Top Gong: Caleb Braszell

After getting started in the baking industry when he was just 16, Caleb Braszell has gone from strength to strength. Three years later, he has achieved the amazing feat of winning Australia’s Best Apprentice Baker at Excellence in Baking 2023.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a first-year (going on second-year) apprentice baker working for Baker Bleu and studying with Federation TAFE. I’m 19 years old and love hanging out with my mates on my days off (going out in the city with them). I come from a massive family, with my Poppy being originally a baker from France, which he loves, as I’m following in his footsteps (part of the reason I am one).

How did you get into baking?
I was originally working at my hometown’s Baker’s Delight as a front of house member, when I got asked over the Easter period when I was 16 if I wanted to work out the back. After those holidays, I fell in love with the craft. I spent the majority of COVID lockdowns going to work in the morning and doing my schoolwork whilst baking before my shift ended. When I was in Year 12, I decided I wanted to learn more about the craft and was given the opportunity to do a trial with Baker Bleu and was offered a job from that.

Congrats on your win at Excellence in Baking! How did it feel hearing your name called out?
Hearing my name called out was awesome and a slight surprise. Everyone’s product looked fantastic, and it seemed like it was anyone’s fair game.

What was it that drew you to the baking side of things as opposed to pastry?
I started mainly working with bread and then started to make it at home, I found it such a simple way to bring joy to people with something tasty and that looks good. Plus I hate mess, with bread it’s just flour and with pastry there’s too many chocolate stains!

Image: Kevin Chamberlain PhotographyC

How did the national competition compare with the state one?
The national comp was a lot harder in terms of pressure. This was because I had never used some of the equipment before and had to adapt to using such a small space. However, the nationals were a whole lot more fun!

What preparation did you do in the lead up to the final Excellence in Baking competition?
I would practise up at Fed Tafe on my days off with Maylee Howard who won the pastry section of the comp. I spent the majority of my free time researching recipe ideas or creating bread at home!

Is there anyone in particular who was a help in the lead up to the competition?
Mike and Mia Russell and the team at Baker Bleu helped me with recipe ideas and always tried my bread to give me pointers on it. But mainly Brendan Carter and Dean Baker from Fed Tafe helped me with the prep for the comp. They spent almost every Thursday working with Maylee and I with ideas and techniques on how to improve ourselves.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about entering a baking competition?
Do it! The knowledge and skills I have learnt have helped me with my career development tremendously. The experience alone was awesome, and the people I met and connections I made will be hopefully long lasting.

What are your plans for the future? Are there any more competitions that you have your eye on?
Next year I was looking at maybe entering in World Skills, and at the moment I am working on the Sydney Packham scholarship. At the moment I’m happy working at Baker Bleu with Mike and Mia, although I would eventually love to travel the world working in different bakeries and experiencing the culture. My ultimate dream is to open my own bakery one day.

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