On Quitting My Day Job

by moderndomestic on April 14, 2010

Unadorned Cupcakes

Cake. Something I want to spend my life perfecting.

There comes a time in the life of every passionate baking blogger when you have to answer the question: what if I tried to go legit? What if, rather than spending my days sitting at my job and dreaming about what I’m going to bake that evening, baking was my job?

I’ve been wrestling with this question for the past year, as I’ve poured more and more time into this blog and developed a deeper obsession with pastry. I’ve always liked the stability and predictability of working the 9-5, but it’s never been where my true interests lie. And I became increasingly frustrated with the huge discrepancy between how I spent the majority of my time (staring at a computer screen), and how I wanted to spend the majority of my time (in the kitchen).

When I heard that Theresa Luongo Pinelli, the Chief Sweetness Officer at Treet was looking for a part-time baker, I couldn’t help but offer up my admittedly very amateur baking skills. And when my then full-time employer couldn’t accommodate my working a part time position, I decided that enough was enough. So I quit.

So far, life outside the office world is pretty damn sweet. Theresa is a wonderful pastry chef (and all around awesome person), and I’m learning so much from working with her. And, in case you haven’t tried her stuff, you should. It’s seriously delicious – I’m especially a fan of her peanut butter brownies, mini mocha cupcakes, and macaroons, but everything on her menu is delicious. To make ends meet, I’m also hostessing, doing odd jobs for friends, and getting my own baking gigs from time to time.

Not everything about this decision is easy, of course – working nights definitely puts a damper on my social life, the finances are tough, my feet are killing me, and not having health insurance is . . . well, scary. But having the flexibility and time to pursue what I’m really passionate about is worth it. After spending the past six years working office jobs, I can safely say that there are some of us who just aren’t suited to office work. In fact, I think that a lot of people are hungering for work that gives them more meaning and connection than staring at a computer screen all day can really offer – but that’s a whole other post for another day.

I’ve been putting off writing this post because, as I’ve said before, this really isn’t a personal blog, it’s a baking blog, and so it’s been difficult to write about what was, at the heart of it, a very personal decision. But now that I’ve made baking and pastry my life’s pursuit, rather than just my pastime – well, I had to share. And I have to thank my friends, family, and mentors, who have been incredibly supportive during this big transition.

I’m curious – has anyone else had dreams about quitting their “day job” to pursue food? To pursue something else? And has anyone actually done it?

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy Gordon April 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

Congratulations on following your dreams Jenna – you are going to do fantastic and we are all going to be living vicariously.

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Martha April 14, 2010 at 8:36 am

Congrats on a big big decision. I was just about to ask you how you were managing several posts a week!

I attempted this route a few years ago and learned a lot as a result I worked in a restaurant and then as a bread baker in the wee hours and while my baking definitely improved, it was so profoundly different. Ultimately I found that baking for the masses, nameless faces, brought me no joy. The joy in baking and cooking for me lies in doing it for those I love, not so much the technical aspects. Not to mention the financial and other stresses it can throw at a marriage.

Kudos on having the guts to do it – whatever happens, you’ll be a better baker for it! See you Saturday :)

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Becca April 14, 2010 at 8:38 am

During a rough patch my sophomore year of college, I seriously considered dropping out and going to culinary school. Eventually, I figured out I didn’t have the guts. But you definitely do!

Wishing you all the best in your tasty new endeavors!

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Lisa Shapiro April 14, 2010 at 8:44 am

Jenna, I am so happy for you! Congratulations! I am so glad that you are following your dreams! You are very talented! I hope that it works out for you!

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Olga @ MangoTomato April 14, 2010 at 8:50 am

You are so brave! I’m impressed and proud of you for following your passion!!! Best of success!

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Melissa April 14, 2010 at 8:50 am

Congrats! I liked this post and want to read more as you progress in your new life. M

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Helena Himm April 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

Hi Jenna, I’ve thought of it so many times. Right now I work part-time in a Bookstore for insurance purposes so I need the guts yet to do it fully, but my chance will come soon I hope at least after my trip to Panama things will change.

This dream for many is a reality for you right now and I am very happy for you, you have worked very hard for it.

Congrats and best wishes!

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K April 14, 2010 at 8:54 am

Yay for the exciting news!! Best of luck to you on this new adventure! Will you be at the Bethesda FM selling the Treets goodies at any point? :o)

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Stacey Price April 14, 2010 at 8:58 am

Jenna- I commend you on your bravery, passion and ability to see life’s big picture!
Congrats for taking the leap!!!

