After two months, the day that I was flying out to Switzerland had finally arrived. I was already starting to feel nervous and I hadn’t started my two-and-three-quarter-hour train journey to Manchester airport.
I arrived at the airport, making my way to terminal 1, feeling more nervous, not only about the trip and the course, but also about meeting Jai Stockton, the other winner, whom I only spoke to the week before and with whom I was going to be spending the next four days. I kept thinking to myself ’I hope this guy’s not too boring and that we get on alright!’ I stood waiting for Jai in the terminal, when I spotted this man who seemed to be looking for someone, I managed to catch his attention and it was one of those awkward moments. Eventually, we both managed to acknowledge each other and got on really well for the four days. Having a lot in common helped: we were both married with kids and did the same job and both liked football (even if he did support Manchester United!).
Just two hours after leaving Manchester, we arrived at Zurich Airport, where we would soon be meeting Siggy [Sigisbert Bienz, court steward at The Worshipful Company of Bakers, who accompanied for translation purposes]. We went to collect our bags at the conveyor belt. After waiting 20 minutes from Jai collecting his bags, I started to get this horrible feeling that my bag had gone missing! I began to panic even more, wondering if anyone would notice that I was in the same clothes for four days! Just as I turned around, there was my bag, sitting on another conveyor belt. It was a huge relief!
We made our way out to meet Siggy, who had purchased our return train tickets to Lucerne, and set off in a double-decker train. Siggy gave us our course work for the next two days, which he had translated into English. After seeing the coursework, I felt more nervous, thinking, ’I hope I’m not going to let anyone down!’
But I was looking forward to learning more about continental products and see the techniques used to gain the high quality finishing of craft bakery products that marks Richemont out.
The train arrived in Lucerne, where we all jumped in a taxi for a 10-minute ride to the Richemont School. In the taxi, we were able to enjoy the fabulous views of the lakes and mountains. Once in my room, I rang home to tell my wife I was alright.
The adventure began with my initial meeting with fellow award winner Robert Campbell, from Thomas the Baker in York. We were to travel together to the Richemont School, Lucerne, Switzerland.
We met and boarded the plane together, both of us nervous about leaving our families, but excited with the prospect of our trip. Our first - and thankfully only - hiccup was a baggage mix-up at Zurich Airport. Our fears were soon overcome by the arrival of Sigisbert Bienz, who met us in the arrival lounge. Mr Bienz had already bought tickets for our train connection to Lucerne, so we boarded the most unusual train I have ever seen: all the trains were double-deckered and the upper decks were fully equipped with children’s play areas.
On arrival at Lucerne station, we hired a taxi to take us to the Richemont School. Nothing could have prepared us for the breathtaking setting of the School, which is nestled in the valley on the edge of a lake, overlooked by the snow-capped Alps. Escorted to our rooms, I was pleasantly surprised to have a large room to myself, having expected a dormitory arrangement.
With the Richemont school renowned as one of the best bakery colleges in the world, I was looking forward to seeing the Continental style of producing bakery goods
As we had the evening to ourselves, we decided to freshen up and go out and explore. Walking around the lake into Lucerne, we had our first glimpse of the famous bridge we had heard so much about from Mr Bienz. All the fresh air and excitement soon wore us out , and so we retired, knowing we had an early start ahead. n