Following his own path

With a teaching career that spans decades, Brendan Carter is passionate about educating the next generation of bakers.

If you had asked Brendan Carter when he was a teenager what his future career ambitions were, baking was not on the list.

Growing up in the small Victorian town of Heywood, Brendan spent his afternoons and weekends working shifts at the local bakery. It was a job he said he enjoyed, however it wasn’t something he thought about pursuing any further until he was offered an apprenticeship.

Brendan said the decision to accept was a pragmatic one, and he signed up the day after he finished year 12.

“Heywood was a small town of about 121oo people, and this was a job. But I actually enjoyed doing it when I was there. Even though I was working part time, I could run a shift on the weekend and that type of thing,” he said.

“My boss was really good. He was passionate about baking and that rubbed off on me. He was a hard taskmaster but a good teacher.”

Describing the bakery as a typical country bakery, Brendan said at the time in Victoria there were regulations in place that restricted selling bread more than 100km from where it was made. As a result there was a strong focus on the bread component of the product range. However, Brendan said he also learnt how to make cake and pastries.

“We produced anything we could. We were just a typical little country bakery,” he said.

“I worked with a good crew. It was shitty hours, because we were starting at 11 o’clock at night or midnight, but it covered all aspects of baking.”

As part of his training, Brendan had to travel to William Angliss in Melbourne –  the only RTO in the state at the time – and it was while studying here he realised what he really wanted to do long-term – teach.

“I decided when I was there that I loved it. I thought teaching’s a pretty good vocation, so that’s what I’ve done in the long run,” he said.

“Neville Scott, a long-term teacher at William Angliss, used to tell a lot of stories about his time when he’d done a lot of travelling through baking while working for the Australian Wheat Board. I thought ‘oh this is a grand life!’. Not just to teach but I liked the idea of teaching where you’re imparting your knowledge onto the future leaders in the industry.”

Brendan spent the next 25 years of his career balancing his work teaching at William Angliss and doing secondments with the Australian Wheat Board, which involved showcasing Australian wheat to Asian flour mills. He also worked in Vietnam and the Philippines teaching and assessing students to help fill the shortfall of bakers here in Australia. Brendan also spent quite a bit of time in Brunei working for a supermarket chain, owned by the Sultan’s brother, in which he was introducing more “westernised” products to the market for the FIFO workers in the oil industry.

“With William Angliss we were also doing a lot of training and assessing to address the shortfall of bakers here in Australia. This was to bring in offshore people to backfill jobs here,” Brendan said.

Five years ago Brendan made the move to Ballarat’s Federation University to take up the Bakery Teacher position. This meant he was closer to home and didn’t have to commute from Ballarat to Melbourne each day.

It was a total change of pace for him. Brendan spent the initial few months writing resources for the baking department before he was given the opportunity to design an on-campus bakery and source all the equipment needed.

“For the first 12 months [I was here] they didn’t have a bakery here. When the training package developed to the point where you had to have an in-house component they gave me a space and said, ‘well if you want to design a bakery and source all the goodies for it, there it is’,” Brendan said.

“That wasn’t part of the job description but I loved that part of it. We’ve now got a really good set-up in the bakery here at the moment and our cohort of students come to us from all parts of Victoria.

“I teach both bread and pastry subjects, and I look after some students on the road as well. I go out and meet the students and the employer and work alongside them.”

Beyond the classroom, Brendan’s tastebuds are also regularly put to the test in his role as senior judge of the gourmet section of the Great Aussie Pie Competition.

It’s a role he’s held since 1999, and one he describes as a great opportunity to work alongside other passionate people from the industry as well as a chance to give back.

“I’ve tasted too many pies! And they’re all equally as good as the other; some are just a bit better,” he said.

“Over the years pies have changed. There are a lot of trendy pies out there, but people are looking at their fillings now and blending spices to match the flavours. There’s better quality meat coming through and the pastries have got better and better over the years.

“It’s a great way to give back to the industry.”

When asked what advice he’d pass on to the next generation of bakers entering the industry, Brendan was candid: get your experience at the bench but be sure to explore all the other avenues that are out there.

“There’s lot of pathways in baking. I explain that to the students that come through and even my apprentices. I explain to them that you don’t have to work on the bench all the time. I got into teaching, and there’s repping jobs, R&D jobs – there’s lots of career paths that can be ventured,” he said.

“I tell them what I’ve done in my career, and I think I’ve had a pretty good career to date.”

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