A YOUNG apprentice from Coles at Belmont in Perth will be putting her skills to the test this week as she competes for the title in Australasia's most prestigious annual baking competition.
Every year, baking apprentices converge on Sydney for three days of friendly but intense competition - each vying for the coveted LA Judge medal.
This year, 20-year-old Isablle Trees will be representing WA from Tuesday to Thursday.
LA Judge Award director Dr Ken Quail said the competition was established in 1967 by the Bread Research Institute of Australia - now AEGIC Sydney - as a way of celebrating young bakers.
"This is the Australian baking industry's way of promoting excellence among bakers and encouraging future industry leaders," Mr Quail said.
"It's a fantastic chance for the baking industry to join together to support the young men and women who will take this industry into the future.
"It's also a unique opportunity for each competitor to meet current industry leaders and make important connections."
Ms Trees became curious about a career in the baking industry in 2020 and while she had no prior baking experience, she decided to take the leap and give it a shot anyway.
After participating in the Coles Skilled Baker course in May of 2021, she found she loved it and became an apprentice in October last year.
"My motivation is simply that I love to bake," Ms Trees said.
"There's so much to learn, and so many things to bake, and I want to see and do it all.
"Even though some shifts can be fairly intense, I love the work I do and I look forward to it when I wake up in the morning."
At its core, Ms Trees' desire to participate in the L.A. Judge was based on her desire to learn.
The competition offers the opportunity to learn beyond her workplace and TAFE course, to learn new things and challenge her to study things she's been introduced to in greater depth.
The L.A. Judge offers Ms Trees a new perspective of baking and the opportunity to meet with other members of the baking industry.
"I find bread the easiest but I have a fondness for laminated pastry," she said.
"The different techniques used in laminated pastry offer a welcome change of pace from bread baking.
"In situations where time is not of the essence, I find it relaxing to laminate the pastry by hand using a rolling pin instead of a dough breaker."
Eventually, Ms Trees would like to move into a smaller artisan or specialty bakery, working with smaller batches from a wider range of products.
There are so many doughs, shaping and finishing techniques and she'd love to utilise her skill with them on a regular basi and prioritise quality over quantity.
"To me, bread can make or break a meal and I aim to only serve products of a high standard and quality," she said.
"My baking is a labour of love, a demonstration of my skill, and I hope to create products that always reflect that."
Once trade qualified, Ms Trees has considered doing further learning in patisserie and pastry.
While her heart will always be with bread baking, she would love to learn how to work with other products.
"I hope to have travelled, and seen baking around the world," she said.
"I hope that 10 years from now I'm still learning and growing as a baker and that I can inspire young bakers to love their work as much as I do."
The LA Judge Award is held at AEGIC Sydney and involves rigorous baking trials, theory assessments and presentations over three days.
At the end of the contest, the candidates bake a special 'bread plaque' and various other baked goods to be displayed during the gala dinner and award ceremony on Thursday.
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