Professional Baking and Pastry students gear up for their first taste in the industry

By: Autumn Fehr

In the morning, bakers at Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company at The Forks crowd the backroom as they prep the pastries and bread for the day—a task Irish Samson hopes to be a part of.

“I am excited to learn the system of working in this type of environment—to further hone my skills in making pastries and bread, ” said Samson, a Professional Baking and Pastry student at Red River College Polytechnic. 

As the school year comes to an end for many students, Samson is getting ready for her co-op placement in May.

 Olivia Wah shapes a baguette before baking it at Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company at The Forks on April 10. This is part of the prep work that must be done each morning./AUTUMN FEHR

The hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic, said Jonathon Royal, the co-op coordinator at the Paterson Global Foods Institute at RRC Polytech. 

“It was a challenge finding enough co-op positions for our students, and not just enough, but quality,” Royal said. 

Royal said he searched extensively during the early stages of the pandemic to find work placements for students where they could develop their skills. 

Samson said her co-op placement isn’t about the money, but the value in the experience.

With COVID-19 restrictions ending, the future for co-op students like Samson brings more opportunities than the last few years.

“The jobs and employers in industry have been coming out of the woodworks,” Royal said.

After nearly four years of not offering a co-op placement—mainly due to the pandemic—the owners at Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company have hired a student for their co-op placement this year. 

“It’s good to pass down your knowledge and to learn some knowledge we may not have. It’s a bit of an exchange sometimes,” said Loïc Perrot, an owner of the Tall Grass Prairie.

Tall Grass Prairie has been involved with co-op placements with RRC Polytech for around 15 to 20 years.

Ruth Stewart prepares a customer’s cinnamon bun order at Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company’s location at The Forks on April 10. Tall Grass Prairie’s signature cinnamon buns are all the buzz in Winnipeg./AUTUMN FEHR

Searching for a co-op placement is similar to looking for a summer job, but it’s a much longer process, Samson said.

Students apply online via Job Central, choosing where they want to work. Then, Royal reviews the resumes and sends them to employers for the students.

“In some ways, it’s our duty to do it, and we do it very gladly,” Perrot said.

Perrot said they still have staff at the Westminster location, some ten years later, that were once a part of the co-op program.