Cupcakes to chocolatier


Jess Wallace

Jess Wallace has always spent time in the kitchen and her love of baking started as a small girl in her grandparents’ kitchen. That family-based environment of good food and good company meant that Jess’ interest in food was always going to lead her into a food based future.

Her enthusiasm for a baking career became a reality when she began a part time job at Café 1874 in Gisborne. Jess started developing her skills on cupcakes and slices while working in the café’s commercial kitchen. Her cooking tutor at Lytton High School identified Jess’s ability and interest in baking and put her forward as a contestant in the Rising Young Baker competition.

“I pretty much didn’t go to any classes for the month before the competition. I just constantly kept repeating and re-baking all the things we had to do, so I had it down to a fi ne art pretty much.”

There were three key products to bake in the theme of the Olympics.

“I designed my puff pastry in the shape of the Olympic torch with a shot glass of alcohol so it was flaming, cupcakes with chocolate medals and I branded the ciabatta bread with the Olympic rings.”

The Rising Young Baker competition at Fine Foods in June 2012 was set up by Competenz (the industry training organisation for baking) along with BIANZ (Baking Industry Association of New Zealand), to promote baking as a career. The competition offered the chance to bake in a professional environment. Jess showed that she could work under pressure, be focused and step up to the challenge to deliver excellence. It was a chance for Jess to showcase her abilities and positive attitude while gaining confidence and experience. It was these attributes which put the spotlight on Jess, and led to the offer of a baking apprenticeship.

Jess started her Competenz baking apprenticeship in March 2013 and she loves it.

“The best thing about baking is the creativity as I’m quite arty and I like making something look nice and presenting it so it looks good to eat.”

In her first kitchen assignment she scored 90 percent by producing shortbread, chocolate éclairs, chicken pie and a fruit flan all in a mere six and a half hours.

The future looks bright for Jess and even though she has only just started a Competenz baking apprenticeship she is already looking forward. Perhaps a move to Australia or refining her skills as a chocolatier may be on the cards.