A baker is a tradesperson who bakes and sometimes sells breads and other products made of flour by using an oven or other concentrated heat source. The place where a baker works is called a bakery.
In ancient Rome several centuries later, the first mass production of breads occurred, and "the baking profession can be said to have started at that time." Ancient Roman bakers used honey and oil in their products, creating pastries rather than breads. In ancient Rome, bakers (Latin, pistor) were sometimes slaves, who were (like other slave-artisans) sometimes manumitted. Large households in Rome normally had their own bakers.
Bakers were often part of the guild system, which was well-established by the sixteenth century: master bakers instructed apprentices and were assisted by journeymen. In Amsterdam in 1694, for example, the cake-bakers, pie-bakers, and rusk-bakers separated from an earlier Bread Bakers Guild and formed their own guild, regulating the trade. A fraternity of bakers in London existed as early as 1155, according to records of payments to the Exchequer; the Worshipful Company of Bakers was formed by charters dated 1486, 1569, and 1685. The guild still exists today, with mostly ceremonial and charitable functions. Five bakers have served as lord mayor of London.
Within bakeries, traditional patriarchal hierarchy controlled. For the family-owned bakery, the eldest male figure (usually the father) in the highest position of the hierarchy. For example, in Feng Menglong's story, when Mr. Bo went out looking for the family's lost silver, his wife was ordered to take care of the bakery.
The Columbian Exchange, which began in 1492, had a profound influence on the baking occupation. Access to sugar greatly increased as a result of new cultivation in the Caribbean, and ingredients such as cocoa and chocolate became available in the Old World. In the eighteenth century, processors learned how to refine sugar from sugar beets, allowing Europeans to grow sugar locally. These developments led to an increase in the sophistication of baking and pastries, and the development of new products such as puff pastries and Danish dough.
Both bakers and pastry chefs make desserts and breads. In some restaurants and shops, a single individual serves in both roles. In other environments, there is a distinction between the two positions, with bakers making breads, rolls, and muffins, and pastry chefs making desserts, such as cakes, pies, tarts, and cookies. Even when both bakers and pastry chefs work in the same place, however, there may be overlap.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor, there were 185,300 bakers in the U.S. in 2014, with median pay of $23,600 per year or $11.35 per hour. About 28% of U.S. bakers work in stand-alone bakeries or in tortilla manufacturing; 26% work in grocery stores; 15% work in restaurants and other eating places; and 5% were self-employed. About 30% of U.S. bakers worked part-time in 2014.