BAKE!, Zingerman’s hands-on teaching bakery, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016, and this year, one of our most dedicated students has celebrated an anniversary of her own: her 200th class!
Briana Chen has taken almost every single class (she’s still considering Fondant Fondamentals) offered by BAKE! She started her journey back when our school was first launched—a longtime fan of Zingerman’s, she’d already been attending tastings and 101s at the Deli when she found out about the learning opportunities at BAKE!
“I started taking classes, and I really enjoyed them,” she says. “I loved the setup and how they teach in terms of the low student-to-instructor ratio. It was just made for fun, and not super serious.”
After her first class, Scrumptious Scones, she was hooked. At first, she figured she’d take on a new topic once a quarter, but that quickly snowballed. “Once a quarter became once a month at a certain point a couple of years into it. And then I don’t remember when it was, but it was probably into the mid 70s in terms of number of classes I took, and someone jokingly said, ‘Hey, do you think you’ll actually make it to 100?’” she says.
Describing herself as someone who always does everything “150 percent,” she took the comment as a challenge and kept signing up for more and more courses. But, beyond accepting the dare, Briana says she values everything she’s learned from better organization for baking to advanced pastry-making techniques. Plus, it’s a nice respite from the daily grind. “I joke with people and say, it’s like the Zen of baking because when you start to knead dough, you kind of get into a rhythm. It was a way that I could channel my energy when I was stressed.”
Briana says she feels like she’s part of a community at BAKE! She’s made a lot of friends through the years, and they meet up socially outside of the learning kitchen. She’s a big sharer, and the treats she brings to the office have also been instrumental in recruiting others to come and try a class. “I’m the local food dealer in the office now,” she says.
Briana’s experience is what BAKE! was made for, according to Amy Emberling, a Managing Partner of the Bakehouse. “Briana has engaged with BAKE! just as we hope students will, plus some,” she says. “When we started BAKE! we wanted to inspire a community of home bakers among the students who attended the class. Briana has done that. She’s made new baking friends. We also want to teach people to bake, as well as provide a welcoming and entertaining experience.”
As far as having a favorite course, Briana says it’s hard to pick just one. “Every instructor brings a different strength, so it’s just tapping into people and learning about how they learned to see if there’s stuff that I can use,” she explains. However, she does think that starting with scones was a bonus because it was a great intro to the fundamentals of mixing and baking. She says that cookie classes are always really fun, too, and she’s enjoyed the Dinner Series sessions.
Even though she’s exhausted the curriculum at BAKE!, Briana has no plans to stop. She’s currently going on a “bread journey” and retaking a bread class once a month—she’s very excited to learn from new BAKE! instructor Sara Molinaro.
(And here’s a little secret: students who want to take a class for the second time receive 50 percent off. “This is because we understand that learning requires practice, and we want to support our students learning. Fifty percent off a repeat classes makes that much easier. Briana is going for mastery—she’s inspiring even to us!” says Amy.)
And what about that fondant? “Never say never—I’ll probably take it eventually,” she says with a laugh.
Want to get in on the fun? Be like Briana, and take a BAKE! class (or 200). We offer a huge variety of classes for every level (absolute beginners are welcome!) weekdays, weeknights, and weekends. Learn all about sweets, savories, cakes, cookies, breads, pastries, and so much more. There’s something for everyone and sign up is easy—check out the schedule today!