Before Amber Graham became her lead baker job at La Note, the legendary breakfast spot in Downtown Berkeley, she was having a difficult time finding a job.

On the hunt

Amber is in school full-time and was looking for something that would fit in with her schedule. “It was really stressful,” Amber admits. “I was using Craigslist and I applied to 1,000 jobs, but I couldn’t get a reply.”

Eventually one of the postings sent her to Localwise. Once she was on the site, she never left.

“I got immediate responses from people who were close to my neighborhood and wanted me to come in for interviews. It became so much more encouraging when I was searching for a job."

That’s how Amber ended up meeting Dorothée, the owner of La Note, whom she describes as “phenomenal.” Not only did Dorothée get back to Amber, she was able to create a custom position that allowed Amber to come in once a week in the evening to prepare the food in one fell swoop.

Folding in

Amber says she immediately felt "welcome and essential," like a member of the team at La Note. Part of it was that she’s the only baker there. It was also helpful that she had quality training and a good connection with her predecessor, Denise, who had been at La Note for 15 years.

“It was a lot of pressure at first — I had her on speed-dial,” Amber recalls, “but Denise really molded the position for me and established a good order of operations."

Small business independence

Amber had been a baker before, but generally in a mass-production bakery, not in a smaller, family-owned business like La Note which, unlike bigger, more corporate restaurants, affords her independence. She prioritizes her own tasks to accomplish during a shift and can stay an extra hour or leave early, depending on what needs to get done.

She even has a little room to leave her own mark on the restaurant's baked goods. “This restaurant has been here for 15 years and they have their recipes that work,” Amber explains, “so I didn’t expect Dorothée to let me experiment or want to work with me on her recipes.”

But Amber says that if she has input, Dorothée is happy to take it. “The recipes are going to be here after me. I love being able to contribute in that aspect.”

Satisfying sweet tooths

Amber is all about dessert, and nothing makes her happier than bringing people their moment of indulgence—though she acknowledges that she does enjoy making some recipes more healthy.

La Note heavily relies on the seasons to inspire its menu and the continual change gives Amber lots of opportunities to practice perfection. “Last month we had an apple crisp, this month we have a peach crisp,” she says.

Her most validating moments, however, happen during celebratory occasions, when she sees “that spark of happiness in someone when they know they’re going to get something sweet or they’re treating themselves because they know that they deserve it.”

Because she’s creating such special moments for diners, Amber aims to meet a high standard: utter perfection. “You know, you just want it to be perfect. So every time you finish something you can critique yourself, which is a good thing because you have to challenge yourself to do better every time.”

Next course

So will we see Amber with her own bakery one day? She likes the concept, but it’s not an easy gig to pull off and she’s aware of that reality. “I like coming in and being part of a team, an established team,” she affirms.

“That’s why La Note has been so great: because it has such an established repertoire.” Amber also plans to go school for kinesiology. So while baking allows her to study and practice movement, she’s got other big plans outside of the kitchen.

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