Karen Bornarth, executive director, The Bread Bakers Guild of America, and Marissa Velie, certification and education director for the Retail Bakers of America, are coordinating with other leaders in the retail bakery world on a new education program that aims to lift the industry to greater success.

Previously, the Guild and the RBA put together a baking panel focused on careers, and 300 people signed up for the free session. Based on the successful turnout, the two groups decided to partner on a 2023 quarterly panel discussion called “Beyond the Bench.”

The first free (via Zoom) session on “Training and Employee Development” took place on Jan. 25. The session featured a discussion on best practices in training and employee development.

The keynote speakers were industry professionals who have built and currently manage productive and motivated teams and successful bakeries:

  • Joanne Chang, co-owner and pastry chef, Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang
  • Dianna Daoheung, co-founder and head baker, Black Seed Bagels
  • Laurie Williams-Fleury, production manager, Tomcat Bakery

The next session will occur in April.

“This content is important for everybody,” Bornarth explains. “Every bakery struggles with workforce issues.”

Velie is creating industry-specific training programs and developing small business programs for RBA members and partners. She continues her work on setting industry standards through professional certification, industry research, and school programs. She is also stepping into the RBA partnership with IBIE as an integral member of the IBIEducate Task Force.

"It is a privilege to work with so many talented bakers through RBA’s certification program. I am constantly amazed by the skill of our baking community and how much we can learn through collaboration," Velie says.

Velie, who previously worked at Flour Bakery and later baked her way through kitchens in New York, serving as pastry chef at The Castle on the Hudson in Tarrytown, as well as The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls in Beacon, New York, earned her master’s degree in food studies at New York University, where she focused her research on culture and gender in the professional kitchen.

Most recently, she has worked as an adjunct professor at The Culinary Institute of America and teaches Baking Ingredients & Equipment Technology.

“Marissa has shown her love and dedication to the baking industry. Our team is so excited to have her expertise and energy as we continue to grow as an association,” said Bernadette Shanahan-Haas, RBA executive director.