Bakers Journal

Features Profiles
My Mexican Coup: Tracey Muzzolini of Team Canada at the Louis Lesaffre Cup.


February 6, 2008
By Tracey Muzzolini

Topics

I grew up in my family bakery, so I never thought much about being a
female baker. But between the long hours and the physical nature of the
job, the world of professional baking has commonly been dominated by
men. It was because of the great success of several women in the
industry, that I chose to really pursue my own baking career. My mother
worked side-by-side with my father for over 40 years to create a
successful business.

mexican2
Some of Tracey’s offerings for the competition.

I grew up in my family bakery, so I never thought much about being a female baker. But between the long hours and the physical nature of the job, the world of professional baking has commonly been dominated by men. It was because of the great success of several women in the industry, that I chose to really pursue my own baking career. My mother worked side-by-side with my father for over 40 years to create a successful business. Linda Haynes of Ace Bakery, Nancy Silverton of La Brea Breads, and Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread were all inspirations to me. These days, in bakeries across North America, women are working shoulder-to-shoulder with men, and performing well. At the international competition level, however, women are still a minority – their quantity is low, but their quality is high!

The only two women competing in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie to be held at Europain in Paris from March 29 to April 2 are both on the award-winning Team USA. As the only female competitor on Team Canada, I want to share what it was like to compete and excel in the male-dominated international world of competitive baking.

mexican1
Team Canada shows off its efforts: from left to right, Tracey
Muzzolini, coach Mario Fortin of Forma-Lab, Bill Clay of Malaspina
College, and Didier Julien of Julien’s Patisserie, Bakery & Cafe.

In April of 2007, I had the privilege of competing for Team Canada in the Louis Lesaffre Cup held in Toluca, Mexico. This was a qualifying competition for one of the 12 coveted spots for the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. I had been dreaming of this opportunity since 1999 when I attended a Bread Bakers’ Guild of America lecture with gold medal winners Team USA. While there, I began a long-standing friendship with team coach Craig Ponsford, who has become my mentor and butt-kicker over the years. I followed the U.S. team for years and attended training sessions, always wondering when there would be a Team Canada. I took classes with Didier Rosada and Philippe Lecoure, both who have guided Team USA for years. I practised my heart out for the golden opportunity to compete at the international level.

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In April of 2005, I travelled to Paris to watch the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie first hand. It was there that I met Team Canada coach Mario Fortin. I expressed my keen interest in competing and we exchanged information. I followed up with phone calls to let Mario know I was very interested. It was in August of 2006 that I received a phone call from Mario asking me if I was still interested in being a part of the team. “Absolutely!” was my immediate reply. This is when the months of hard work began.

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Sightseeing: the team takes some time to explore a bit of Mexico’s history.

Finally my moment came when Team Canada arrived in Mexico. I discovered I was one of only two women at the Louis Lesaffre Cup and the only one competing in the very physically demanding Baguette & Specialty Breads category. The other competitors in Mexico assumed that I was either in the Artistic Design or Viennoiserie category, roles typically attempted by women. When people found out I was competing in the Baguette & Specialty Bread category, they did not expect much of me due to my small stature. Some men even tried the intimidation factor by puffing up and strutting, but that didn’t work on me. I just played under the radar until our time came.

Once they witnessed my performance and saw the artistry of my breads their attitudes towards me changed; I earned a great deal of respect from my peers. In fact, our whole team impressed everyone in Mexico. We became the team to beat. This may sound very Canadian, but the feeling I had from a job well done and the respect I earned gave me enough satisfaction that the outcome of the competition was secondary at that point. To say that I was not disappointed when Team Canada came in second would be a lie, but the whole experience was life changing. As a woman with experience competing at an international level, I felt nothing but respect from the organizers, judges, jury, peers and especially my own team.

We were treated like royalty in Mexico by the sponsors, Lesaffre Mexico and Lesaffre International. They provided us with lodgings, food, drinks and tours of Mexico. It was amazing and so were the people we met. Even though our languages were different, we all shared one thing in common, a passion for great bread. I am so thankful for this opportunity, even with all the months of work, doubt and tears leading up to the competition. I am especially thankful to Christian Vabret, founder of the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, whose vision to educate, challenge, inspire and bring together artisan bakers of the world made this whole experience possible.

With two women competing at the world cup on Team USA this year, The Bread Bakers Guild is recognizing the amazing talent of women in the baking industry by hosting a tour called “Women of the Guild.” You will have an opportunity to attend classes all over North America with these talented women. I will be teaching a class at NAIT in Edmonton this June with Karen Bornarth of The French Culinary Institute  in New York City. Our session is Preferments: Techniques, Processes & Products. Also as a part of this series, I will be teaching a class with Team USA member Solveig Tofte in Minneapolis in September featuring world-class baguettes and specialty breads. To find out about these classes or more about The Bread Baker’s Guild of America go to www.bbga.org or call 412-823-2080.

Team Canada will be demonstrating at Bakery Showcase 2008 in Toronto from May 4 to 6. Come down and check us out. Perhaps you will be inspired to try out for a position yourself for the next world cup.

If you have a passion for travel and hard work, want to taste the excitement of competing with world-class bread makers and meeting world-class people, I say, “Go for it!” You will not regret it. It will change your life. It certainly changed mine.

Tracey Muzzolini is co-owner of Christie’s Mayfair Bakery in Saskatoon, Sask., with her brother Blair. She can be reached at christiesbakery@shaw.ca or 306-244-0506.