Bakers Journal

School of design

April 1, 2014
By Julie Fitz-Gerald

From Humpty Dumpty to Jack and Jill, everyone has a favourite childhood nursery rhyme that can prompt and instant smile.

From Humpty Dumpty to Jack and Jill, everyone has a favourite childhood nursery rhyme that can prompt and instant smile. Childhood rhymes recall a time when nothing was impossible and wild imagination ruled the day. The exciting College Creative Challenge is back at Bakery Showcase, with teams from Niagara, George Brown and Centennial colleges looking forward to transporting spectators back in time with their nursery rhyme-themed cake showpieces.

Niagara College baking  
Peter Storm, left, instructs a student in the Niagara College baking and pastry arts program. Storm, the program’s coordinator, will lead a team through the College Creative Challenge. Photo: NIAGARA college


The baking and pastry arts programs from each college has put together five-person teams to showcase their creativity and design skills in a friendly competition that will be judged by attendees at the show. With each team putting in as many as 100 hours to brainstorm, design, practice and assemble their 3D showpieces, students will be immersed in all facets of the event. In addition to honing their technical skills, time management and teamwork will be crucial to complete the design challenge.

Craig Youdale, dean of Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute, says their students are excited about the theme.

“This whole thing is about creativity and having fun. Obviously there’s a lot of skill, but that aside, the theme lets you use your imagination. Nursery rhymes are somewhat abstract, interpretive and very visual, so I think it’s a perfect theme for our students.”

Peter Storm, coordinator of Niagara College’s baking and pastry arts program, will lead his team through the challenge, while George Brown’s team will be led by Chef Laura Bryan and Chef Donna Sanche. Centennial’s team will be lead by master chocolatier Chef Norbert Maushagen.

Each team will receive an honorarium from the Baking Association of Canada (BAC) to assist with competition costs, including ingredients and transportation. Chef Corey Kovacs, operations coordinator for Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culture, says that without the honorarium, the challenge wouldn’t be possible.

“They’ve been a great support. They apply an honorarium to allow each school to purchase materials for the students to practice, as well as to pay for their coaches, so financially the BAC has a huge impact on the success of the students,” says Kovacs.

The students will be put through the paces, working evenings and weekends honing their skills and technique to perfect each component of the final showpiece. Kovacs explains, “They’re going to have to put all of their technical training into effect. They have to utilize all of their baking techniques, including mixing, scaling, temperature control, and humidity control that they’ve been practicing for the last two semesters. After that comes the more delicate, artistic side of the challenge.”

While the fundamental and artistic skills are vital, all three teams agree that time management skills, working as a team, and being creative whilst under pressure will be crucial in order to successfully complete the challenge.

“I think teamwork is a big part of it. A lot of times you do things as an individual in a day-to-day work atmosphere, but this is something where they work together as a creative team, so that’s a big learning aspect. They also have to learn very tight timelines and organization to get to the final stage and I think it also gives them a chance to really express themselves on the creative side. Many times in the bake shop things are very formulated, precise and functional. You can’t deviate or expand beyond it. This allows them to open up their creative side and have some fun,” says Youdale.

Lorraine Trotter, dean of Hospitality and Tourism at George Brown College, highlights the importance of the students’ ability to manage pressure. As defending champions from the last challenge at Bakery Showcase in 2012, George Brown’s team hopes to excel under the pressure and clinch the win again.

“The team aspect of this is very important. When students go out into industry they need to not only be excellent in terms of their own skills, but they need to be able to interact with everybody else in the organization, so this is another way of practicing under pressure while being part of a team. Managing the time and managing that pressure is critical too. In the life of a busy bakery or pastry shop, there’s a lot of pressure, so this is a good way for them to test themselves against their ability to self manage. We’ll see how innovative and creative they can be within the constraints,” she notes.

The popularity of the baking programs offered by these three Ontario colleges demonstrates there is huge interest in learning the fundamentals of baking, as well as the artistic side of pastry arts.

Centennial College offers a one-year Commercial Bakeries program that focuses on industry-required techniques and a two-year Baking and Pastry Arts Management program that allows students to indulge their creativity. In January 2013, the college opened its Culinary Arts Facility with two culinary labs and a baking lab. Enrolment in these culinary and baking programs has continued to swell, prompting the college to begin construction on a $56 million building that will expand its residence and house six new labs. The building is scheduled for completion in May 2016.

Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute offers a one-year Baking and Pastry Arts program that encompasses seven different lab components and a theoretical component. With 2013/2014 representing its inaugural year, everyone in the college was surprised at the tremendous interest in the program. Youdale reports that 450 people applied for just 24 spots, making it one of the highest applicant-to-seat ratios out of all of the college’s programs. In response, he says the college is in the midst of expanding its culinary program, hoping to double its size by 2015.

“As part of the expansion, we’ll be expanding the number of seats we have for our pastry program, hoping to at minimum double those seats by fall 2015. We start construction this spring on an entire new floor to our culinary building that will include a brand new bake shop and pastry shop that we’ll be able to use for the program.”

George Brown College offers a one-year Baking Pre-Employment program and a two-year Baking and Pastry Arts Management program. In the fall of 2013, the programs had 900 applicants for just 100 spots.

“There’s a lot of change happening in the bakery world, whether it’s awareness of gluten-free or innovative trends in chocolate from Europe, so the faculty is doing a fair amount of curriculum development to make sure that those trends are reflected in the curriculum as well,” says Trotter.

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