Hope to see you soon-
Stacey

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sher April 14, 2010 at 9:03 am

I definitely know how you feel, and have dreamed of one day opening my own restaurant or bake shop. I set a goal to do it by the time I’m 40, but then, the insecurity of financial stability seems to always push those dreams deep down inside. So, I come home from my crazy busy day job, bake a cake, brownies, or create some new dish for dinner, and remember that I have a house note for at least 15 more years, bills, taxes, upkeep, gas for my crazy large vehicle, and other things to buy. The money I would like to save for my own business comes in small amounts, month by month, with no end in sight.

I still hold on to the fact that one day I can open up my own place. At first, really it was just a bakery. But now that I live in a small town full of college kids, I want to open a place that is healthy, fun, and cheap for them to get good home-cooked meals. There are too many fast food joints and BBQ places fattening up my neighbors, and I would love to one day provide a healthy and affordable alternative for them.

I’m still dreaming….amidst an overwhelming layer of responsibility! But I’m still dreaming!

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Kenneth Moore April 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

Well, heck yes!

Should I quit my job and go work at Behnke’s in Beltsville…? I don’t have an answer to that question yet. Sometime soon, sometime soon…

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Val Lumby April 14, 2010 at 9:21 am

No one has ever placed the words “I wish I would have spent more time at the office” on their tombstone!

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Alejandra April 14, 2010 at 9:41 am

I’ve wondered what you’ve been up to for awhile now! I think you’re so brave! I admire it…and I’m sending all the good joo joo I have your way.

I think about baking full-time all the time. Every time someone gushes about the great muffins or cheesecake I made it’s like, damn, I could feel that way EVERY DAY!! lol Until then…weekend bake-a-palooza it is!

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Lindsay C April 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

I am so happy for you! I’m sure it was a big decision and not easy. Yes, I too have considered quitting my day job to pursue my passion with food, but the timing has not been right. One day I will open up my ice cream shop, but for now I will live vicariously through other people like you:)

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Brooke April 14, 2010 at 10:18 am

Your story is so inspiring! Thank you!!! You are now one of “those” people with a cool “I quit my boring job to pursue my passion” stories! (so awesome)

I can’t wait to chat more with you about this – as I’m struggling to find something with more meaning/connection as you say, for myself.

PS. I’ve paid for my own health insurance for the past 5 years, it’s not that bad! We’re young enough that the rate is almost the same as what would come out of our paychecks for it at a job with health ins.

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Erin April 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

Congrats Jenna! That’s huge news. Good luck!

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Rivka April 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Wow — Bravo! That choice certainly isn’t the right one for everyone, but it sounds like you gave it a lot of thought. So happy you’re enjoying the new job — here’s to baking success!

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James April 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

Well good luck on pursuing your passion! You’re a much more adventurous person than I am! Hope everything works out for the best!

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Shaw Girl April 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Congratulations and hurray for having the guts to follow your dreams!! I wish I had half the nerve as you to follow suit! If you ever finally open up your own shop, I’d happily serve as cheap labor!

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Elyssa April 14, 2010 at 2:44 pm

First off congrats and kudos to you for being so brave and following your dreams! What an exciting (and sweet) new start.

I saw Ruth Reichl speak the other night and she described the job of the Gourmet magazine chefs who tested recipes. These people worked in a state of the art kitchen, got to work with top rate ingredients and cook all day long. Once a year they “had” to take a trip anywhere in the world for inspiration. They also had to take at least 1 cooking class once a year…all of this of course paid for by Gourmet Magazine. While I don’t think I would like to cook full-time for the rest of my life (I actually find my current job very fulfilling and am quite passionate about the type of work I do), I would love to have that job for 2-3 years, just to try something new, get a chance to travel on someone else’s dime and get to hone my cooking skills. It really is a dream opportunity.

I dream about being a food and travel writer all the time. But it’s just a fun fantasy. :)

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iEatDC April 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Congratulations! That’s amazing. Good for you. I look forward to eventually buying your delectable cookbook, maybe stopping by your stand at the farmer’s market.

My dream is to provide legal services in exchange for delicious meals at restaurants. I’ll let you know when it happens :)

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Jennifer April 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and have been enjoying the food you make. Though I’m not a big baker, I love reading and writing about food.

