In office life, there are certain smells that can drive a person crazy. Fresh coffee brewing or the sweet scent of donuts or cake brought in for a birthday. Or, of course, that unmistakable smell of microwave popcorn wafting out of the break room at its peak of doneness. I swear, that smell stops me in my tracks and makes me want to hunt down whomever popped it and steal the bag.
And at a bakery, the aroma can stir up excitement before I ever even walk inside. That scent of the yeast at a bread producer or the butter and sugar at a cookie plant? I’m powerless to it.
No matter how many plants I visit or how much I prepare in advance, every time I step foot onto a production floor, it’s always the same. I liken it to that moment when the Golden Ticket winners first step into Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory or when Dorothy made her entrance to the Emerald City. In my experience, little compares to the awe that comes with seeing a bakery production floor for the first time. It’s exhilarating and pure magic.
A production line is the life of the bakery; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed a baker who has said, “You’ll understand what I mean when you see the plant.” And it never fails … seeing it all in motion brings a bakery’s mission, vision and passion to life.
I felt that same excitement watching the ceremonial loaf of bread being cut before the doors opened to this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) on Sept. 8. In those moments at a major trade show — especially one like IBIE that happens just once every three years — the anticipation is palpable. It’s electric.
We’ve all been to meetings and shows a hundred times over, but still, there’s nothing like walking into this Expo’s halls to see the bright lights and hear the hum of every piece of bakery equipment imaginable, all at the same time. Not to mention feeling the camaraderie as bakers browse the aisles, visiting with friends and colleagues, doing business, and learning even more about every facet of the industry. These are the things that will ultimately lead to those smells I love so much.
Bread doesn’t magically appear on the table; it’s the result of people and processes coming together to ensure a sustainable supply chain. During IBIE, I was lucky enough to play a role on the team designated as the official media provider, which presented a closer look at how events like this bring bakers’ passion to life through partnerships with ingredient, equipment and service providers.
Baking is, of course, an art and a science. But it’s also the result of people and process coming together.
So, at the dinner table, when my husband says, “Wow, that’s good bread,” I’m able to harken back not only on seeing how that good bread was made but also learning how that process came about in the first place.
To everyone who plays a role in that — baker, snack maker, researcher, allied, student or educator — thank you for bringing it all to life.