Quality & Sustainabilty Feed

“I’m a bread lover”: Tobias Wunner on his detour to a baker training programme at IREKS

Today Tobias - a real Upper Franconian - is sitting in front of me! His parents have a farm near Hollfeld and so he has always felt somehow drawn to the food-producing industry. Via detours, he decided to start his training as a baker at IREKS. In the spirit of sustainably promoting young talent, we have been offering this faculty, which is new for us, since September 2020. In the interview, Tobias tells us how he came to train as a baker and about his very personal experience in our company, which is supposed to give other young people a more vivid idea of how varied everyday working life can be as a member of the baking guild.

Vanessa: Hello Tobias, thank you for letting me ask a few questions today! First of all, who are you and how long have you been with IREKS?

Tobias: I’m Tobias (laughs) and I’ve been with IREKS since September 2020, so I’m now in my second year of training. After graduating from high school, I did a dual study course and then worked in my profession, but at some point I realised that I was slightly out of touch in this “business cloud”. I simply lacked the basics of a skilled trade. After a few detours, I found the baker training programme at IREKS and so far I am very happy with my choice.

Vanessa: Exciting! Let’s zoom in and take a look at the bakery. In this connection, I have a little task for you. How would you complete the sentence “For me, baking is…”?

Tobias: Yes, well, the joy of developing and the process, just seeing how you start and what comes out of the oven in the end. That’s a lot of fun for me!

Vanessa: Absolutely, that’s always a highlight when you bake at home, too!

When thinking of your training, what image comes to mind?

Tobias: I would perhaps describe myself as part of a pack. I’m the offspring, so to speak, and I have the fully grown professionals beside me, because here ten or fifteen top bakers flit through the bakery every day and you’re right in the middle, looking left, looking right, and you always learn something new.

Vanessa: Nice! Do you deal with all colleagues equally or what does it look like in practice?

Tobias: I have one main contact person, but generally I’m with everyone from time to time. And you always get to see new doughs and baked goods that way.

Vanessa: I can imagine that! And do you happen to have a (baking) role model?

Tobias: Well, there are a few people from whom I take individual values and approaches and try to transfer them to myself, because you somehow know that it makes perfect sense. Especially here at IREKS, we really go in for quality. You have to work precisely and basically say, “OK, I’ll think about it first and make sure it works out.” And if it doesn’t, well, then you have to address and fix it.

Vanessa: All right, then I think we now know roughly who we’re dealing with! Time to take a closer look at your training: Why have you decided to become a baker?

Tobias: It was actually some kind of a process. For example, I realised that the food industry is a reference point for me, not least  because I come from a farm and worked in a brewery before coming to IREKS. In the end, it was also a bit of a coincidence, I have to admit, because I saw the ad and thought “good, IREKS, fits, baker also sounds exciting, diverse” and then one thing led to another and at some point I was here in the bakery to have a look and was convinced that this is the profession I’ve been looking for. And I’ve always liked baked goods – I use to say “I’m a bread lover and that’s probably not the worst starting point" (laughs).

Vanessa: That’s nice! And can you say a little bit more about your choice of IREKS?

Tobias: From my point of view, the fact that IREKS is an international company and offers the possibility for me to continue from being a journeyman baker is a clear advantage. That was important to me. I want to have options that will take me further along, and IREKS was the first choice for me in this sector. You also have a very intensive training, in terms of theory, for example, because we work with technical books or perform baking tests.

Vanessa: And when do you start in the morning?

Tobias: Around seven. In an “ordinary” bakery, you would start between one and four in the morning. That’s another argument in favour of IREKS – although I never really wanted to make that count, because I say “if I train to become a baker, I’d better be able to cope with that”. But still, these are very attractive working hours here. Yes, otherwise the first thing is to prepare the bakery. Then it’s time for different baking programmes and doughs, depending on what’s on the agenda. Either I bake myself or I help colleagues, but either way you’d work on your baked goods until afternoon. So it’s less of a conventional working day, but that makes it all the more exciting, I think.

Vanessa: Sounds like it’s really lots of actual baking and getting to the dough, doesn’t it? 

