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TAFE has played a massive role in my professional life. It's an iconic brand that I'm proud to showcase locally, nationally and internationally
It happens in Paris, once every four years. It's the most prestigious baking competition in the world. Welcome to the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie - the ultimate goal of the Australian Baking Team.
But to get there, the team must first win at the Coupe Louis Lesaffre, which is a regional selection event taking place in Indonesia in November 2015.
The stakes are high, the tension mounts and the dough is rising.
Newcastle chocolatier and pastry chef Dean Gibson (right) comprises a quarter of the team, and he and his three teammates have their work cut out for them if they're going to bring home the silverware. Each of the team members has a different area in which they specialise, so combined they've probably got all bases covered.
"I'm bringing my experience with chocolate and sugar sculptures to the arena of artwork in dough," says Dean. "Artwork in chocolate is complex and takes many years of practice so it's a real challenge to master this new medium to be competitive. But I have some highly experienced mentors working with me on my dough formulas to achieve this."
So, did Dean ever think a career in dough could be so intense, demanding and high octane?
"In a way it's always been pretty intense, right from the very beginning," he said. "My apprenticeship as a pastry cook is still one of the toughest things I've ever done in the 35 years of my professional life. It was in a traditional ‘country' bakery in the suburbs of Newcastle and I started when I was just 14. On weekends I'd work at Bones Bakery in Edgeworth as a baker's assistant until I was old enough to leave school, which was 14 and nine months. I left school that day and started the baker's shift at 2am the following morning."
One of Dean's career highlights was working for Neil Perry as a corporate pastry chef in the ‘90s. At the time, Perry was among the top five chefs in the world and, in Dean's opinion, the greatest chef Australia had produced. Dean had the responsibility of running the largest production pastry kitchen in Australia. This included 14 apprentices, including future TV favourites Adriano Zumbo, Ed Halmagyi among others.
Dean is therefore well placed for the rigours and intense training demands of the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. And throughout all of this, he still has energy and passion to share with his students during his 'day job' at Hamilton TAFE.
"When asked, I always describe myself as a teacher of the baking arts, and competition is the incubator of innovation," he says. "I believe there's a strong relationship between competition and technical education and I try to bring all of the knowledge and expertise into the classroom every week. TAFE has played a massive role in my professional life. It's an iconic brand that I'm proud to showcase locally, nationally and internationally."
Regardless of the competitions' outcomes, Dean knows that the huge professional benefits of competing at such high levels will ultimately sift down to his students.
"Last year I was contacted and asked if I would be one of the ambassadors for TAFE NSW," he said. "This was a great honour to be recognised as a pastry chef. But I am more proud to be able to share my professional journey in this great profession."
Click here for Episode 1 and Episode 2.