Winning the World Cup is probably the most prestigious accolade a nation could achieve well, in the field of bakery that is. And it is why, for the past 10 months, the UK team Mickael Jahan, Wayne Caddy and Steven Salt has been eating, sleeping and breathing this competition.

Following the European selection rounds of the Louis Lesaffre Cup (LLC), held at the Sirha exhibition in Lyon last month, the UK team now has a tense wait to find out if they will be picked as the one ’wild card’ team, of five contenders, to make the trip to Paris in March 2012 (see BB 28 January, pg 4).

Following their selection at the national heats, held at the Baking Industry Exhibition (BIE) in March 2010, the team trained together on four occasions at the Lesaffre Baking Centre in Lille in addition to all the hours they crammed in individually. But they admit more training time would have been preferable. Team coach Sara Autton, of team sponsor Fermex International, explains that, at the beginning of this competition, they were very much focused on what each of them had to achieve individually, but that they are now focused on how the team is working together. The improvement has been significant. However, the boys say they would not have got where they are today without her expertise.

Predictably, there were questions about the fact the UK team contained a Frenchman, but Jahan has lived in the UK for more than five years, therefore fulfilling all the requirements needed to represent the UK, with Caddy and Salt choosing him as captain. "I think the French train their students better in terms of the level of detail and the intensity of the training and so on," says Caddy. "Mickael has been able to focus us, and has given us some great insights into how we need to train together. It has been an absolute pleasure working with him."

Salt had taken part in the LLC back in 2007, alongside two students, and wanted to come back as part of a professional team; however, artistic bread was new to him when he started, and has been something of a big learning curve. Caddy, meanwhile, had never competed in anything before. "I wanted a challenge and to see how far I could push myself," he says. "I really enjoyed the national heat at BIE, and got a taste for competition."

Jahan says it has been a great opportunity to represent the country that has accepted him, and "an honour" to be team captain. The team also has two reserves: Rebekah Simpson (Viennese Pastry), Tameside College, and Emmanuel Hadjiandreou (Bread), a tutor at The Artisan School of Food in Nottinghamshire.

The competition itself is undoubtedly very competitive, but there is also a great sense of camaraderie between the different nations. Each team picks which of the four purpose-built bakeries they will use out of a hat they don’t all have exactly the same equipment and they then have one hour’s preparation time, before commencing the eight-hour bakery marathon the following day. Visitors to the show can watch the entire production process, before the goods are examined and tasted by an international panel of judges, headed up by president of the jury and creator of the Bakery World Cup, Christian Vabret. The team had a great preparation session in fact the judges all said that, during preparation, the UK was the most organised of all the teams and, in typical baker style, they were required to get up at the crack of dawn for a 5am competition start. The crowds gathered on the seats in front of the competing nations and, for those who spoke English, received interestingly translated commentary from the French presenter of the competition. How anyone that doesn’t know about bakery managed to work out that "lamted, femted dote" meant laminated and fermented dough, is anyone’s guess.

Carry on regardless

The judges revealed the team was very close to being in the top three and they have proved the UK has some great bakers. And to have beaten countries like Belgium, Israel and Spain is just amazing, adds Salt.

Despite having no guarantee that they will be going through to the next round, the team now has to plough on with training as if they are, otherwise they will have lost valuable time, says Autton.

"We need to scrutinise what we’ve done, and how we work together. It was said how well we worked as a team, but we need to work harder on these things to take it further and we need to work on the product range to get it perfect," says Caddy.

Having not achieved a top three result, the team was disappointed with its performance and Caddy says if they had performed how they did in training, he is sure they would have succeeded. "You cannot be completely happy with yourself if you’re not the winner, otherwise what’s your next target," says Jahan.

Autton hopes the team’s efforts will go some way to raising the profile of the competition, so that more UK bakers will come forward to enter in future, including those from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. "We really want them to enter. We want the best," says Autton. Adds Jahan: "It’s competitive, but friendly, and there is so much to learn."

Caddy says he thinks it is really important for the UK to be in this competition, as the nation is perceived by the rest of Europe as being dominated by industrial bakers, with few skilled artisans. The president of the jury even said he was very surprised the UK team had done so well. "Our mission is to show them we have got the skills," says Caddy. Salt adds: "We need to raise the profile of baking in the UK and get more young people into it."

Eighteen-year old reserve Simpson is a great example of the kind of young people the UK bakery industry needs to ensure its future, always putting herself forward for opportunities that could enhance her career development. "Although I haven’t played a huge part in the competition, it has been a great experience and has really inspired me," she says. "It has also really changed my opinion of bread. I’ve seen that you can do a lot more with it, instead of it just being four main ingredients bread is not just bread."

In a style fitting of an awards speech, Autton says she wants to thank all the companies that have lent their support to the UK’s bid for World Cup glory so far the sponsors Fermex International, DCL Yeast and BFP Wholesale, the likes of Smith’s Flour Mill in Worksop for providing test-baking facilities and the team’s current employers. Let’s hope the team gets to prove itself in Paris next year.

Meet the team (left to right, with Sara Autton)

Wayne Caddy (Bread) began baking in 1987, going on to win Student Baker of the Year in 1995. Caddy’s project work has taken him to India, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Finland and Bangladesh. He currently runs The Essential Baker Consultancy, offering a wide range of bespoke services to the baking and pizza industry.
Mickael Jahan (Viennese Pastry) has been asked to bake bread for the Queen and make desserts for the Sultan of Oman. Jahan’s career first led him to the UK in 1998 and, after passing his Masters in Bakery at INBP in France, he returned to the UK in 2002, and has since held positions at Maison Blanc, Paul and, currently, Grain D’Or Bakery.
Steven Salt (Artistic Piece) is a lecturer and coach in bakery, confectionery and patisserie at Tameside College of Technology in Manchester. Salt’s career includes spells as a production manager and bakery manager, and he has owned his own bakery for four years. He also competed in the Louis Lesaffre Cup in 2007.