Bakers Journal

VIU baking students headed to Europain

November 24, 2011
By Bakers Journal

storyphoto_488ebNovember 24, 2011, Nanaimo, B.C. – Excitement is building among students and staff in Vancouver Island University’s professional baking program.

November 24, 2011, Nanaimo, B.C. – Excitement is building among students
and staff in Vancouver Island University’s professional baking program

Thirty current and past students and four faculty members are eagerly anticipating a two-week sojourn to Paris to attend Europain, the biggest baking trade show in the world, from March 1 to 15, 2012.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do with my students,” said Martin Barnett, chair of VIU’s professional baking and pastry department. “The Europain baking and pastry convention happens once every three years. Students will learn so much by observing world-class bakers who have honed techniques passed down through the generations. They’ll learn things we can’t teach in a traditional classroom.”


The five-day trade show will attract close to 90,000 attendees and more than 600 exhibitors who will demonstrate their craft, teach, and pass on their baking skills. The convention includes five internationally renowned competitions where bakers from all over the world compete, including the LeSaffre Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie (World Baking Cup Competition).

After Europain, students will visit bakeries and ingredient manufacturers in and around Paris.

“I’ve never been overseas before,” said student Kevin Friesen, who moved from Winnipeg to Nanaimo to take VIU’s 10-month baking program. “I was excited to move to B.C. to begin school, but now the opportunity to study in Paris is icing on the cake.”

For Friesen, 29, professional baking represents a major career change. He studied architecture after high school graduation, and worked as a cabinet maker for several years.

“I wanted a change,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated with cooking so I started looking at schools across Canada and chose VIU. Now that I’m here, I know professional baking is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Classmate Julia Tschanz also looks forward to visiting Paris and learning new trends, techniques and ideas from professional French bakers.

“I hope to learn as much as possible and return to Canada to apply new techniques to my own bakery one day,” said Tschanz. “The French, I understand, have a very different style. They put a lot of effort into presentation. For them, baking is art.”

Students headed for Paris hope to raise $11,000 to offset travel costs. This week, they begin a series of bake sales in the main cafeteria at VIU’s Nanaimo campus, offering holiday goodies including chocolate truffles, fruit cake, mince tarts and several varieties of shortbread, plus dry ingredient mixes for speculaas (Dutch spice cookies), chocolate shortbread and ginger snaps. Bake sale dates are Nov. 24, Nov. 30, Dec. 1, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8.

Barnett said VIU’s professional baking program is seeing a renewed interest from students. “We doubled our intake from 18 to 36 students this year. Many of our students are changing careers or switching from academic studies to trades,” he said.

Several factors have fueled the interest. “We’re benefiting from popular cooking shows on television, and the fact that the public wants good quality baked products,” said Barnett.

“VIU’s Culinary Institute faculty have also promoted our programs off [the Island]. We’ve gone east with our thinking and forged strong connections with the Baking Association of Canada, including the formation of a local chapter on Vancouver Island. “We’re also the only institution in Canada to offer students the chance to cook with a wood-fired brick oven.”

To top it off, said Barnett, VIU culinary and baking students often win regional and national cooking competitions.

Kevin Friesen and Julia Tschanz are among 30 professional baking students heading to Paris in March for Europain.  

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