An apprentice at Mittagong’s Gumnut Patisserie, Carla Penza, has been named Australia’s Best Pastry Apprentice at the national 2023 Bake Skills Competition in Sydney.
State finalists went head-to-head in an epic bake-off for the national title at the annual competition hosted by Bake Skills Australia at the industry’s flagship event, Fine Food Australia, held at Sydney’s ICC.
The accolade is Carla’s second win in just two weeks, having also been named Champion Apprentice of Professional Bakery at the 2023 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show, and NSW State Finalist Apprentice Pastry Cook in the Baking Association of Australia’s Excellence in Baking Competition earlier this year.
The prestigious award is the best thing since sliced bread for the 21-year-old, as she counts down to the final weeks of her four-year apprenticeship after completing a Certificate III in Pastry at TAFE NSW Kingswood.
“I entered my first competition last year and instantly fell in love with the learning opportunities they bring. Most competitions have rigorous criteria to follow in a set timeframe, so it’s always a challenge,” she said.
Carla said she’s enjoying opportunities to learn new skills and perfect products that a career in baking is providing.
“The baking industry is huge and there really is something for everyone. In high school I only ever wanted to decorate cakes, but through TAFE NSW and my apprenticeship, I’ve seen firsthand the contribution of our industry to the broader food industry and how many different pathways there are.
“TAFE NSW is a great place for young people considering a career in pastry to start. My teachers had an extensive understanding of products and the baking industry which gave me a well-rounded foundation to build my career on,” she said.
The National Baking Industry Association says enticing young people to commit to a career in baking is essential to building a pipeline of skilled workers and responding to the national shortage of pastrycooks.
TAFE NSW Head Teacher Baking, Hospitality & Commercial Cookery, Allan McCarlie, said Carla’s multiple awards are a testament to her commitment to excellence in the baking industry.
“We're very proud of Carla. She has demonstrated a high standard of technical ability and a strong commitment to growing her skills to compete at the national level,” Mr McCarlie said.
“Carla is proof that the practical skills and experience offered at TAFE NSW equip students to compete at the national level, giving our students a competitive edge when launching their careers and giving the baking industry access to top-quality fresh talent.”
Media contact: TAFE NSW Media Centre, MediaRelease@tafensw.edu.au, 02 7920 5000.