It’s early morning in Lyttleton, and while the port town is just waking up, Bree Scott and her father Ian have been hard at work for a few hours already making pies, breads, cakes and pastries for the wharf workers, truck drivers and local residents who will soon start streaming through the Lyttleton Bakery doors.
Bree obviously loves baking and her face lights up when she talks about the Young Bread Baker Competition. “I learned so much about bread from taking part in this competition. It was very inspiring to win. I worked hard and it paid off. That’s very exciting. It really motivates you.”
While it’s business as usual for Bree after winning the Award she has made good use of her prize. Her dream of opening a small speciality cake business was jump started with a trip to Melbourne to visit the city’s bakeries and cake shops, as well as a plant bakery. She has been able to invest in a mixer and tins too. Bree’s start-up business, Glamour Cakes, now has its own spot on the bakery counter, a Facebook page and orders are coming in.
The cake-filled windows she saw in Melbourne were the inspiration behind the window frame she uses to display her cakes in the bakery. Bree is building a portfolio of her cakes to give customers an idea of what she can do. Bree is also selling individual slices to give all customers the chance to enjoy her unique creations. She has also started making more cakes with chocolate to cater for the large number of male customers who come into the bakery and favour rich sweet treats.
Bree says cakes have always been her focus so she never thought to enter the Young Bread Baker Award. Encouragement and help with the technical aspects of bread making from NZ Bakels staff Brent Hughes and Natasha Patterson boosted her confidence and convinced her to enter. “I really felt like I was jumping into the deep end. I put in lots of practice, borrowing the bakery when it wasn’t open,” says Bree, a self-confessed perfectionist.
Her fastidiousness paid off during the competition when she found herself with a batch of collapsed sweet buns. With an hour and half to go and the other contestants already finished and cleaning up, she took a risk and, rather than submit a product she wasn’t happy with for judging, baked the entire batch again. It paid off. The judges took note of her approach – no panic, just a swift recalculation of the situation and the desire to get it right.
Bree believes her presentation was another factor in winning the competition. With two plant bakers and two craft bakers competing, Bree says the plant bakers had the edge on the technical aspects of the competition, but the craft bakers’ hands on skills showed in the final presentation. “It would have been good if I had known more theory,” she says, “but the competition gave me great insight into bread and I realised there is so much more I can learn.”
Good background knowledge is crucial in the competition, Bree says, but being able to work alongside others is also essential. “You need to be patient because you have to work with others, sharing ingredients and equipment. You have to time everything to fit in with what the others are doing. I was also very relaxed in my presentation to the judges. For the personal presentation I spoke without notes, directly to the judges. I think that made a big difference.”
Talking to the other contestants and finding out more about their backgrounds and the work they do was invaluable for Bree. After a day of presentations and a visit to the Chelsea Sugar factory, the four contestants had the chance to talk informally at dinner. “I got to know them better when we all went out to dinner together after the first day of the competition. It made me realise I could make a change to plant baking if I really wanted to.” Bree has taken ideas from the competition back into her workplace, with different cuts to the breads they make and stencilling designs in flour on the loaves.
Bree has been going into the bakery with her father since she was a small girl, sitting on the bench and watching Ian make bread and pies. “He would give me bits of dough to play with and make something. And he was always coming home with lovely cakes for us to try.”
Despite this, Bree never thought to become a baker, originally planning to go into hospitality management. But a closer look at this option led to the realisation it wasn’t for her. “Dad asked ‘Why don’t you come and work with me here in the bakery’,” she says, “and it was like a light bulb going on. I started my apprenticeship when we still had the bakery in London Street, and finished it here just after winning the competition.”
Bree and Ian have worked out of a porta cabin since the 2011 earthquakes. The new bakery and cafe is under construction next door and they hope to be in by the end of December. In the meantime, Bree has a small business to build, and a tray of bread to get out of the oven and into the shop.