Do professional culinary competitions actually benefit the industry?

The Richemont Masterbaker Pastry & Baking Championship is underway
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Richemont
MAKSYM PORIECHKIN

The Richemont Masterbaker Pastry & Baking Championship has fast become the region’s defacto platform for professional bakers and pastry chefs to showcase their talents.

Achieving this status in just the second year of the competition, with entries still being accepted, coincides with the growth of the pastry and bakery segments within the region’s F&B industry. But what do culinary competitions contribute to the industry as a whole?

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By way of a case study example, the Richemont Masterbaker Pastry & Baking Championship is arguably one of the most talked-about contests in its segment – and undoubtedly the largest of its kind in the region. This is perhaps because the competition is open to all levels of pastry chef and baker, and simply has more people talking. However, the advantages of such a competition go much deeper.

In their daily routines, experienced head chefs are more occupied with planning and management, whereas younger chefs in bakery and pastry are more accustomed to fast and efficient execution, as well as the pressure of accountability. A competition that pitches the young guns against the older war horses can therefore be a great learning curve for both – the long-experienced chefs need to adapt to the speed and techniques of the younger ones, who in turn need to adopt the planning prowess of their mentor generation. Both are tested and judged on every kind of skill, methodology and technique.

In both cases, the issue of time management, pressure, real-time competition needs to be balanced with accuracy, as we’re no longer in an age where food wastage is acceptable. Without a doubt, the experience of competing brings out the best in all participants, regardless of years served in the industry. As an interesting side note, younger chefs get the rare opportunity to experience being on a level playing field with their more experienced peers, which gives them a new level of confidence to bring to their employers and take forward in their careers.

Competitions that are run with integrity, fairness and total judging impartiality are the ones that raise the standards of the individual. And with more than double the entrants to this year’s competition compared to last, we suddenly have a bigger army of more confident young professionals and invigorated experienced head pastry chefs and bakers that bring fresh learnings to the industry. And this influence spreads to a wider culinary workforce.

This year’s championship comes against a backdrop of the UAE being internationally-recognised for its dynamic restaurant scene, and widely regarded as a global leader in the F&B industry. Across the board, opportunities in the baked goods market are also set to increase. According to a recent study conducted by the Irish Food Board (Bord Bia), the UAE market and demand for pastry and bakery is growing at a far higher rate than most European markets.

The UAE bakery market is estimated to reach a worth of AED 3.1 billion this year, with growth in the bakery and cake segments said to be between 7-10.5% per annum. Skilled bakers are increasingly sought-after, with products such as healthy, organic and gluten-free breads also in strong growth, with many international hotel chains now offering gluten-free products due to consumer demand.

The Richemont Masterbaker Pastry & Baking Championship for 2019 therefore comes at a pivotal time in the market. A record number of baking and pastry professionals are registering to enter this year’s competition, eager to raise their profile, showcase their skills, push the boundaries of their techniques, network within the industry and compete for a chance to be tutored by Masters in Switzerland.

The competition plays a crucial role in linking professionals in this segment with the advancements they can achieve in their career, which in turn boosts the region’s industry as a whole. Agreeing with the value of the championship, Chef Wayne Tapsfield from the Rhodes Group, who served as a judge in last year’s championship said: “This competition is great for your profile and it’s great for the industry.”

For further information and to register your entry, go to the Richemont Masterbaker website.

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