The road to Belgium

I wanted to make croissants in France, pizza in Italy and bread in Germany, and all travelling alone for the first time

The road to success and glory can be paved with many things – sacrifices, good intentions, mistakes well handled. Sometimes even profiteroles.

This was Morgan Clementson's experience. Now with an international, jet-setting career as a chef in Belgium, the TAFE Illawarra graduate's journey has been long, occasionally bumpy and not without its challenges.

Some of those challenges came early in life. Because of a difficult domestic situation, Morgan left home at 15 and over the following years moved house more than 35 times. It wasn't until she was 27 when she began an adult apprenticeship as a baker that she finally found her calling. "This was when my life changed for the best and I found a sense of ownership and pride in both myself and my career," she said.

Looking back, Morgan can see that she always had a natural and lively interest in food. "My mother told me I always had a passion for food, hence the padlock that had to be put on the fridge door when I was young," she said. "I also used to spend much of my time baking up a storm for my friends and neighbours. So I decided that it was a good path for me to take when considering a trade. I didn't really know just how interesting it could be to see science work first hand. Combine that with endless creativity and using your hands and I was hooked!"

Morgan admits that starting an apprenticeship after working full time had some challenges that she hadn't really expected.

"I went from a great Monday to Friday day job to working on weekends and the infamous night shift," she said. "It was a complete change in my way of life, I had to learn to sleep during the day which was hard during Australian summers. I also had to abandon the social life that I was so accustomed to. Any spare energy I had was spent dedicated to my study and workload, which didn't leave much time or energy for anything else."

As for her TAFE experience, Morgan says her favourite part was the practical exams. "I enjoyed the adrenaline," she said. "I thrived on being left to my own devices and push myself to obey timings and the science behind baking. We'd go to TAFE in the morning and it would be all nerves, people last minute studying, all of us just ready to get it done. Then the relief at the end setting up all your finished products and getting feedback from the teacher. It was a real buzz, especially when it all worked. The sense of pride in your finished masterpieces and those around you was phenomenal."

Part of Morgan's baptism by fire was taking the plunge and travelling overseas on her own to broaden her work and life experiences. She believes this has played a crucial role in her success. "I just bought a ticket and took off, with no plans, no itinerary, nothing but a goal. I wanted to make croissants in France, pizza in Italy and bread in Germany, and all travelling alone for the first time. Everywhere I've been I've learnt so much about history, culture, food and languages. I recommend it to anyone brave enough to take the first step."

Morgan's journey to success that started so many years ago with her baking apprenticeship recently came full circle. She was invited back to TAFE Illawarra to present an award named in her honour - the TAFE NSW Ambassador Morgan Clementson Baking Award for Excellence. This was at TAFE Illawarra's Graduation Awards ceremony, and Morgan felt "incredibly honoured" for her role in the proceedings.

So what advice would Morgan give to anyone out there interested in entering the baking industry?

[quote]"I'd give three key pieces of advice," she said. "The first is to be open to all changes and opportunities. Don't just dismiss options, always seek the unknown. The second is that life has its own agenda, so don't give up when things don't go right the first time. And finally, pick a trade that you're passionate about. One that not only interests you but makes you happy. Because I've found that happiness often sneaks in a door you didn't know you had left open."[/quote]

Are you interested in the baking industry? Check out one of our many baking courses such as the Certificate III in Retail Baking (Cake and Pastry)