I will not eat cookies while I write this. I will not eat cookies while I write this. I will not eat cookies while I write this.

Back in my college days, cookies, caffeine and nicotine helped me pull off those all-nighter writing projects. I haven’t touched a cigarette in years, but I still munch on a secret cookie stash I keep in the pantry. But I’ve committed to taking better care of myself for 2019 and doing my best to stave off this late-night ­sugar fix.

College — namely graduate school — has been on my mind, lately. I recently had a call with a source to discuss snack processing, and we started talking about all the little ways producers might try to rig up the equipment to accommodate those better-for-you ingredients that might be harder to process. At the end of the call, we talked about how, in this industry, there’s always something more to learn, and even the smallest things can get you fired up.

“When you’re 18, you’d never expect to talk for hours and hours about crackers or pretzels,” recalled this gentleman, who now spends his career traveling the world learning from his customers and imparting knowledge to the industry.

Baking is an art and a science, but it’s also — perhaps above all — a learning process.

It takes me back to the day I interviewed with a professor for my graduate assistantship. He asked me why I, a non-traditional student, had quit my job, packed up and moved two hours away to pursue a master’s degree. I smiled and gave a simple response: “I’m not finished learning.”

Baking & SnackI kicked that nicotine habit, but I’m still insatiable when it comes to a few things … caffeine, cookies and information. Those serve me well in this industry. I’m surrounded by incredibly smart individuals who ­provide unending opportunities to learn.

Here, I’m a perpetual student.

It’s an understatement to say our industry cares about education. In fact, the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), set for Sept. 7-11 in Las Vegas, dedicated a full day — Sept. 7 — solely to ­education sessions before the show floor opens on Sept. 8. This is great news for we perpetual students!

The baking process is all about trial and error … bakers learn from successes, mistakes, and mentors and peers. As you start planning your IBIE travel, keep in mind the early day devoted to education. After all, I may be slowing down on the late-night cookie benders, but I’ll never be finished learning. In this industry, are we ever?