This economy has forced people to reconsider their careers, often from the unemployment line. Mark Bishop knows what that’s like. Now the pastry chef at Sweet Auburn Bakery, he began at BellSouth, as a staffing manager and later in HR. He was downsized when AT&T acquired them. Then 32, Bishop considered cooking school, but sought advice from chefs and others in the food industry. “The overwhelming majority told me cooking school was NOT the way to go, at least at the onset.” They suggested 12 months working in a professional kitchen to be certain it was the right path for a second career.
Though he’d worked in bakeries as a kid, it was tough to find work as an apprentice. “After much persistence,” he started at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta in early in 2003, as an entry-level pastry cook for $8.95/hr. Bishop had to learn to live on 25% of his former salary. “The hardest adjustment, though, was realizing I wasn't who I used to be - a manager in a different career.” And Bishop cautions, “Starting at the bottom of the ladder and working your way up again gets harder as you get older!”
After 8 years, he’d realized his dream without ever going to cooking school. But Bishop wanted to learn more about running his own business someday. He called one of his favorite clients, Nate Johnson, owner of Sweet Auburn Bakery, a supplier for the Four Seasons. “I had developed a particular appreciation and respect for Nate and his efforts to grow a small business off the ground in the midst of a downtrodden economy. His product was consistent, and it was good - certainly good enough to meet the standards of the Four Seasons - whom he still retains as a loyal wholesale client to this day.”
Mark continues as a pastry chef and he’s learning to run a small business too. You can see him Monday through Saturday at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
Mark’s advice for those considering a career change? “Do what you love! Follow your heart...but if that love and heart takes you to pastry, don't do it for the money. I do it for the love and passion of honing my craft.”
Sweet Auburn Bakery is on Atlanta Culinary Tours’ Sweet Auburn Curb Market tour, held the first Saturday of each month.