2018 BBM Trade Scholar, Baking
Wow! It is so crazy sitting here writing this!
Looking back at the past few months, I can see how lucky I am to have done the things I have done, and it would not have been possible without BBM. So before this goes into more detail, a massive thank you to BBM for all the support and opportunity you have given this Newcastle gal!
As soon as I found out that I had been lucky to receive one of the BBM Scholarships, my planning went into overdrive. I was so excited; I began researching and found way too much information to process! My original plan was to get involved with hotels and bigger scale enterprise than what I have experience in. Unfortunately, that did not go to plan, but I was able to grab a few other opportunities.
My journey began on the 28th of August 2019, with a lovely “short” flight from Sydney to London, followed by a few days of jetlag and a few days exploring around the Cotswold area of England. So much history and beauty and a few film locations of Harry Potter (I am not screaming, you are)! And of course, there were old school bakeries tucked away in hidden parts of most of the townships, a traditional Cornish pasty did not go astray, once or twice!
After a few days of exploring it was time to head to the big smoke and begin five weeks of work expertise across three different enterprises: Ottolenghi, The Ledbury and Harrods.
On the 2nd of September, I began my work experience at the Ottolenghi in Spitalfields London. I was working with an incredible pastry team of six who created all the amazing cakes and pastry for the shop window. Once talking to the team, they described the way Ottolenghi works. They are a restaurant that offers patisserie style products for purchase, and also allocates certain pastires for lunch and dinner service desserts. I think this was a perfect beginning location for me. I had only patisserie experience, so here I was doing similar work, but still learning within a completely new environment where savoury chefs have full ride of the kitchen with just a small pastry section. Working with all types of chefs in the one area was quite a different experience to what I was used to.
Ottolenghi in general has taught me new ways of using skills I already have, while learning completely new ones such as quenelles and new recipes. One thing that I have noticed is that Ottolenghi has a large range of products for everyone. For example, they have two vegan products that are always on the menu as well as a variety of gluten free ones. They are keeping up with the trends and creating an eating experience for all. And not to mention that quite a few of the products were ones from the owner’s cookbooks.
I also love and have taken a lot from their decorating and display techniques of their baked products. They have quite a simple yet effective vibe that echoes through the whole company. They have a very home style, rustic feel but with class, this is also seen in the type of higher-class customers that they attract.
In conclusion, Ottolenghi was an incredible experience. They helped me fall in love with the baking industry in a completely different way!
Next on the agenda was Newcastle local Chef Brett Graham’s amazing Two Michelin Star restaurant, The Ledbury. I must say here I was definitely out of my comfort zone but I did my best to get through, and as they say pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is how you find who you are and what you want most in life. The Ledbury showed me that.
I was lucky enough to be spending two weeks here. Over that time I could clearly see that with each service period being fully booked, the amount of hard work put in from each and every employee was incredible. Most people working double shifts, 6 am till about 1 am, day in day out was absolute crazy, but you could see the passion in each and every one of them. As they say, find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.
Working in the bread and dessert section, I was able to pick up on many tips and tricks of producing flavour profiles from scratch rather than buying artificial flavours as well as observing a few different ways of plating the desserts. One highlight was learning to make bubbly chocolates (like the Nestle Aero Chocolate), of and of course the taste testing was another highlight.
I conclusion, I enjoyed certain aspects of my time there and other parts not too much. But hey, it was all one hell of an experience all up and you must take the good with the bad.
And finally, I had a two-week work experience at, drum roll please… Harrods! You know that super-duper fancy luxury department store where all the famous people and the Royals shop!! (Think David jones x 100!!)
Anyway, now that I’ve fan girled a little, back to the report. I was able to grab two weeks’ worth of work experience and man did they fill it with experience! The first week I was in the bakery section, here I got to see the large production of brioche products, croissant products and puff products that get made for each day. The large scale that was produced daily was absolutely crazy, and I soon found out they supply to all the restaurants throughout the Knightsbridge building. Everyone was so great and persisted well with all my questions as I learnt new ways of doing products I already knew.
The second week put me into the pastry side on the PM team. On this shift a lot of mise-en-plus was done for the AM shift, creating a few of the products ready for them to decorate up. As well as that, a lot of the oven finished products were produced on the PM team. On this shift I learnt a few new cake variations and a few different textural elements that can be adapted for different products.
In order to get a feel for the third section of the pastry and bakery teams, they allowed me to come in on my last weekend there for a quick two days on the AM shift to get a full understanding of everything from beginning to end. On the AM shift I was shown how to decorate up all the products that had been baked off on the Bakery night shift, as well as put the final touches on other product ready for the day’s orders. These two days showed me how a lot of the product final look. The look that Harrods goes for is a unique look but is also simple yet effective. Some products look so plain, yet they are done to look perfect, while other products have more detail but on the shop display, they all complement each other.
In conclusion my time are Harrods was incredible. I was more in my comfort zone compared to the previous two enterprises, and my ‘out of comfort zone’ was the amount of people I was working with and the fact that 90% of them didn’t have English as their first language, so it was slightly difficult to talk to some people and my apparent ‘strong Aussie accent’ didn’t help too much either.