Tobias: Yes, it’s been like this since day one. And if it doesn’t work out (laughs), we talk about it. That is also one of the great strengths of the training at IREKS, that they take the time and try to catch mistakes that creep in, so that at some point I realise for myself, “OK, which fine tuning is necessary so that next time I can make the baked goods the way I want them to be”. That’s really important, that you simply understand the whole baking process even better. All in all, I’m given a lot of space.

Vanessa: And are you sometimes in the office?

Tobias: Yes, but I don’t really do paperwork. Of course, there is also some during training or when we’re planning a baking trial, but 80-90% of the time, I am in the bakery.

Vanessa: Now I’d be interested to know what you particularly like about the work here, where you spontaneously say “I feel a lot like doing that!”

Tobias: Well, what I generally enjoy a lot is the on-going exchange with colleagues. They are all professionals with a lot of experience. You simply learn an incredible amount and grow from it! What kind of bread do they eat in Canada, for example? I really enjoy the fact that the big world is represented in the company. You learn to interact and deal with different kinds of people. And otherwise: unloading from the oven, that’s the baker’s joy! When the baked goods are on the trolley, where we put them once they’re done, it always starts right away (laughs). The first colleagues would walk by, comments are coming in – so it’s always an amazing feeling when you unload a really nice loaf from the oven.

Vanessa: That sounds great! What was a highlight that you’ve experienced during your training?

Tobias: Well, I recently spent three weeks at an artisan bakery where you also get to know the more conventional life in a bakery. That was really great and also a big change. New attitude, new people, new times. Walking into the bakery at half past one and seeing a completely different way of working was so exciting and I really wouldn’t want to miss it! How they plan everything and how things engage with one another.

Vanessa: I would also be interested in the role school plays in your training.

Tobias: Yes, well, I have theme-work teaching, which means nine times one week per year. The lessons take place in Kronach. School is more theoretical, but there are always one or two practical days in the school bakery. Otherwise, there’s instruction at the Chamber of Crafts two times one week per school year. That’s one week of continuous practice, where you get to know other recipes and so on. These are also things that are relevant for the exams. There are also traditional subjects such as religion and social studies, German and sports. 70-80%, however, are specialised theory and practice, whereby specialised theory also includes a lot of maths. For example, there are subjects like wheat morning goods or rye bread.

Vanessa: Sounds quite comprehensive! I have another point I want to address: At the moment, there are not very many people who decide to train as bakers. Not to say “we have a major recruitment problem”. How do you interest school-leavers?

Tobias: I actually had an “aha” moment in this context recently via Instagram. There’s a baker who just took her journeyman’s exam and now she’s on the road at the North Sea. And I thought to myself that that’s an aspect that’s pretty cool in the baking industry. So, if you know your craft, you can work anywhere really without any problems. If you say, for example, I want to go somewhere else for six months, you can just do that. And well, you don’t have job problems in general either (laughs).

Vanessa: And that is also quite a relevant point!

Tobias: Yes! At IREKS, you simply see it every day, you can somehow get to know the world while baking and I find that really exciting. And I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that, like here, you get to know other cultures, other people through business trips. There are so many possibilities. If you look at IREKS alone and see in what areas you can work as a trained baker, you will spot quite the range. There are also many new bakeries in the industry that have changed from the traditional to “we bake mobile or host bread tastings, bread evenings”, where you’re making a completely different experience. Now also during corona, where many would bake at home, you’d notice that everyone is actually somewhat interested and that baker is a profession that comes with a certain presence. In this respect, I believe that these days, training can now be combined with more contemporary approaches. Becoming self-employed. If you have a passion and an interest, there are lots of options.

Vanessa: One last question! What qualities do I have to bring if I want to do the training?

Tobias: You simply have to like bread and baked goods. Passion, interest, as I said, and a little bit of talent, of course – two left hands are one too many, I guess (laughs).

Vanessa: Thank you, Tobias! I’ve really learned something and of course wish you continued success on your exciting path!

This interview was conducted by Vanessa Frahnert, an employee of the communications department at IREKS.