Earlier this year, Janet Blythman was presented with the Service to the Baking Industry Award at the Baking Industry Trade Show. Baking Business sat down with Janet to discuss the Award, as well as her illustrious career in the baking industry and where she sees things heading in the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
How did you get started in the baking industry?
When I was at High School, we received a careers brochure, and I was interested in either teaching or the food industry. At the time, I was living in Adelaide, and Balfours advertised in the brochure. I contacted them to enquire what jobs were available and was offered an apprenticeship in pastry-cooking, to start at the end of my final school year.
What different paths did you go down during your career as a baker?
After finishing my four-year apprenticeship, I travelled overseas for 12 months. Upon my return, I secured a job in a Queensland Coles in-store bakery as a baker. In those days, there were no pre-mixes used in the bakery, all recipes were from scratch. Within Coles I worked my way through to area supervisor and then category management heading up the state of Queensland.
I then moved to a new concept in food retailing with Franklins Big Fresh as the National Category Manager for Bakery, and this was a very exciting time in my career where I really developed in strategic management.
I have also held roles in procurement, sales, and production management. In 2012, I was offered the position of General Manager of the National Baking Industry Association (NBIA). The highlight of that role was being successful in securing two government grants to build a better training facility for apprentices.
What has your relationship with the Australian Society of Baking been like over the years?
I have been a member of the ASB for almost 20 years and have been a committee member since 2006 and on the Executive Committee since 2008. I love the networking and knowledge sharing at the meetings that are held twice a year. There have been some extremely interesting and useful presentations from both local and international presenters.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Service to the Baking Industry Award that you received at the Baking Industry Trade Show earlier this year? What did it feel like to receive that?
I believe the Service to the Baking Industry Award was an initiative developed by Tony Smith and some of the Baking Association of Australia (BAA) board of directors. I was completely blown away when I heard my name being read out by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC. I couldn’t believe that I would be considered for such an award and felt so humbled to receive such an honourable award. There are so many great hardworking people in our industry and to be nominated was such an honour.
How did you get involved with the Australian Baking Industry National Scholarship Awards?
I have been involved in the Australian Baking Industry Scholarships Awards (ABINSA) since the inaugural year in 1991. I entered the scholarship that year and found it was a wonderful way to increase my knowledge of the industry. I didn’t win either a regional or national award, but felt I was a winner from the knowledge I had gained. It therefore gave me a goal to ensure I entered each year.
In 1997, I was a Regional Winner, and in 1998 I achieved my goal of being awarded the Arthur E Denison Trophy and a five-day study tour in Paris to visit Europain. Craig Perry, who ran the scholarships at the time along with the support of his family, invited me to help judge the papers in 1999, which I did each year.
Around 2014, Craig gifted the ABINSA scholarships to the ASB. From my own experience, I have always been passionate about the benefits of the ABINSA awards so supported Craig and a chosen committee in running the scholarships. Craig gifted the scholarships to the ASB so he could start to take more of a back seat in the awards but still ensure the awards continued and left in good hands. Craig is still an active member of the ABINSA Committee which is made up of six industry representatives.
What advice would you give to aspiring bakers looking to get started in the industry?
Don’t ever give up on your dreams. Baking is a wonderful industry to be in with opportunities around the world. If you are willing to put in the hard yards, the rewards are there, but it’s up to everyone to create their own destiny.
Looking ahead, what excites you about the future of baking?
We have some exceptionally talented and passionate people in the baking industry, especially some of our young achievers. There are so many opportunities to help identify and develop these talents with competitions like the L.A. Judge, Bake Skills, Excellence in Baking, and National Pie Competitions. The BAA also introduced some great mentor programs to develop these talented people. We also have some incredible businesses who encourage the development of both people and product, and always strive for better. There are too many to name individually.
What’s your absolute favourite thing to make?
I would have to say cheesecakes. I love experimenting with different bases for the cheesecakes, and the filling and what goes into the filling. Cheesecakes are so easy to decorate. Most important they are one of my favourite deserts to eat.
Main image: (L to R) Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Janet Blythman, and Andrew O’Hara (President of the BAA)