Top Gong: Sophie Weeding

Having taken out the pastry round of Tasmania’s Excellence in Baking Competition, apprentice Sophie Weeding is focused now on the national championships that are set to take place later this year.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Sophie Weeding, I’m 19 years old. I work at Brighton’s Best Bakehouse. I am a second-year apprentice. I first started in a casual front-of-house position in 2019.

How did you get into baking?

My interest in food and cooking started when I completed cooking classes at St. Mary’s College. In 2019, I was enrolled in Certificate I in Kitchen Operations, and my interest grew in creating a career pathway in hospitality. In 2020, I continued with my Certificate II course at Guilford Young College, where I developed more skills and was lucky enough to be offered a school-based traineeship in 2021, studying a Certificate III in Hospitality, working two days a week and attending school part-time while completing my Year 12 studies. This led me into a full-time Baking Apprenticeship at Brighton’s Best Bakehouse.

When did you decide to start competing and why Excellence in Baking?

When Scott Donaghy and Crystal Lee Stewart first raised the idea of me competing in the State Excellence in Baking competition, my initial reaction was that I had not yet studied many of the products at Tas TAFE. Scott and Crystal stated they would throw all the resources they had behind me by providing ingredients and allowing me time to train during work hours. I decided to compete to challenge myself and develop my learning. But I knew the only way to learn was to commit my time and to practise and learn through my mistakes.

How did it feel to win the pastry round at the Excellence in Baking Tasmania?

I competed in and won the State Round of World Skills and the Baking Association’s Excellence in Baking 2022. It felt unreal, amazing, and so worth it! These competitions are normally won by fourth-year apprentices, who are in their final year of training—I competed against the best in the State. I’m very excited to be competing again in May, against some of the best apprentice pastry chefs in the country. I want to say thank you, Tash and Scott Donaghy, for everything and giving me these wonderful opportunities of a lifetime.

What have been your biggest takeaways from the state round of the competition?

It was great to meet the competitors from both bread and pastry. Chatting with them and learning about their products, as well as hearing about their bakeries, was valuable. Another huge takeaway from this experience was taking on board the feedback from judges, as there is always room for improvement. I have taken this information, and I feel that I am already producing much improved products.

What have you been doing to prepare for the national round of the competition?

Leading up to nationals, I have been practising many skills to prepare for the competition. Focusing on time management and making sure I use my time wisely, as well as keeping myself clean and tidy along with my work zone. I have been researching products, always asking questions as to why do we need to do this or why are we adding these?

What would winning the national Excellence in Baking competition mean to you?

All I ask of myself is to do my best and prepare as well as I can. But to win the National Excellence in Baking competition in Sydney would be incredible and remarkable to say the least. But coming this far is amazing, and imagine how much more knowledge I will gain by competing. This already has been such a learning curve.

What is your absolute favourite thing to bake?

My most favourite thing to make would be a Danish. This consists of making the pastry and baking and decorating it, using all the different cuts in the Danish to see height and beautiful layers in the folds of pastry. Not forgetting the gorgeous fruit on top that just pops with a shiny glaze. Mmm yummy!!!!!

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

My plan for the future is finishing my apprenticeship in baking and gaining a qualification. In 10 years, I hope to still be thriving in the baking Industry.

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