Top Gong: Damien Wright

Damien Wright (left) travelled to Italy to compete at the Juniores Pastry World Cup. Pictured is Damien. He has long brown hair tied back in a ponytail. He's wearing a white shirt with branding on it. Next to him is his mentor.

Earlier this year Damien Wright and his team mate, Bianca Piromalli, set off to compete at the Juniores Pastry World Cup at SIGEP. Baking Business caught up with him to talk about the experience.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I work at Parfait Patisserie in Kiama, and that’s where I did my apprenticeship. I’ve been working there for about four years now.

How did you get started in the baking industry?
I had worked in other patisseries before Parfait Patisserie. I always enjoyed doing pastry, even at a young age, I always wanted to do it. And then when I was offered the apprenticeship I couldn’t say no.

You recently went to Italy for the Juniores Pastry World Cup at SIGEP. How was that experience?
It was an awesome experience. I met a lot of wonderful people overseas and in Australia. Andre Sandison and Scott Astley did an amazing job training me and getting me ready. And then obviously, my boss, Troy Hindmarsh. It was just a really cool experience.

Can you share a little bit about the preparation that went into getting ready for the competition?
It was a lot of training. A lot of long days. I was still working full time so I’d start work earlier. I’d start at midnight, leave my work at 6am, get to the city at 7.30am or 8am. I’d leave at 5pm, get home at 7pm and repeat.

It was a lot of work. And it wasn’t just the physical work. Once you get home you keep thinking about how you can improve on things, what you’ve done during the day, and just general ideas of how concepts are going to work, how the theme works.

There was a lot of sugar work. I’d never done sugar until this competition so I had probably about eight months to get that to a level that was going to be able to compete on the world stage.

You competed with a Ned Kelly-inspired creation. Where did the concept come for that? How long did it take to get that kind of mastered?
It was a lot. It definitely didn’t start off looking like that.

We all kind of got together before we started properly training and just kind of brainstormed ideas. And then Ned Kelly was something that kind of stood out that we thought we could manage to do.

We had to think of ways of being able to create something that unique with the limited amount of funding we had. You’re competing against teams that have thousands of dollars of funding to be able to make these amazing moulds. But we ended up using some PVC pipes and melting plastic from Bunnings and stuff like that to make our moulds.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The people I work with  make it a lot more enjoyable. But also just the finesse that we get to have for different products. I’m working in a very good place where I can create things that I can try,  and I can try out different ideas, and also learn the science behind food.

There’s so much more that goes into it [pastry] than people understand.

Where do you see yourself heading in the industry in the future?
I’m happy doing what I’m doing. Potentially I’ll open a bakery one day, but then I also enjoy training other people. So even if it’s something to do with training other people in these competitions, after the experience of having done them. I don’t really have a solid plan.

What’s your favorite thing to make?
I just like making like different types of petit gateau. There’s not one certain thing that I can say that I enjoy doing the most, but I do like doing small things with a lot of different techniques and flavours.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank Andre Sandison, because he dedicated a lot of his time – his weekends away – to training me. We were constantly talking and he was still working. He did this in his own time and he helped a lot.

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