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“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

An Interview with Arie Bates, instructor at BAKE!

By Kelly Zelna, Zingerman’s Bakehouse

Meet Arie Bates, a Michigan native and instructor here at BAKE!, our teaching school for home bakers. I’m not sure when I first met Arie, but I had the good fortune of taking a BAKE! class that he was assisting in. I was lucky to get to see the joy he gets from working at BAKE! Arie began his career at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in our bread bakery, and after a short time made the transition to BAKE! He started as an assistant, then began teaching classes. It’s easy to tell Arie loves his job. He describes his daily work and student engagement with infectious enthusiasm.

Although Arie attended Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island to earn a baking and pastry arts degree, he always knew he would come back home to Michigan. He knew he wanted to work for Zingerman’s (lucky us!), so after living on the east coast for just over 4 years Arie’s road to Zingerman’s came through a recommendation from a Chef instructor, Mitch Stamm, who was actually a former pastry manager at the Bakehouse. When I asked Arie how he feels about Zingerman’s now after working here for 4 years, he had nothing but great things to say. “At Zingerman’s I love the community. Everybody is so happy to give, share knowledge, and help you learn. It’s a very supportive place to work. Here at BAKE! I love all the students. I love learning new techniques and sharing new recipes, I love learning myself, but also getting to pass it on to students is really cool. It makes my day when they’re excited about what they’ve learned.”

Arie’s love for baking can be traced back to his childhood when he started baking around 4 years old. “It’s actually one of those things... I don’t really know, it’s just all I’ve ever wanted to do. I started baking when I was 3 or 4 years old with my Mom and Grandma, and I always loved it. The first gift I ever remember getting for christmas was a set of purple measuring cups. I still have them. Baking has always been my passion.”

Arie is also passionate about continuing to learn, which makes teaching BAKE! classes a perfect fit for him. “I saw a really cool opportunity to learn, you learn a lot when you’re teaching, and then as I met more and more students, I realized how great an opportunity it was, what a unique space this was, and how much I could develop my knowledge here. I’ve learned a lot, not only through baking but through teaching, and interacting with people as well.”

I have only had a few experiences with Arie because I’m a new member of the Bakehouse team, which has been a really great experience so far but at the same time it’s a little intimidating! There’s so much to learn and remember. I had the pleasure of taking a BAKE! class as part of my training, Tips with Tips: Basic Cake Decorating. In class I discovered I am absolutely terrible at cake decorating. The woman next to me was dazzling the class with her ribbons and shell work, and I was somehow managing to clog the piping bags (a problem no one else was having) and making very sad, droopy shells with my icing.  Arie was assisting in my class and made me feel better about my noticeable lack of icing skills, similar to how he handled a student having a difficult time with her pie crust. “I had one student who I was teaching to make pie. Rolling pie dough can be really tricky, and you can get frustrated with the little cracks. I had a woman that was almost in tears she was so frustrated, I managed to kind of get her feeling a little better about things, and get her in the groove and I gave her some tips on how to fix the cracks in her dough and all that. She actually emailed me about a month later and said I inspired a new family pie tradition. She was so impressed with herself at the end of class with the simple tricks I showed her that she makes pies every week now and she’s teaching her family to make pies now. It was good to hear the techniques we’re teaching are getting people in the kitchen at home.” I think BAKE! Is very lucky to have such a passionate and dedicated teacher who loves his job, and will be a lifelong learner.

Getting to know Arie, the lightning round:

Favorite class to teach at BAKE!:

   “Soft Pretzels or Scrumptious Scones and Buttery Biscuits.”

Favorite thing to eat at the Bakehouse:

   “Indian Strudel is my absolute favorite, no doubt about it.”

Style of teaching:

   “It’s very informal. I don’t just speak to the students, I like to have them come up front to my table and touch the dough. I’m just low key and mellow, throw a couple jokes in there and get everybody loosened up a bit.

His expertise:

   “I’ve done a fair amount of bread baking in my career, and a lot of savory items like pizza, knish, and empanadas, all at a couple different bakeries and some hotels. I go into the science of baking as well, get really indepth with ingredients and explore what they’re doing.”

Advice for students:

   “Buy a scale! It’s more accurate and actually easier to weigh ingredients than using volume measures.”

Interesting facts about Arie:

   “I love motorcycles, along with baking the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is ride motorcycles. Now I’m working on learning how to do maintenance on them.

Over my lifetime I have played 7 or 8 different musical instruments, I’m a very musical person. Violin, guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, a little clarinet, trumpet here and there and few others.

I used to play hockey, and I grew up going to Red Wings games. I’m a huge hockey fan! Baking, motorcycles and hockey are my big passions.”