You may be able to find the smoothest Italian ice-cream down a quiet side street in Melbourne or the most delicate French pastries in Sydney, but when it comes to learning and life experience, there is no comparison to the source.
Find those who already do what you want to do, and follow them.
Ryan Stevenson and Richard Hawke are two young Australians who have left everything behind them in their pursuit of excellence. I bet they never expected this quest would lead to them representing their country as the 2014 Australian pastry team!
Soon, they will compete in the Asian Pastry Cup – a world-class live competition held in Singapore, in conjunction with Food and HotelAsia. It’s an important event in its own right and also serves as the selection ground for the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie.
If we take a step back, Ryan and Richard are just like any other young professional striving to make their mark on the industry. Richard completed his apprenticeship at La Provence Boulangerie Pâtisserie in Sydney before packing up his bags and moving to Montélimar (a small town in the southern reaches of France). After a year in Montélimar, Richard moved to Lyon in search of bigger fish. It’s clear to anyone who speaks with him, by the animation in his voice and his expressions, that his experiences in these years were unforgettable.
Richard explained to me he knew no one and had nothing but an unstoppable desire to learn. In fact, his first professional experience in Lyon came as a surprise when checking out cakes at the pastry shop François Gimenez. Richard simply asked the lady behind the counter if he could take some photos and the lady called out to her husband who was the pastry chef. The conversation got rolling and one thing led to another. Since that first experience, Richard worked for more than three years in Lyon for a number of highly-regarded chefs including Jérôme Languiller, the World Pastry Champion in 2009.
From little things big things grow and, although Richard now finds himself as a professor at the world-renowned gastronomy school Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie, he still keeps in contact with François Gimenez and always stops by his shop when in Lyon.
Our other competitor, Ryan Stevenson, originates from Toowoomba, Queensland,and completed his apprenticeship in Brisbane while working at Priestely’s Gourmet Delights. In 1998 he had his first taste of victory when he won first prize for his sculpted bread at the Queensland Bread Show. Since then, Ryan has competed multiple times in the state show, regularly coming home with first prize.
He has also competed in the World Chocolate Masters several times, where he won the prize for best praline in 2009. Ryan has lived a colourful career working in both the UK and his current home Belgium for establishments such as the Lanesborough Hotel, Comme Chez Soi and Le Saint Aulaye.
This year’s Australian Pastry Team is one like no other. They glisten and dazzle with experience, talent and passion, yet originate from humble beginnings.
Could there be a more perfect match? Ryan has the history and art of Belgian chocolate up his sleeve while Richard encompasses the effortlessly elegant style of French pastry. They are also coached by the experienced and talented Dean Gibson. Mix this with the fresh, defiant nature of an Aussie and you have yourself a winner!
Australia is continuously climbing the ranks when it comes to world competitions in chocolate, pastry and ice-cream and it is time we show the world what we are made of. Australia may not have a long history of gastronomy behind it, but we certainly have a long future to look forward to.
If you are interested in helping support the 2014 Australian Pastry Team please contact the team via coach Dean Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Team Pastry Australia’s preparation for the Asian Pastry Cup in the Shows and Events section, on page 62.