinois” is a restaurant at the beginning, owned by French chef Mr. Saku Shoji, and Mr. Nishikawa was the head of Boulangerie section. In my life Mr. Shoji and Mr. Nishikawa take big part of my life, and I still think of them as my parents.
Both of them have a lot of creativity which also can be considered as inspiration. I have heard a conversation between them saying, “There is a lake here, and beyond that there is a hut, and we want to make breads served there. “. They value stories in breads. When I first came to “Comme Chinois”, I thought skills make delicious breads, but I felt it is not only skills. Of course they both have great skills. But skills and beauty of the shape do not equal with the taste all the time. As you see the breads or eat it, the image that you want to tell spreads. Instead of giving the impact of the beauty of the skills, I wanted to make breads that people intuitively think it is “delicious”.
And I felt that affording time, not slacking at all, having mass of knowledge, and brush up their skills are why they are said geniuses. I realize that I was in a great environment at that time.
How was it as you started working?
I actually do not have any memory of the first several years. But I was working my butt off. I remember partially like tense mood in the kitchen, people were getting more job when they give big impressions to the chefs by serving instant coffee well and entertaining them. It was just before moving the store as well as in the phase of starting up, so we had no holidays and when there was additional events, we worked for 24 hours sometimes. And there were exposures of the chefs to the media and there were many interviews in vacant times. I was doing an assistant and asked to do a lecture as “Comme Chinois” , so I do not remember what position I was on but I was working every day in a rush.
As I had more room, I wanted to do forming. I tried to get forming job for bagels by repeating to finish my work and ask, “I did my part and is there anything I can do?” I believe it was 6 months after I entered. So I gradually increased my work. In my 3rd year I was in charge of the oven and also promoted to be Sous chef, which is the second chef in the store.
And after that you worked for 6 years and started on your own?
The outlook of the store that I wanted to run was becoming clear, so I wanted to think about my future. However, it is a field that there were many people coming in and out, so it was not so easy to leave the store so quick. But thinking of the future and also had a thought of studying breads abroad I decided to quit the current store and go to Europe for 3 months and come back.
And Mr. Shoji offered me “We will pay you half the salary so do not quit and study abroad, then let’s do something fun together when you come back. “ I accepted the offer, thinking it is a great opportunity to study culinary with him.
Ideal store producing becoming clear after experiencing climate and culture of Europe
What did you feel in Europe when you went for 3 months?
I first had thought that I wanted to touch the climate and food-culture. I and Mr. Shoji had an idea of opening a focacceria, so I went south from Italy, going to Scylla and visited many pizzeria in Napoli. I was given a chance by the master of “Sakuragumi” of Napoli pizza and see the kitchen of the famous stores, and I was able to study by visiting 4 to 5 restaurants.
It was that you can see the map in the internet like now, so I was riding busses with a guide book on my hand.
Besides that I also had a chance to bake in Wein, Luxembourg, and Germany, by people that I have known of. There was a store which had a big millstone. By spending time with many people, I was able to know many things such as, “They don’t use bread plate.” or “Cut own piece and pass it to the next one.” , to see how breads are eaten
You started PAINDUCE after 2 years of experience food culture of Europe.
At the end the plan with Mr. Shoji was cancelled as the restaurant got very busy. So I came back to Boulangerie and worked for 2 years. Mr. Shoji and Nishikawa had done a lot for me and I cannot return it in my lifetime, but I really wanted to move on to the next step, so I told them that I wanted to start on my own.
For while I was looking for a tenant while working at Mikage branch, and there was an opportunity from Mr. Nishikawa to work as a lecturer of newly opened cooking studio in Awajicho. They were planning to have a cafe next to the studio, but Mr. Nishikawa suggested to make a bakery and recommended me for the chef of the bakery. “You can do whatever you want to do so why don’t you try?” , he said.
The owner was waiting for my answer and said, “If you run a store, you can design the kitchen thinking how you want it to be.” and I was starting on my own from “Comme Chinois”, and opened the bakery.
For the store producing what thoughts did you put in?
When I came back from Europe, I was thinking that I did not want a bakery inspired by French bakery anymore, so though it was a trend to put Boulangerie in the name, but I decided not to use it for the name and decided to do with my own style. I started with the concept of “Making breads using Japanese flour”.
After going around the world, what was the reason to come up with breads for Japanese people?
