Becoming a “Bäckermeister” is a big deal in Germany. It takes years of tough, formal training before a German baker is allowed to call himself "Meister" and sell bread to the public. Quite unlike the rest of the world, where random folks turn into "artisan bakers" literally overnight, only to harass customers with mediocre bread.
Bread is considered cultural heritage in Germany, where being a Meister baker is a prerequisite to establishing a bakery business and selling to the public. The long process towards Meister begins with a 3-year apprenticeship (Lehrling) after completing high school.
The apprentice program is a unique German institution that combines theoretical learning with training on the job. Apprentices alternate between trade school, where they learn the scientific foundations of baking, and internships at established bakeries, where they put into practice what they just learned.
Apprenticeships are a win-win: The employer benefits from cheap labor, while the apprentice benefits from training on the job. Apprentices are around 16 years old when they start, living with their parents, which makes the low wage less of a practical problem.
Upon completing the apprenticeship, the Lehrling is awarded the "Gesellenbrief" certificate (bachelor degree) with eligibility to work in any German bakery at competitive market rates. After three to five years of work experience, the Geselle becomes eligible to enlist for a “Meisterbrief” (master certificate).
At this point, the Geselle is required to attend school again, usually in the evenings for two years. Meister School focuses on running a bakery and perfecting baking skills. Meister candidates must pass tough exams in baking, food chemistry, food laws, and business administration. There is also an extremely demanding practical exam, in which candidates must bake a collection of products in real time in front of a watchful commission, and that bread better be very good.
Once a Meister, bakers are allowed to run a bakery and take on apprentices of their own, thereby ensuring that knowledge is passed on from one generation to the next. The entire process from Geselle to Meister is supervised and regulated by the German Baeckerei Innung, i.e. the baker's guild, which ensures consistently high standards across Germany.
This rigorous, six-years-long training process is unique and there's no question that it produces the best bakers in the world. Baking is a science that cannot be learned overnight, as some folks seem to think. Becoming a good bakers requires a ton of knowledge and years of hands-on experience.
If this article has made you hungry for German bread, then we've got you covered. We sell authentic bread baked in Germany, by German Meisters, and ship it throughout the USA. Click here to see our bread offering.
No food in the world comes anywhere close to the goodness of freshly baked bread. I love my rustic sourdough, so much so that at age 58 I became an apprentice at a local bakery that specialises in sourdough breads (daily) and sourdough pizzas (Fridays). The work goes on behind scenes all night, shutters open at 7am and by 4pm all the freshly baked good are sold. Any leftovers are given to staff lucky enough to be doing the afternoon shift! I’m 63 nor but cannot wait to go back once we are Covid free.
West London (please do not share email address)
I am 92 years old, and my excellent health is partly due to great German rye bread fine Brot
And my great German Stollen
I agree. I am German by birth and immigrated to the US when I was 18. The apprenticeship program is so important. The thing most of us that immigrate miss is the bread. There is nothing like it. Just give me a good, crusty, dense bread and butter and I am a happy camper.
It’s no wonder German bread is so delicious! I had no idea that the training was so rigorous!
My husband was born in Berlin in 1938. He spent many years behind the iron curtain after WW !! unti he was the age of 18. He and most of his family left east Berlin and went to the west just before the Berlin Wall was erected. He was a Meister Fleisher before he came to this country. I know how rigorous his training was and I will encourage him to read this article. He is now 82+ years and is facing so many problems (health, being a hostage of the current administration, etc.) in his old age. He said that all he wants is to be left alone and that he was lied to about the GOLDEN YEARS! He has really enjoyed the bread from Germany that you all have sent to him. I started on his last birthday and will continue. I have enjoyed the bread also.Thank you, Caro