05/16/04 — Daniels continues family baking tradition

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Daniels continues family baking tradition

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on May 16, 2004 9:12 AM

Melanie Daniels remembers spending many Saturdays as a child in her grandfather's bakery in Goldsboro.

Her grandfather, then the owner of Mickey's Pastries, would tie an apron on her and give her dough, a rolling pin and flour.

After she cut out shapes in the dough, they were baked and given to her to eat.

As she got older, she would take her friends through the back door of the bakery before school, so they could see how all the pastries, cakes and other baked goods were made from scratch.

"They thought it was the greatest thing in the world," she said.

Even though she was around her grandfather a lot, she never thought she would be a baker. Her mind changed slowly during her years as a student at Guilford College in Greensboro.

Mrs. Daniels worked at a bakery for six years and then decided to return to Goldsboro to join the family business.

Last year, she became the only third-generation certified master baker in the United States.

Her grandfather, Mickey McClenny, received his certification in June 1987. He has since passed away.

Her father, Jerry Ray, received his certification in May 2002.

Their family business, Mickey's Pastry Shop, has been an institution in Goldsboro for many years.

McClenny became the owner in 1946 when the business was on Center Street. Ray is McClenny's son-in-law. He joined the business in 1969.

Mrs. Daniels joined both of them in 1996. The business moved from Center Street to Graves Drive in 2002.

Mrs. Daniels, 32, was certified as a master baker and awarded a pin in March at the Retail Bakers Association's national convention in Orlando, Fla.

Since 1986, only 142 people in the United States have passed the test to receive the designation, and only a few of them have been women.

It takes four years of certifiable work experience in a bakery to apply for the test, and many get turned down by the committee that reviews applications.

Mrs. Daniels sent in her resume and was accepted to take the test along with seven other bakers in Goldsboro in 2001. The test usually takes around two years. It has a written portion, which is multiple choice, and a practical portion that involves baking eight things from scratch.

She studied for months for the written part.

For the baking part, she was given three of the recipes ahead of time. They were yellow cake, white bread and a Danish pastry.

The other five recipes, for quick bread, pastry, aerated cake, cookie and scone, were given to her the day of the exam.

She had to correctly make all eight recipes to pass. The candidates could look at their neighbor's work, but could not help each other.

"It's strenuous both mentally and physically," she said. "You have to know what you are doing."

She said passing the test to become a master baker was more of a personal goal than a professional one. It shows young people, especially women, that it can be accomplished.

She said the profession is rewarding for many reasons, but especially because she enjoys seeing the smiles from people who come to Mickey's and eat her creations.

"It makes them happy, and you know they will come back," she said.