Merbein was the place to be in August for those who take their vanilla slices seriously.
The 2014 Merbein Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph, held on the outskirts of Mildura, Victoria, attracted a record turnout. No doubt the record number of visitors was boosted by event ambassador Adriano Zumbo, who invented and demonstrated a dish – a vanilla rice bread and butter pudding slice – in honour of the annual challenge.
While the number of bakeries represented grew by 25 per cent across all categories, ambitions remained the same, with judges saying all entries were held to the highest standards.
Sharp’s Bakery of Birchip, Victoria, won the Vanilla Slice Professional Award – the most coveted prize of the competition – while Sweet by Nature in Heidelberg West, Melbourne, won the Innovative Professional Award.
It’s the third time in six years Kevin Sharpe, the Merbein born-and-bred owner of Sharp’s Bakery has claimed the iconic culinary prize.
“It’s just fantastic to win this again, the impact it has on your business is overwhelming,” he told the Sunraysia Daily
“Before we entered this competition, we made 50 vanilla slices on a Friday and that was it. After we won in 2009, we peaked at 1500 vanilla slices a week, but we consistently do 500-600 a week now. It has also attracted a lot of travellers to our bakery.”
The bakery collected further accolades in the Dried Vine competition, which it entered for the first time with a sultana muffin, plum pudding and sun muscat slice.
Chief judge EOI area bakery manager SA and WA Jason Riley said there was a consistently high standard across all categories, with entries in the innovative section particularly impressive.
“The innovative category showcased great creativity as bakeries were only limited by their imagination when it came to presentation, as well as colours and flavours. This year’s winner was an outstanding macaroon passionfruit delight. There were so many exceptional entries, including a chocolate chilli-filled vanilla slice,” Jason said.
“We’re confident all winners at 2014 Vanilla Slice Triumph will see new customers travelling from near and far to experience their luscious winning achievements.
“This annual competition not only keeps a bakery staple alive, but keeps customers engaged and excited by suburban artisan and independent bakeries.”