INSIDER

19 December, 2006
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS One of this year's Student Baker of the Year finalists Christopher Foxall describes his circuitous path into bakery and his ambition to have his own high-street business one day
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Although my grandfather ran a bakery, the industry didn't appeal to me at first, and I joined the RAF when I left school before taking a job as a security guard at Asda in Dudley. A vacancy came up in the bakery department as a trainee baker and I originally took it because it meant working longer hours.
However, I soon realised how much I enjoyed the job and wanted to learn more about the business. After doing the Asda training course, I decided to study bakery and I'm now doing my NVQ Level 3 at the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies. When I wasn't sure where to go, the National Association of Master Bakers gave me the information about courses and were really helpful - I don't think I'd be where I am now if they hadn't spoken to them, and I think I might join as a member one day.I go to college once a week, on one of my days off from the store, and my bakery manager has been really supportive; last year, college was on a Friday, which is a really busy day in the store, but he changed the rotas so I could go. Doing well in the competition has been a good way to say thank you, and both he and my college are really proud of me.I'm lucky because I like what I do; it doesn't feel like work and I don't mind the fact that I only get one day off a week. Last year at college we studied the basics, such as kneading dough, mixing and weighing up, which was useful because at Asda we use sachets of pre-mix to make the bread. So far this year, we've learned knife skills and gateaux-making and we'll also be studying product development, which is even more interesting. I love coming up with new ideas and I'll often do that in my spare time as there's no room to do that at work. For the Award [sponsored by British Sugar], I came up with products such as a children's cake, made with a shortbread base, topped with a sponge and cut in a cone shape, covered with icing.At Asda, I can be baking bread, baps or cakes, and often help merchandise the shelves. There's nothing I don't like about my job - but ask me again in another five years!A lot of people at college study full-time and some think I'm at a disadvantage as I only go part-time, but actually, I think I'm privileged as I get paid to do a job I enjoy and Asda gives me the chance to learn too - I get the best of both worlds. When I'm at home, I particularly like making foreign breads; it's nice to be able to use different ingredients to make products and I think they also taste better. I've made bread for friends before, but they don't seem to appreciate it as much as I do!It's really important to get young people interested in bread and baking. I'd also like to see a lot more craft bakers around, in every town and village. It's got to the stage where most people just go to a supermarket to buy a sliced loaf. There's a danger that we're losing all the traditional skills. That's why my ambition is to have my own craft bakery after a few years - and I'm determined to do that. n



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