First there’s the checked pants. A recognized Culinary Institute of America (CIA) uniform indicating status?
“Nah,” say Samantha (Sam) Kardas, Lori Traver and Ruth Ryan, the three main bakers at The Bakery in downtown New Paltz almost in unison, laughing. “Anybody can buy them.” So much for symbols. Especially for these three. Sure, they all went to the CIA to get their baking and cooking chops down, but mastery of the trade takes a lot more than just schooling and the prestige of the school. These three love to bake.
They have come to The Bakery from different angles. Sam’s father is a pastry chef at Rhinebeck’s Terrapin Restaurant. Lori was a chef at SUNY-New Paltz, and she also has a scone shop in Stone Ridge. Ruth was a sous chef at the Newburgh Yacht Club.
Starting time at work is 3 a.m. “Your social life takes a hit,” says Sam, who is single. Lori and Ruth, who have kids, make the times work for their families.
The best part of working together is … well, working together. “We’re a team,” says Lori. “Everyone gets along really well.”
The baking world can be transient. Lori and Ruth are on their second tours at The Bakery, while Sam, hired last year, is the newest addition to the team. “It’s a stepping-stone existence for everyone,” says Sam. “Unless you’re the owner, everyone moves around a lot,” says Ruth.
The Bakery’s owner David Santner, himself an experienced baker, lets them experiment and be creative with no real limitations.
Lori also orders the produce for the Bakery’s sandwiches and meals. David does the ordering for the baking.
There are two stations, baking and mixing, in the kitchen. The trio rotate back and forth. “We switch around and do different things every day,” says Lori, “trying new things until we master the product.”
Sam likes making cakes: “I’ve been, with my father, in cake competitions, so I like the artistic part of the job.” Lori is into flavor combinations in both her baking and her cooking: “I just made some corn fritters with jalapenos,” she says, “and I am thinking about making a mousse-dome.” Ruth likes it all: “It’s scratch baking – with flexibility and lots of creativity.”
Within the free-form moments of baking creativity, though, there is a set pattern to the day. The trio freeze the dough for danish, bread, croissants and bagels the day before. In the early morning, after proofing the dough (a second rising), they bake everything. Then production sets up the bakery out front, refilling what’s short, making ciabatta, cookies, rugelach, etc. Then they bake the bread and bagels for the shop’s opening at 7 a.m. Next comes making the dough for the following day and putting that in the freezer. They’re usually out the door by 11 a.m. Ella the cake-maker comes in Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m.
“I guess you could say that we’re excited about making beautiful artistic desserts,” says Lori.
“Every day,” adds Sam.