The baking and pastry arts department kicked-off its first Algonquin Baking Competition in the H102 labs on Sunday, March 26.
The contest was designed for students to showcase their talents along with what they’ve learned.
The event was created by instructors and chefs Harsh Singh, Amanda Baxter, Abdelmalek Lebbal and Margrit Werner.
“This is something that I think has been missing for the past few years and any kind of competition — anything that can get the students engaged, is great,” said Catherine Beddall, who teaches cake decorating.
As part of the contest, students had to make three baked goods (either bread or cookies) and add their own unique flair to each recipe. As an added challenge, instructors imposed specific weight, length and ingredient requirements.
While working on a twisted pizza loaf, in which she had to add olives, however, Krystal Wiles-Horsecroft said she’s not worried about the rules.
“Just like in the real world, if you had customers, they’d want the same. They’re going to give you guidelines and everything.”
The one thing that didn’t reflect reality however, was the number of students involved. Out of over 200 students registered in the program, only nine participated.
Singh said time was the main culprit. Though all baking students were invited, with exam season so close, many chose to focus on their studies instead. Including advanced students would also mean a more delicate menu to reflect their skills, with items like bonbon filled chocolate-boxes, sugar showpieces and four texture cakes. Singh felt it would be unfair as the majority of participants were in their first year.
“How can we expect them to do that, when we haven’t even shown them yet?” Singh asked, adding that future competitions would be more inclusive.
In the kitchen, instructor and chef Pradeep Sultania along with Nicholas Audet, a second year student, watched as students chopped, grated and whisked away. As judges, their task was ensuring students worked in a sanitary, well-organized and technical manner.
Former Château Laurier pastry chef, Ernst Frehner, along with instructor and NAC pastry chef, Edgar Khalil, then judged the results. But with so many delectable goods, what would set the winners apart?
“Presentation, use of ingredients and of course, taste. Taste is very important. Because if it looks great but doesn’t taste good — what are you going to do?” said Frehner.
Once the judges finished inspecting every last bite, it was time for the award ceremony. Prior to revealing the winners, chef Singh gave contestants certificates of participation.
“Why get these medals which nobody can keep?” Singh asked, “whereas this, being new to the industry and you’re just entering, this is something that can go on your resume and could go in your portfolio.”
As professors, family and friends observed, Singh took one last moment to remind competitors of why they should take pride in their latest accomplishment.
“It doesn’t matter who wins or who doesn’t. Everybody who participated is a winner. What matters is the courage it took for you to put yourselves out there and be judged.”
The competition was sponsored by The Print Shop and Connection Campus Store.