Winner: John Ruddock

Senior supervisor

Coopland & Son (Scarborough) North Yorkshire

John Ruddock joined the £25m business straight out of school, initially as a member of the hygiene team. By the following year he was a trainee chargehand and now, aged just 24, he is managing a shift with 14 staff.

"I’d like people to think I’m hard-working, self-motivated and dedicated," he says, and the judges were very much in agreement. They were impressed with his tremendous commitment to learning and development, pushing himself to complete training programmes both internal to Cooplands and external; he has recently completed a BTEC National Certificate in Food Science and Manufacturing Technology and is about to start a food science degree.

Ruddock says he is keen to further his understan-ding of savoury products, while learning more about running the business, including marketing and logistics.

Finalist: Max Stoddart

Trainee baker

Burns the Bread, Glastonbury, Somerset

Max Stoddart is the third of three generations of his family working in Burns the Bread, a three-shop business which has a £1.2m turnover. He began working for the company while he was still a schoolboy; now just 17, he joined full-time when he left school.

"Ultimately, I’d like to take over the business," he says. "So I think it’s important to visit different bakeries to get a wide understanding of bakery in general I’m very open to outside influences. I’m also keen to get involved in the business side of things, such as costings and staff management." He is also studying hard, having already gained his Level 2 in Bakery.

Max says he particularly loves handling and hand-moulding doughs and he is very interested in new product development.

Finalist: Gabrielle Baxter

Student baker

Tameside College, Oldham, Lancashire

Originally training to become a nurse, 22-year-old Gabrielle Baxter decided after a year that her heart lay elsewhere and switched to studying bakery.

About to start her NVQ Level 3 in Bakery, she already has a number of training qualifications. "I’ve really loved my time here at Tameside College," she says, "and I’ve been so inspired by my tutors that I’d like to give something back by becoming a tutor myself."

Before she does, though, Baxter is intent on working in a true artisan bakery to hone her skills. She has already won a number of competitions and been awarded the Hovis Scholarship, taking her to different establishments around the UK. "I’ve achieved a lot in a short space of time; I hope people will see how ambitious I am," she says.