Like many in today’s capitalistic world, I work a lot. And when I’m not working, I’m thinking about work. What’s next on my to do list, who I need to get alignment with, what meetings are coming up, what fires do I need to put out, and what presentation do I have next. With this constantly on my brain, my downtime isn’t helping me recharge my batteries. Instead, I’m often feeling like I’m running on empty. This was especially true of the last year, where I was overloaded with work, was beginning to lack motivation, and was having trouble sleeping. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have a passion that I’m exploring, and learning from, outside of work. I need something completely unrelated to what I do that will help me “upcharge”; something that will exercise my brain in a different way than work.
For the last six months (Mike claims it’s been longer than that), I’ve been telling myself I need to get a hobby. I need to explore my interests and develop them. I need to push myself to get out of my work bubble. I even set a New Year’s resolution but haven’t done anything towards it… yet. What’s preventing me from moving forward on this goal? Work? Time? Energy? A fear of failure? All of the above? Finally, after a few months of avoidance, something clicked in my brain that really got the mix going. While zoning out on the couch, I was inspired while watching TV. My hobby recipe started to come together.
Step #1 – Sift 6 cups of “Nailed It!” in a large Netflix bowl to start
The basic premise of Nailed It is that three contestants battle it out over the course of two challenges to win ten thousand dollars (and a golden baker’s hat). The catch is that the contestants are all very amateur (if not horrible) at baking, and the challenges, usually focused on cake decorating, are ridiculously complicated.
While I’m watching Nailed It, I’m laughing out loud and loving every minute of it. I’m also reminded of something that I had forgotten. I love to bake! It’s not the incompetence of the contestants, but the wonder at how amazing baking can actually be, and how fun it should be. Yes, outcomes can sometimes be unpredictable, but there’s something in envisioning and preparing a baked good that is relaxing (at least for me). The works of art that the judges design are inspiring. I recognize that I want to be able to build those one day!
Along with the comedy, I take in the educational component of the show. From cooling cakes to what types of chocolates to use for which decorations, I get some valuable baking tips (never ice a warm cake- got it), and I actually feel that I want to start taking action with that hobby.
Step #2 – Toss in a heaping pie making class at Magpie
A few days after we watch Nailed It, we had a pie making class at Magpie, a local artisanal pie shop. We originally scheduled it just for fun with a friend of ours. Most of the class, we learn the techniques of creating and assembling the pie from the crust up, which I love because it is something that is hard to learn out of a book.
What’s more intriguing for me is learning from Holly, the pie master herself. She was originally a graphic designer who went back to school to learn to make pastry and founded Magpie shortly after. Holly was looking for something else to do and landed on her inspiration and passion: pie making! She turned her love into a business and thoroughly enjoys everything she does.
I’m not suggesting that I’m going to quit my job, but there’s a few takeaways from this:
- I need to do more of what I love on a daily and weekly basis
- Great bakers come from all different backgrounds
- It’s never too late to start and learn
Step #3 – Stir with 12 impossible challenges from Zumbo’s Just Desserts
Shortly after, I came home one night, Mike was binging on another Netflix show. This time it was Zumbo’s Just Desserts. JD is an Australian show with host Adriano Zumbo, a famous pastry chef, is known for creating extraordinary desserts using everything from magnets to dry ice. The show has a dozen contestants who are ordinary people who have a passion for baking and pastry making (all of them are much more skilled than the poor souls from Nailed It).
It really didn’t take much to get me sucked in. I was in awe of these contestants. They were able to make the most beautiful, tasty and luxurious desserts. I also learned that the dessert world is so much more infinitely complex. Each contestant has ordinary lives like an insurance agent, a brick layer, and a stay at home mum. Yet here they are, competing on a baking show, pursuing their passion, finding inspiration in the world and creating works of art. Watching Zumbo’s felt like a sign from the Hobby Gods: I’m now feeling full on inspired, and ready to take action.
Step #4 – Finish with lots of positive thoughts (and a mirror glaze)
After watching the JD finale, something finally clicked: If these ordinary people, with ordinary jobs, can nourish and grow such extraordinary talents, why can’t I? I don’t have to be the business guy who struggles to describe his job to everyone. I can do more than work, eat, sleep, repeat. I can learn and make these incredible pastries and baked goods. I love this stuff. I need to dedicate time to exploring, learning and creating. And I can choose to make time to do this. I could feel my inspiration rising like a perfect sponge cake.
I started daydreaming of entremets, petits gateaux, and profiteroles. Then I started to form a plan on how to learn more about baking. Ideally, I wanted to take a culinary class, yet given the time of year, I missed the registration dates. And in reality, this was a bigger first step than I felt ready for. So I decided to start with a great book. Not for the recipes, but the science, history, technique and art of baking. I stumble upon Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas and ordered it.
I plan to read the book from cover to cover (1000+ pages of it), and try something new every week. If there’s something I really like, I’ll work with it for a while until I can produce a perfect product. The trick will be to stick with it and enjoy it. I need to remember that I’m doing this for fun, to build new skills and to relax. I want to do this! I can’t wait to see what I can do.
I’ve read 4 chapters in the book over the last month. I’m just starting to learn about laminating dough (no, not putting it between film of plastic, but rolling butter into it to make it flaky, like in a croissant). I’ve baked three different pastries:
- A Dairy Free Chocolate Raspberry Torte
- Profiteroles stuffed with Raspberry or Lemon Curd Cream
- A simple chocolate cake with chocolate ganache
- Next up: A bread or viennoiserie. Any special orders?
Mike and I have now started watching another Netflix baking show: The Great British Baking Show. I’m not yet an expert on everything they are doing, nor can I complete their technical challenges, but, now, I can speak to a lot of it.
Most of all, I’m choosing to dedicate time to my passion by doing something I love. I’m taking it step by step, and I’m excited to see what I can bake into. My passion is rising.
What inspires you? What passion is baking inside of you? How did you discover that passion? And any other Netflix shows that we should be watching?