Well, they did it. Team Canada made the long, arduous journey to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in May for the Americas division of the Louis Lesaffre Cup – a precursor to La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (Bakery World Cup) next February at Europain in Paris – and after competing against the best bakers and pastry chefs from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay and the host country, they returned victorious.
Prior to the team’s departure, manager Alan Dumonceaux said, “I think we have a very good shot at advancing.”
But history was not on their side. Despite fielding a team in three previous editions of the Lesaffre Cup, Canada had never advanced to the Bakery World Cup.
“Canada has tried four times to qualify for the World Cup of Baking,” said Dumonceaux, who also serves as chairman of the baking program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton.
“This time we succeeded. We’re part of history for Canadian baking.”
Team Canada’s success also extended to its youngest member, Elien de Herdt, a NAIT graduate who was the team’s “young hopeful” in the Lesaffre Cup. For the 2015-2016 Lesaffre/Bakery World Cup cycle, each team welcomed into the fold a promising young baker who would be coached by the team and matched up against their youthful peers from other countries in a separate competition.
De Herdt did not disappoint. She won the special prize for the best young hopeful candidate thanks to her colourful, humorous creations geared toward children, which wowed the jury.
“For our students at NAIT, this is significant,” Dumonceaux said. “All the skills we developed in training for this competition will be transferred back into our teaching and passed along directly to our students. We need to inspire other people who want to participate in this event in the future.”
After some time off in June, Team Canada – whose other members are James Holehouse and Marcus Mariathas, as well as coach Mario Fortin and technical adviser Clayton Folkers – will reassemble this month for a practice session in Edmonton. They will continue to hone their skills over the remainder of the year in preparation for the Bakery World Cup, scheduled for Feb. 5-9, 2016, at the Europain international bakery, patisserie and catering trade show.
“We will have a team practice once a month,” Dumonceaux said. “That’s the goal – come together as a team once a month. Leading up to the competition, we will go to France a week early for practice to get used to the French flour, butter, etc.”
International travel for a team of six does not come cheap, though. Dumonceaux said the team is still looking for additional industry support to offset travel costs.
“We need to rally the troops and get Canadians at the show, but we also need major corporate sponsors,” he said. “That’s the one thing that we don’t have, whereas the U.S. team has the Bread Bakers Guild of America behind them. They probably have about $100,000 per competition.”
Dumonceaux said Team Canada can do more with less – “it will cost us close to $50,000 over the next seven to eight months” – but that funding remains the biggest challenge the team faces. “We need to have a lot of Canadian support,” he said.
Team Canada has made history. Now it’s time to help them make some more. If you’re reading this and you have already contributed time, funds or materials to the team, thank you. If you haven’t, consider doing so. Brazil was a distant second to Canada at the Louis Lesaffre Cup, but the team will face the world’s best in Paris, and they need your help to make it to the top of the podium.
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