The ending of this 5th week in the UK took me to the end of my three work experiences. I am quite happy with my choice of places. Their difference to what I had already experienced in life helped me to learn some completely new products as well as tips and tricks to what I already knew.
One of the biggest things I have taken away overall is that I do not think I want to work on the restaurant side of the baking industry. I enjoy the patisserie/ bakery style of production but who is to say you can’t still put restaurant style dessert in there!
Now that my work experience was over it was time for a hop, a skip and a jump over to mainland Europe! On the 7th of October, I met up with fellow BBM Recipient, Samantha Trotter and we took yet another ‘short’ 8-hour bus ride from London to Brussels, Belgium, where we also met up with fellow BBM Recipient Hayley Kellet. It was so good seeing the familiar faces of these girls and I was excited to spend the next week and bit with them.
The next day we began our 2 day ‘Bakery Inspiration’ event with the modern bakery company Puratos. Here we were able to attend the HQ in Brussels where they put on some amazing sessions about the trends of today’s bakery industry and how to keep up with them using their products. We then were shown through the HQ Innovation Centre where we got to see all the trends in real life. We also got to do hands on stuff and taste tests! Here we were involved in small portion of what they call the ‘Senso Lab’. A research tool used to gain information about the products using taste, the smell, the look, the taster’s location and even at times the background sounds will affect the results.
Day 2 was a trip to Saint-Vith to the ‘Centre for bread flavour’, another Puratos location in Belgium. Here we had more of a focus on bread, in particular sourdough. It began with the history of bread and how the “future of bread, lies in its past”. The day went on with taste testing Puratos bread products showing how you can slightly alter flavour and texture to create a unique product.
A highlight for me was visiting the Sourdough Library, home to 141 (I think) sourdoughs from around the world, each with its own unique story.
On the Friday, we got our Charlie bucket on and went to a chocolate factory! This was one of the coolest things I think I have ever seen to be honest.
Upon arriving at the Callebaut we were greeted and taken to an observatory platform where we could look down into the Callebaut Academy. It was so interesting being able to watch what was going on. It would have been amazing to do a class there – maybe one day! We then kicked the tour off with getting dressed in super stylish PPE to go into the factory. Unfortunately, it was a ‘no photo or video’ tour.
You can see in books and videos how chocolate is created, from the cocoa beans to the pure perfection that we eat, but to see it in real life was another level! Before we even got into the factory itself, all you could smell the chocolate aromas! Pure heaven! After walking through the factory, we were able to see the cocoa beans were grinded to a paste, then more ingredients were added to create different flavour profiles of the cocoa. We were also shown how cocoa powder and cocoa butter were made. We also learned that companies have the chance to customise their own chocolate. One of the best parts about the tour was that we got to taste the productat each major stage. This allowed us to not only visually see the changes but the taste and feel texture of each stage of the process, from extremely bitter course product to the smooth sweet product at the end.
After the tour we were taken back into the reception and academy building and were able to walk through the classroom where we got to taste test (YES!) and also got to chat to the people undertaking the current course. It was interesting hearing their opinions of the course, and the facilities.
We then had a few days to explore the city and do a bit of travel in Belgium a bit together before we split up. Hayley went off to Paris to begin her scholarship journey, and Sam and I went off on our own to do bit of travel through put Europe before meeting back up in Switzerland then heading to Milan, Italy together to attend ‘Host Milano’ for 3 days.
The Host Milano is a massive trade show where they showcase everything from ingredients and equipment for pizza to pastry, to ice cream. Oh my gosh, the ice cream! So many taste testers – I never thought I could say no to ice cream until those three days!
Obviously, we were not there to buy equipment and ingredient, our main reason was to watch ‘The World Championship of Pastry, Ice Cream & Chocolate’ and ‘The Cake Designers World Championships’.
We were able to see the last day of the cake designers. It was incredible to watch the amazing creations from around the world unfold. They had a theme of ‘Art and Tradition of your Nation’. It was so interesting to see how different culture of all around the world is shown through such delicate work. Poland was announced the winner, and that was the end of day one.
Day two brought the beginning of the ‘The World Championship of Pastry, Ice Cream & Chocolate’. We were lucky to be able to watch the Australian team. We did not know any of the girls who represented our country but that did not stop us from cheering on the green and gold! The theme was again the same, ‘National Art and Tradition’ of your country. After competing in baking competitions, it was so interesting to see the construction of the world championship level showpieces and desserts from a spectator view.
Day three we watched the 2nd lot of countries compete and create some amazing products. At the end of the day there was the award ceremony where Japan took out top position. Each county did an absolutely incredible job and should be so proud of their final products. The whole 3-day experience was one I’ll definitely remember; for eating too much ice cream, but also for watching countries battle it out in something I am so passionate about, and it was even better to be able to cheer on my own country in the process.
Through the amazing opportunities that BBM has allowed me to undertake, I was able to secure a job at Harrods in the Bakery section when I returned to London. The past few months of working here have enabled me to learn so much and put my knowledge into action. I have had ups and downs, as all do but would not change it for the world.