It was a weekend full of thrills and thankfully very few spills at the Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees (ABST) Annual Conference at the Alton Towers Hotel last month.

The organisation’s outgoing president Christopher Freeman said he was pleased with the quality and quantity of competition entries. "I was also very pleased to see more students there and from more colleges," he added. Nearly 1,000 entries were submitted.

Among the winners was Catherine Bamber from Blackpool and the Fylde College, who took home the Masters Award for Best Loaf in Show. The British Confectioners Award for Best Confectionery Item in Show went to Christine Radford from Liverpool Community College; The Horton Trophy was awarded to Garry Hindley from Liverpool Community College; and The Founders Cup was won by a team from Blackpool and The Fylde College.

The Hovis and Granary competitions proved more popular than last year, with over 400 loaves entered in total.

"It has been a fantastic turnout, with more entries from more colleges," said Colin Lomax, technical sales manager Rank Hovis. He explained Chris Foxall had been carrying out demonstrations at a number of colleges this year. "I think we’ve really benefited from it in terms of quality," he added.

Chairman of the judges Charles Geary said that it had been an excellent show and that to have the inclusion of the SIGEP Bread Cup judging at the conference was a real coup. "We are honoured to have had this included in our competitions."

Bob Burns, chairman of the confectionery judges said the stand-out category for him had been the cupcake class, which had an "amazing selection" of entries. However, he said there had been some disappointing entries, for example a number of products underbaked, which he said the colleges shouldn’t have allowed to come through.

Alongside the ABST competitions was the qualifying round for the 2011 UK SIGEP Bread Cup Team (see p4). Honoured guest Club Arti e Mestieri president Fausto Rivola had flown in from Italy especially to judge the SIGEP entries as well as The Horton Trophy.

"It has been very interesting to see so many young people in the sector it’s a good sign for the future," said Rivola. "In Italy it’s very hard to find young people to approach the sector."

The winners were also announced for the California Raisins Future Baker of the Year Award, following competitions between college teams held at the Baking Industry Exhibition. First place went to Birmingham (UCB), second place was Tameside College, and third placed was Sheffield College.

The black-tie dinner on Saturday saw Christopher Freeman hand over the presidency to John Renshaw, while David Powell was named president elect. Freeman said the weekend had been a great way to end his year in office and added he was sure new president John Renshaw would do a great job.

David Powell had earlier given an enlightening talk on his varied and successful career in baking, which served as an inspirational tale for the students and trainees. General secretary David Mizon said that the committee had raised over £30k of sponsorship for the conference.

Other speakers included Clare Farrand of the Food Standards Agency, who spoke about progress in reducing salt in craft sector bread. "It’s important that bread is seen as a healthy food and we will have to work with the government on this," said Christopher Freeman.

He told delegates that Dunns Bakery had reformulated its bread six months ago and had seen no adverse reactions from customers.

The masquerade BBQ on the Friday evening saw a number of homemade, bakery-related masks on display as people danced the night away.