I, like you, just fled the cube for a home office and a newfound freedom to freelance write for magazines, create my own Etsy shop, and work on my novel. I totally agree with you that it’s freeing to leave the office life and scary at the same time. For many years, I had a steady paycheck and now, it’s all up to me.

I applaud you for following what you want as I pursue the same thing. What I’ve learned, 10 days in, is that doing what you love will always be better than doing something for money.

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katy April 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Good for you!

A little over a month ago I quit my “day job” to focus on plants. Like you, it kind of got to the point where something I hated was getting in the way of my passion. It’s been great being able to focus on school, volunteering, independent learning and my garden. Terrifying sometimes (re: finances), but really liberating! I finally feel like my life is moving forward in a direction I can be proud and excited about. But mostly, I look forward to being able to give an enthusiastic answer to the “So, what do you do?” question.

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Tina H April 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I am so proud to know you and admire your courage. Frankly, you’re inspiring. And your baking rawks!

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Mer April 14, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Wow. I heartily agree with iEatDC; hopefully, someday, we’ll all be lining up to buy your first cookbook. Good luck!

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Mary April 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Pursuing your passions can never be wrong. Sure, you may be broke at first, but in the end, you will be happy. I’m so happy for you! I’ll be sampling the goodies at the Mandarin!

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Uncle Mike April 15, 2010 at 1:26 am

Congratulations Jenna! I’m so proud of you for following your dreams. I know you will achieve great things. I can’t wait to follow your progress. Hoorah! Cheers! Kudos! You go girl! Your passion will create your success.

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Nycole April 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Hey Jenna, your PEEPS 2009 (A Very Peeps Passover) friend. I’m so thrilled to hear that you are getting out from the behind the desk and following your dream. I have spent 20 years following dreams and although not all of them were successful endeavors I wouldn’t change a minute of it! I always say that I would rather fail than regret not trying. So good for you, No regrets!
We did another PEEPS this year, A Very Peeps Wedding, but did not make it into the top 40. You?
Good luck!
Nycole

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Megan April 15, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Congratulations! I did the same thing about 9 months ago, but I kept my office job part-time… enough to pay bills and have health insurance. :) I now work at a bakery in Boston full time and love pretty much every minute of it. I have learned sooo much, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you ever want to chat about making the transition from office world to baking world, just send me an email! Best of luck! Megan

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W. Mark Felt April 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I’m really late in getting this up, but your post was truly inspiring. For the thousands of us who have thought about it, you are the one who actually quit your job to pursue your dream. Good for you!

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Hilary April 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are living the dream now :)

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Diane April 18, 2010 at 10:44 am

Congratulations on going for your dream! With your baking, writing, and photography talents, I agree that a cookbook is definitely on the horizon… As a recently retired teacher, I recommend treating yourself to a pair of support stockings on the long days. Your legs and feet will thank you. After 25 years on my feet, I have no complaints! Best wishes!

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Tesia of FlavorDiva.com April 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

Good for you! What an inspiration!

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KL April 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I quit my job as a corporate attorney about a month ago to work in HR at a law firm instead. While it’s not nearly as courageous a leap as yours it was still a decision I wrestled with for a long time. When I grow up I would love to start an event planning business (out of a shop that sells invitations, chic party accessories and chotkes) but for the time being the new job is so much more fulfilling (and has an event planning component) and has much better and more consistent hours than what I was doing before. I am home before 6 every night which gives me more time to blog, cook and decorate and do all of the other domestic housewife things that I not-so-secretly love. Congratulations and best wishes for a very successful career in baking!

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Namita April 22, 2010 at 7:41 am

This is awesome, Jenna! You are such an inspiration!

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Kaydee April 26, 2010 at 11:29 am

Congratulations for following your dreams! As soon as my year long position with Habitat for Humanity is up I will be looking for the non-office job kind of position as well. More with building than baking… Every time I get a chance to look at your blog I’m blown away by how beautiful your pastries are (that rhubarb polenta cake especially looks beautiful and sounds very intriguing!
Congratulations again! And good luck!

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Melissa August 24, 2011 at 7:01 am

Wow. I am totally stunned by you!

I am a year away from graduating with a civil engineering degree here in Scotland, and every single marked paper I’ve kept has a recipe on the back of it…I’m now trying to decide what’s to come after graduation: pastry school or perhaps an apprenticeship. I think you’re fab for taking the leap, and am glad to see you have been successful!!!!!!!

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