Earlier this month, more than 20 contestants battled to prove themselves worthy of a spot in the finals at the Live Heats of the Richemont Masterbaker Pastry & Baking Championships 2019. With triple the number of applicants who entered last year’s competition, this regional contest has quickly become an important gateway to raising industry standards. Here’s how…
The six judges represent the expertise, finesse and leadership that is at the forefront of the region’s pastry and bakery sectors today. But who is going to be filling those shoes (or those choux) tomorrow? The Richemont Masterbaker Championships both ask and help to answer this question by creating a platform for assessing, testing and enhancing the next generation of bakers and pastry chefs. It is a unique career-boosting experience that provides mentoring, learning and guidance through the Live Heats.
REAL-LIFE INDUSTRY CHALLENGES
The competition challenges were designed to marry the chef’s flair for creativity with the need for practicality in the real world. The F&B industry often makes use of convenience products, but the competition’s tasks challenged the chefs to make products from scratch. In a region where this is not always required of a pastry section, some struggled with the tasks. The competition tasks therefore forced the chefs to become familiar with the core skills involved in baking / pastry, so they can become more responsive and skilled in meeting the changing tastes and trends of the market.
Contestants were asked to produce specified batch numbers and weights of various products within strict time constraints. On the face of it, the time limit and boundaries of the tasks added drama to the Live Heats – but the reality is, that this is how commercial operations really work. The real-world F&B environment means they have to work to margins, so wastage of ingredients is not acceptable. Further to this, customers are demanding not only a consistently excellent product every time, but also want to experience the latest in trends and culinary innovation. The judges therefore awarded and deducted some of their points based on the contestants’ performance with accurate use of ingredients, artistry and timing, in addition to taste.
When you look at this that way, the competition challenge becomes much more than just a baking challenge. The real message of this year’s championships is that if you can produce ten perfect baked goods or pastries from scratch, then it shows that you can produce 100, or 1,000. If a chef can’t execute ten consistent products in an F&B segment that operates with a larger scale production mentality, then this competition will reveal where you can benefit from further knowledge or training. And if our home-grown chefs can become better, then so do the standards of the industry.
OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN OPPORTUNITIES
The opportunities for chefs to showcase what they are truly capable of in the competition are huge. But what happens when things go wrong under the competition pressures? Well, this is when chefs have the opportunity to show their crisis management mentality to the judges. One of the Live Heats pastry chefs revealed that one of her finished products did not work according to plan, so she needed to make some quick alternative decisions in order to still deliver to the brief on time. The result earned her a place in the finals, but it also implied good leadership attributes at a time when influential industry decision-makers were watching.
Another contestant (that didn’t go through to the finals) had a particularly challenging day that added extra stress and pressure to the competition experience. However, the same chef was outstanding in showing more resilience and fighting spirit under pressure than perhaps any other chef over the two days of intense competition. And again, there was plenty of recognition, technical pointers and career-enhancing advice on the side-lines of the competition for the chefs that didn’t make the finals.
The Richemont Masterbaker Pastry & Baking Championship is so important to the industry in exposing areas for improvement and motivating young chefs to address them. In a region where apprenticeships are not as common as they are in Europe, a professional competition that provides young chefs with valuable advice from senior professionals helps to enhance their careers – as well as sending a strong ripple effect out into the industry.
The finals will take place on 1st and 2nd October. Congratulations to the following finalists:
To take a closer look at the events of the Live Heats, check out the videos below: