Bake Off The Professionals

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We would never have thought in a million years that we would end up on The Bake Off! But we did and what a ride it was!

I had followed the Bake off Professionals for a couple of years and to be honest, it scared the shit out of me. Not because I thought the challenges are unrealistic and way too demanding, but the time scales to do the tasks were crazy. Plus you have to bare in mind the conditions on which they had to work with. Heat is not a friend in pastry unless it’s in the oven, cold is not sugar’s best friend when trying to make sculptures, this is what scared me. Great for pastry chefs to watch as we can empathize with the chefs on the show, but for the general public it must be something different all together, shock, amazement and the “Wow” factor must play a large part in the viewing. And there must be “I wonder how they did that” moments.

So, maybe after the third series and it was moving from the BBC to Channel 4, it was time for us to apply? Over a couple of beers and a chat with Bharat (we didn’t actually agree to do it this point) we thought in our minds that maybe we should apply and would think on it. Me being me applied the next day without telling Bharat and sent the application off to Love Productions, then forgot about it. I literally forgot about it for a couple of months, I hadn’t even told Bharat when a phone call came through from Love Productions asking if we would like to apply for the show. I proceeded to tell them that I’ve already applied (this was whilst myself and Bharat are in the kitchen). You should have seen the look Bharat’s face!

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After a number of phone calls and chats we were invited to the auditions in London, where we had to bring along a macaron selection and a Pastry of our own creation. I love making macaron’s so I knew that wouldn’t be too difficult, the other item held a few more problems. We had to come up with something that would last from Birmingham to London, a travel cake, a travel bar maybe. It came to me that we needed something with great flavour, looks and strength for a long train ride and underground madness whilst in London-shire.

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As you can see by this Macaron photo we developed 12 different macarons and flavours. This wasn’t the brief, they had asked for one flavour and 12 macarons! Oh well, they tasted good I’m sure.

Below you can see the travel bar, we tested this on many different people at work, home, friends and whoever we thought might give us a true opinion of the looks and flavours of the creations. I think we got this spot on, so we wrapped them up in box’s and headed down south!

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This for myself and Bharat was something completely new! Camera’s, Lights and Action!! Haha, it was actually like that and it makes you sweat on the spot, for some can be very intimidating. The crew however were amazing and put us at ease from the time we stepped through the door for the first part of the audition, this was to test our knowledge of the industry and also the flavours of our creations, a tense time. But we needn’t have worried, I wasn’t put off by the camera’s and lights and Bharat was great with the questions which then got us through to the second part of the process. This was more about us as people and our backgrounds. Again, I have plenty to offer in this way as long as the ear wants to listen, and with this we finished the audition and went home, waitting to hear if we had been selected. This was a very long wait indeed.

After a seriously long time waitng for Channel 4 to make there mind up, we got a phone call saying that we had been selected and it wouldn’t be long before we received our first brief……. Shit the bed!! It was real, this was it I suppose. Bharat and I jumped with joy but at the same time thought “SHIT!!” It’s time to get serious and get training!

I will continue this over the next few weeks, a lot to fit in but an amazing journey for sure. I would also like to say that we couldn’t have done it without the help and support of Resorts World Birmingham, the Marketing team, Andy Waters and Ian Bennett who have great faith in us all the way.

Pastry Chef Crisis In Birmingham ?

https://www.facebook.com/Yummii.dc/videos/730115583794594/

Pastry, a great skill and a master trade. Are we loosing the battle in Birmingham for quality and skilled craftsmen in the trade? Over the years whilst working in and around the Midlands have only come across a few talented and dedicated pastry chefs who knew there profession inside out. A lot of them have now left the Midlands simply because of standards. With most establishments (not all) Pastry and the Kitchens are left to degrade, loss of equipment never replaced, the floors broken and dirty, cladding stained and coming of thef wall, I could go on. It’s something I have never understood as a chef, the kitchen is the heart of the establishment yet it is treated by a number of country house hotels as the one that “We don’t have to work in there so as long as they are cooking we can carry on”. This leads to unhappy chefs, the chef leaves to find another place where they promise everything even if the kitchen is in a bad way. “Don’t worry, we’ll sort things out when you get here, you just make your wish list and I’ll stick it in the filing cabinet with all the rest”. And so it begins again.

I have no doubt in my mind that the reason there is shortage of Pastry chefs, chefs etc is because the way that the industry looks after the people that work so many hours and so tirelessly for the profession but for little gain. Unless you’ve managed to hit the top and then you can control your own destiny. This doesn’t happen for the majority, some get depression, some get anxiety and some just give up, turning to drugs or alcohol. How can we blame them!? They then leave there 9-11 jobs and join the agencies because at least then they can work the hours they want, get the money they need and have a better life style all round. We need chefs !!! The companies that didn’t look after them in the first place have to pay crazy charges for a chef just to be able to find one through an agency, very little comes through when you do adverts in the Caterer or news papers like the old days, You must pay!!

You can talk to any chef and they will all say the same, fortunately I am a lucky one as are all my chefs that work under me. They get a good work/life balance, learn everything they will need to carry them through the industry at a high level and they get to love the industry that they are in.

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For us as chefs, we need to inspire, lead and develop the next generation of pastry chefs/chefs to retain them, not to torture them. Keep pushing for excellence and expect nothing less. When the younger chefs see you reaching high standards and in love with your career, this in turn will encourage them to work hard and want to be the best, not push them into the agency life. We can blame everyone else, but really it’s up to us to get the next generation of chefs interested again and help them to understand that it’s ok to want to learn and develop, but that doesn’t mean you have to job hop every 6 months (I also went through this stage).

We have the power, get the balance right and things fall into place.

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