Dawn Gemmell received an award for Outstanding Contribution to the Baking Industry. Here she shares her career highlights and how she hopes to be an inspiration to the next generation of bakers.

“I never not wanted to go to work, not even for one day,” says Dawn Gemmell. With a career in the baking industry spanning nearly four decades, that’s quite a feat.

It is this boundless enthusiasm, ability to inspire others and incredible knowledge that landed her the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Baking Industry at the 2017 Baking Industry Awards.

“It was a bit overwhelming really,” she confesses. “I’ve been so lucky working all over the world. I’ve had a great career and winning the award just topped it off.”

Gemmell was assistant dean at the College of Food (Bakery) at University College Birmingham (UCB), prior to her retirement in 2017, but she has also spent time with several businesses, gaining commercial experience at all levels.

But it was cake decorating where her passion lay – a skill that attracted some very high-profile interest resulting in Dawn making celebration cakes for three generations of the royal family.

“Another career highlight was working alongside the Worshipful Company of Bakers, becoming part of the livery in 2008 and getting my Freedom of the City of London and the company,” she adds. UCB also awarded her an Honorary Fellowship for outstanding services.

Help us find this year’s winner

We want British Baker readers to tell us about the most inspiring individuals in the trade.

Every year, as part of our annual Baking Industry Awards, we name a person who has made an Outstanding Contribution to the Baking Industry. It recognises someone who has gone beyond their job and helped, encouraged or supported others within the sector, and sometimes outside it too.

To nominate someone please e-mail Caryn.Collins@wrbm.com.

“I have an enjoyment of anything to do with our industry,” she says. “It’s important to me that people who are up and coming now enjoy the industry as much I have. I’m hoping I can be an inspiration for others.”

There’s no doubt about that. Rising Star winner Jessica Dalton has nothing but praise for her former lecturer, hoping to one day follow in her footsteps. The praise goes both ways. “One of the special moments of the Baking Industry Awards was having Jess win as well – what a talent she is.” The double win, and Rising Star finalist Megan Roberts also being a UCB student, is testament to the university, believes Gemmell.

Regardless of where they study, she urges the next generation of bakers to grasp any opportunities. “There’s lots of different things you can do in the industry – you can work in science, in milling, you can be a craft baker and be great at cakes or decorate cakes – it’s vast.

“If someone comes into baking at 17 or 18, they can do so much more these days. Opportunities are there, you just have to take them.”

It’s a sentiment she hopes those considering entering the Baking Industry Awards will take on board. “If you’re thinking about entering, go for it,” she says. “It’s a chance for you and your company to get some recognition and if you win it’s the most wonderful feeling. It’s something that will stay with me forever.”

UCB students Jessica and Megan receive the award on Dawn Gemmell’s behalf

Sponsor’s comment

“Dawn Gemmell did so much more than tutor her students. She developed each individual, took note of their talents and inspired them to find the very best within themselves. Respected figures who nominated her mentioned her warm personality and passion for the industry. She even made and presented celebration cakes to three generations of the Royal family, but she didn’t boast about it.

“Dawn was also instrumental in developing UCB’s Bakery and Patisserie Technology Honours Degree course and was a truly worthy winner of this award.”

Ian Dobbie, vice president, sales, marketing and innovation, Délifrance