Sharp’s Bakery in Birchip has taken home its sixth win at the best vanilla slice competition. We sat down with Brad Sharp to get his thoughts.
Tell us about the big win! How many is this now for Sharp’s (are you officially ahead of Bridgewater now?)?
The win has been amazing for our business. This year’s is our 5th Vanilla Slice Triumph win, and we also won the BAA’s (Baking Association of Australia) Inaugural Best Vanilla Slice Competition earlier this year, so all up we have won 6 awards. I think Bridgewater Bakery has won 2 awards.
Is this your first solo comp since taking over the bakery?
As I mentioned above, we have won the BAA award and now the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph since we have taken over.
I bet your dad is over the moon—was he there? What was his reaction? Was he there?
Dad is still very much involved in the family business and very passionate about the Vanilla Slice competitions. We all travelled up to Merbein for the festival and were surrounded by our Merbein family when the winning announcement was made. It was a pretty exciting moment for all of us.
Tell us what it was like being able to go back to Merbein after the past couple of years of cancellations. What was the crowd and atmosphere like?
The crowd at Merbein was huge. We couldn’t believe it when we got there and struggled to get a park anywhere! I think the stalls sold 20,000 vanilla slices for the day. The Merbein committee did a fantastic job and their time and effort was rewarded with the crowd that turned up.
How about other entries—did you try some?
No actually we didn’t! We just got caught up with the extended family, and I guess you just don’t have that craving for a vanilla slice when you’re making them every day!
What do you think the key to a really great vanilla slice is?
We always use good quality ingredients, and you need an evenly-baked crispy pastry that snaps when you bite into it, a smooth creamy custard and a glossy icing that’s not too sticky to touch.
Do you alter your recipe or method in any way from year to year or in the lead up to the comp?
We are always trying new small changes to improve those little things that we weren’t happy with at the previous competition.
How do you prepare for the competition?
Every day we are preparing for the competition. We try to make sure that the product we enter in the competition is the same product that we present to our customers every day.
What does winning a comp like the Triumph mean for a bakery—especially in a town like Birchip?
It is huge. Since winning the competition three weeks ago, our vanilla sales have tripled. People are travelling from everywhere. We have had great publicity, getting on the National Nine News the evening of the competition, to an article that appeared on news.com.au, and numerous radio interviews. We also appeared on TV show, Have You Been Paying Attention! We have travellers coming and camping at our local lake or at the pub and spending money elsewhere in our town too.
Do you/would you ever get into the innovative slice flavours?
We are usually time-poor on the day of the event, as we have to do a night’s baking before we leave for the trip to Merbein, so we like to just focus on the one entry – the most important one!
Are you already thinking about the 2023 Triumph?
Yes, the day after we won this year’s competition, we were already trying to improve it even more!