Breads there are very tasty. Flour and butter are good. But there are flour made because of the climates of France or Germany. They can make tasty breads by using them. The climate of Japan is totally different from European and amount of saliva and sense of taste are different, too. There are flours made from the climate in Japan, so I thought I could make delicious breads by evolving in the environment. Back them in Japan people made fluffy breads with strong gluten, so domestic flour was recognized as useless. So I was the target of the criticism when I started with Japanese rye and wheat. Right now it is totally opposite and using domestic products are trendy. I have been through busy days without thinking whether this decision was right or wrong. But I was finally able to run my ideal bakery, so I forgot time and had myself into it. I was desperate to make breads that I wanted and breads that only exists here.
Person who get a job is someone can say “Yes” with a positive attitude.
It has been 12 years since opening but is there anything different from then?
I think I had more acute sensitivity and making breads taking value to creativities.
Nowadays the way of thinking is leaning to entrepreneurial point of view and happen to think cost and productivities. I am thinking to go back to the origin, keeping the foundation of the business but not thinking about productivities too much.
I would like to make breads thinking about the stories and deepen the world. I am making a plan of separating into different brands and developing them in the future.
I think you have seen may staff members. Is there any characteristics of people who grows up easily?
Right now we have 4 stores and 2 of them: main branch and JR Osaka branch have kitchens. There are 2 people that I assigned as Sous chefs. They have been working for a long time with me and I rely on them but when it comes to baking breads, they are awful. They have abilities to see the condition of the dough, but they do not have skills to shape
breads beautifully. Comparing to other members it would take more time to reach a certain level.
But I trust them as a person, in the point of being able to say tough things and laugh together. So I can assign various things to them. And it is also easier to assign someone who can positively react, “Yes.” Also piles of each work turn to trust. Basically in our industry there is only “Yes” when you respond. It is important to get work eagerly.
And person who is scolded easily is better, I think. It is easier to grow. That means people tell him what they notice. Being clever or not or making breads well or not come next. Of course it would be better if they are clever and skillful, but you can assign someone for baking breads. Our job is to make something, but “people” make things. What kind of person do you want to work with? Even the person is not good at making breads, it is more important whether the person has a mindset that people rely and trust them.
What do you care the most when you train your staff members?
I would like them to work long but I do not hesitate to tell them harshly at times. I explain like, “You made mistake here so the process has been delayed this much.” I always explain about the money.
And we have been doing welcoming ceremony for these several years. We give awards to staff members who work for a long time, and eat together. We used to send new employees to each bakeries as soon as they start, but we changed it from this year and we are taking them to each one of the bakeries before assigning them to particular ones. It is also important to have someone who entered in the same year, so we do team building by having bakery lessons.
May be you can develop sense of belonging, or minds to work hard together.
My son is entering university this year, but we have staff members coming to our store at his age. And I realize that it would take several years to think on their feet. Until then companies and stores should take care of them with responsibilities.
Sometimes we need time to relax, to build relationships with seniors and juniors, and members at the same year. Now we are trying to create chances for everyone to get together such as barbeque party and beer garden around 2 times a year on the holidays.
We are responsible for ingredients we use, so we want to choose with right knowledge.
You do study meeting for eating.
I am involved with Creative seminar, which is to think eating of Kobe, run by “KIITO” of Design Creative Center Kobe, as a seminar master. We learn about “eating” for example, current status of organic vegetables, food additives, soy sauce, and salt, we invite experts with diversity points of view.
I am from Kobe, and think how much we have consumers know about eating. Lately we open the seminars including what I want to learn such as TPP or radioactivity. We have done 10 times already and it is a hustle since I do negotiation and scheduling.
What motivates you to use your power for such activities that take much of your time?
For example, domestic flour that we use at PAINDUCE is brought from Hokkaido and Kyushu, but I wonder how it is from the food milage points of view. (Figure that calculated with fuel needed to transporting, emission rate of carbon dioxide, its distance and weight.) Radioactivity cannot be determined by ordinary citizens, but I also wonder whether we are able to provide safe products or not. As a person who has job related to eating, with a responsibilities, I would like to choose with knowledge. I think we have to know many things.
This lays on the way to pursue your work. What is the direction that you would like to head to?
The situation is becoming hard for the breads industry by such reasons as increase of cost of ingredients. I would like to produce my stores that can provide breads under the good working environment, thinking about consumers’ price conscious. To be specific, besides producing business, or B to B business, or important points of the craftsmen, I would like to build a business model that can keep the business base effectively.
If I don’t have it, there is a possibility that stores cannot exist after my retirement. We should continue as long as one customer comes to our shops. We should not break up once you hire employees. That’s my way of thinking. I would like to eagerly move forward every year by looking at 10 years later.
(Interview: Osamu Saito, writer: Tomoko Tanaka, photographer:Kenichi Hisaoka)