Five Minutes With Craig Perry

Current organiser of Bake Skills Craig Perry has been a stalwart of the baking industry for many years, inspiring and educating young bakers all along the way. From starting up the ABINSA scholarship program, to being a large part of the team that runs Bake Skills every year, Craig’s dedication to the industry has been a major part of everything that he has done over the years. Baking Business sat down with Craig to learn more about his start in the industry and all of the hard work he’s put in over his career.

How did you get started in the baking world?

I was working for a company called Quaker Oats, which is based in Chicago, and they moved me to Melbourne, into the marketing department. And then they made me the food service/baking national manager. Part of that role was working in food service. So, I got nominated to be the company delegate to the Australian Society of Baking (ASB). And that was my first real exposure to the baking side of Quaker Oats, which was essentially Pampas Pastry. It had only just been launched, so that was exciting.

Where has your career taken you throughout the industry in the years you’ve been involved?

When Quaker sold its Australian business, I went with Pampas to what became Goodman Fielder and ended up running both the export and baking side of the food service division, I then spent several months out in the field with several of our baking reps to get a first-hand overview of our industry at that time.

That led to having a chat with Mike Fleming from TAFE and John Ross from the Pastrycook & Bakers News monthly. We agreed that the industry was really good at running lots of regional baking shows, but nothing that was really national. So we pulled together a committee to see how we could help the “mum and dad bakeries” and from that, the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition was launched!

Twelve months later, we launched the Australian Baking Industry National Scholarship Awards to provide bakers and pastrycooks with a vehicle to ‘show us what they think’ about everyday industry matters.

When I moved on from Goodman Fielder and started my marketing and food brokerage consultancy, I approached Goodman Fielder about the scholarships, and they passed it on to us for $1!

A year or two later, the Australian Wheat Board decided to show the baking industry how much they valued them—so they launched the Bake Skills competition as a TAFE college versus TAFE college teams event. We were asked to take it over after a couple of years and have been running it for 27 or 28 years now, most of that time in conjunction with, and as part of, the Fine Food Australia exhibition.

Nowadays, The Great Aussie Pie Competition is brilliantly run by Dani Lindsay and the not-for-profit Pie Council organisation, and the National Scholarship Awards are run by the ASB, through a steering committee headed up by the wonderful Janet Blythman.

Craig Perry with his wife, Denise

What goes into organising the Bake Skills competition every year?

We have a steering committee that helps plan and direct it, and we meet face to face a couple of times a year. We go through timetables, production schedules for both competitions, what worked and what didn’t, what we should change, feedback from industry, competitor input, etc. They then throw that to me to pull that whole thing together. We agree on a timetable and then get a launch flyer out to the industry by March each year.

It’s probably half a day to a day per week from March onwards, and in the last four or five weeks it’s “all hands on deck” as we put into making sure everything runs smoothly.

Do you have any advice to bakers who are thinking of entering Bake Skills in the future?

Yes—bite the bullet and enter! The best advice I can give is that if you enjoy being a pastry chef or a baker and you really want to make the industry a career, then enter as many competitions as you can! For one, you’ll come out the other end improved, 99 per cent of the time. Two, you get to meet new people and create a new network for yourself. And three, if you win, there are some terrific prizes to be won!

Where do you see yourself heading within the industry?

Bake Skills has been running now for 31 years! So, I’m looking to step back and find someone to take it over and grow it to the next level of industry opportunities. I’ll stay in touch with the industry, probably mainly through the ASB, as I’ve met some wonderful people and made some great friends and contacts. I’m only passing it on under certain conditions, and I’m happy to help out into next year to help train someone, but I think it’s time someone younger and wiser picked it up and ran it next year.

Craig Perry with his wife, Denise, and granddaughter, Amelia

What are you most looking forward to seeing come out of the baking industry over the next five to 10 years?

I’m excited about some of the talent coming through. I just hope and pray that they stay in the industry. I just hope they keep doing it, because they are the future. In an age where everything’s become more and more mechanised, that’s a worry, in terms of skills. On the other side, of course, it’s hard to get people to get into this mix. There’s a skill shortage in this industry.

I’m sure technology will help improve many aspects of the industry, but we still need enthusiastic and skilled people, no matter how good the equipment becomes. I still believe something being made by hand is better. (Just look at the quality produced by this year’s Bake Skills finalists!) So, I’m excited about the talent coming through.

Click here to upload your own recipe


  1. John Packham

    22 December

    Congratulations Craig and Denise.
    Great support , success and innovation over so many many years.,and lifelong friendship
    Very best wishes.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.