So you want to make bread...

Bread, I love bread. Whenever I see that Oprah commercial where she says she loves bread- well that's me.

Just a couple of months ago my job was eliminated and I found myself with whole lot of options and very little direction.

Someone I use to work with a long time ago would tell me that if I created too many lunch specials for the day, people would go for something familiar like Chicken Salad. To this day when I feel there are too many options to choose from, I think 'Chicken Salad'.
One of the things that has always helped me get through challenging times was food. Not just consuming it, but making it. Especially baking.

Back in a different lifetime, I was trained as a scratch baker and even went on to win some awards and several scholarships for baking in high school. A culinary education and career down that path was what I desperately wanted- a master baker or pastry chef that would travel the world, but life is what it is and I went to work instead of culinary school. And I burnt myself out after just a few years of very late nights, early mornings, lots of coffee and an ulcer.

Baking got shelved for a bit and I ventured down a different path with my education.
An education that I still needed to pay for, so I found myself cooking in a small cafe in town. I loved being back in the kitchen, inventing new recipes, making something from start to finish and getting the feedback just moments after the plate left the kitchen. It was a great time for me, I met amazing people (including my wife), I was in school for art, I walked everywhere and just enjoyed life. As final exams crept around, I found myself heading back to my apartment's tiny kitchen where I baked up a storm of breads- my way of procrastination.

Eventually after graduation, I decided a job, where I wasn't on my feet all day, would be the next logical step.
And that is what I did for almost 15 years. I had jobs where I worked for big companies and mostly sat behind a desk pushing the buttons on a keyboard but not really seeing any final product. I never actually knew how my performance was really helping the whole because I was just a tiny piece in a huge puzzle.
But now I have found myself without a job, as my last company decided that they need to go in a different direction. Which means, I too need to go in a new direction.
What that direction is- I'm still not completely sure.

But baking has brought itself back into the spotlight.

Signs have literally been telling me I should go back to the world of baking: My brother, who lives in a near where we all went to school, was walking his dog one day. He started chatting with an old man and introduced himself. The old man asked if he was related to Sam Castillo. Turns out the old man my brother was talking to was my old baking instructor from over 20 years ago (he was an old guy then too). He happened to have something for me that he has held onto since 1994.
When I picked up the package from my brother I opened it up to discover a photo of me standing outside the Culinary Institute of America in my chef's coat with the then president of the NJ Retail Bakers.

So maybe, just maybe this is what I am suppose to do again.

Stay tuned for more bread making adventures.

National VICA Gold Medalist 1994, Samantha Castillo, Ocean County Vo-Tech, John Mazur, Jr., New Jersey Retail Bakers

National VICA Gold Medalist 1994, Samantha Castillo, Ocean County Vo-Tech, John Mazur, Jr., New Jersey Retail Bakers