Sponsored by Rondo

Winner: Jessica Smithson, Country Style Foods

Jessica Smithson studied bakery and cake decoration at The Printworks Campus, Leeds, and now works at Country Style Foods.

Although employed by a large company that deals with major retailers, Smithson says she’s a hands-on artisan baker at heart.

“Innovation is my real passion together with long-ferment sourdoughs like my rye levain,” she explains. “Time and temperatures are important ingredients in baking and in addition to breads, including ciabattas and focaccias, I have been fortunate to work at other sites within the company, learning much more about pies, pasties, doughnuts and fresh cream products.”

Such hands-on experience has been invaluable to her learning, she says.

“Over the past six months I have been meeting with suppliers from various ingredient companies to work with them and find innovative products and flavours to put into our products. This helps me keep on board with current trends and build relationships in the industry.

“I enjoy working to retailers’ briefs but also being creative and seeing that innovation right through each stage of the development process until the product ends up on the retailer’s shelf.”

Finalist: Emma Kelly, Sheffield Hallam University

Emma Kelly has attained a Level 5 Food Science degree in Bakery, Confectionery and Patisserie Science and is now studying for a BSc Hons at Sheffield Hallam University.

Her passion for baking began at a young age and she ended up with twice as many recipe books as text books.

“I’ve been lucky to work at Fosters Bakery in NPD, developing products from early concept to mass production, which was very fulfilling, Now, I’ve been offered some consultancy work with Griffith Foods,” Kelly explains.

In 2016 she travelled to Lesaffre in Lille to learn more about ferments, then to Ireks in Germany to improve her knowledge of ingredients. She is now going to Columbia, courtesy of CasaLuker and MSK, to learn more about the production of cocoa.

“The artisan side of bakery is huge at the moment and could be marketed more to potential students,” adds Kelly.

“There’s the opportunity for it to be more technical too, involving a lot of science. In fact, there are many opportunities. It’s such a beautiful vocation incorporating many skills.”

Finalist: Sophie Braker, Adelie Foods

Sophie Braker recently attained a first-class BSc Hons in Bakery Technology Management at the National Bakery School (NBS) and now works at Adelie Foods.

“I am a passionate bread baker, with a particular interest in new product development,” she explains. “I follow the newest trends avidly and enjoy creating my own products inspired by those trends.”

Braker was especially inspired by a visit to a sourdough bakery, and began making her own sourdoughs at home before applying to NBS. Known for her initiative, one of the ideas she had at university was to use up leftover dough to make pretzels.

During time out in the industry she worked at the Good Brownie Company, where she developed flavours such as Christmas Pudding and Cream, and Matcha Green Tea Blondies.

Acknowledging her tutors at NBS, Braker wants to see others encouraged to enter the industry: “It’s vital that teaching institutions and employers attend post-school option evenings and careers fairs to make students aware there is more to bakery than just following a recipe.”