Five minutes with Maylee Howard

Not everyone is blessed with a supportive family, but Maylee Howard is one of the lucky ones. Seeing that school wasn’t working out for her, Maylee’s parents purchased a bakery and encouraged her to follow her dreams. Maylee tells us how she got into baking and what she hopes to do in the future.

How did you get into baking?

I have always enjoyed baking as a hobby and would make cakes for family birthdays and experiment in the kitchen. I started at age 12 my dog treat business,, selling dog treats at the local markets. When the COVID-19 lockdowns began, I designed my own website and commenced online sales and now supply over 18 businesses including IGA in Barwon Heads. I enjoyed home-schooling during the lock downs as school wasn’t for me and took the opportunity to cook cakes and desserts as much as possible. I also love cooking with my dad and learning from him—he has been a pastry cook for over 30 years.

Tell us about how your family came to Porter Avenue Pies and Cakes:

Mum and Dad saw that I was struggling with the school environment and that I had a passion to follow dad’s career path, so they gave up their jobs and purchased the bakery to give me an opportunity to be part of the Australian baking industry and follow my aspiration to become a pastry cook. My younger sister has special needs and the bakery will also give her employment opportunities in the future and life skills. I am lucky to work alongside my family who understand my learning style and my God Father, Uncle Aaron, has commenced an adult apprenticeship with us after many years of teaching. That’s the best part of the job, being able to share the journey with my family.

You did well at the Victorian Baking Show this year, tell us about that:

I entered the Apprentice Fruit Tart category at the Victorian Baking Show in Bendigo. It was my first competition. I made a raspberry tart with a raspberry coulis and custard and I received second place. I really enjoyed watching the judging process and meeting industry leaders, especially my TAFE teacher, who was my dad’s teacher when he started his apprenticeship at age 16 at Beaumont’s Pies and Cakes.

Are you planning to enter more competitions?

I plan to enter more competitions as it’s an opportunity to learn skills and knowledge in pastry cooking with the feedback you receive from your entry. Uncle Aaron and I both won awards in the apprentice section of Australia’s Best Pie and Pasty Competition in Melbourne this year. We both received Silver awards for our plain pies and Bronze for our meat and vegetable pasties.

What products are your specialties?

I have had fun baking and making different flavoured eclairs such as rocky road, mint, Biscoff, hundreds and thousands and wagon wheels such as traditional, Caramilk, Nutella and Biscoff. I have baked and iced some giant face biscuits and Iced VoVos and it is rewarding to see customers get excited about them and share them with their families and friends.

Who is your biggest role model?

My dad is my biggest role model. He is always willing to pass on his skills and knowledge and makes the journey fun. If I make a mistake, he reassures me that it’s a learning opportunity.  I also watched a lot of Kirsten Tibballs videos over the last couple of years and Mum and Dad would laugh when I would decide to start baking at 10pm at night, as I wanted to master choux puffs or chocolate mousse domes filled with white chocolate Chantilly cream, salted caramel and chocolate mirror glaze on a hazelnut biscuit.

What are your aspirations for the future?

To keep baking! Mum and Dad are supporting me and my siblings to take over the bakery in the future. I hope to travel to learn as much as I can in pastry cooking so I can bake delicious products for everyone to enjoy.

What advice would you give any young people considering going into baking?

Definitely look at an apprenticeship pathway. It’s a great way to learn and enter your chosen career with hands-on experience. My brother left school at the same age as me and has just qualified as a barber. I have had the privilege to meet many small bakery business owners in Victoria because of my dad’s former job with EOI Peerless Foods as a sales rep. The Australian baking industry is a great family and everyone I have met has been very encouraging and willing to share skills and knowledge to allow me to grow.

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