JWU’s Team USA respresenting at IBA Munich. L-R: Katie Vanek '16, Austin Scoles '18, Ashley Nichols '15, Chef Harry Peemoeller and Baking & Pastry Arts Department Chair Amy Felder.
A team of JWU Charlotte baking & pastry students recently traveled to Munich to compete in the IBA Bakers Cup, one of the world’s most prestigious baking competitions.
Taking place every 3 years at IBA, a leading baking, confectionery and snack trade fair, the championship challenges bakers from 12 countries to create exquisite breads, small pastries and showpieces.
This year’s Team USA came from JWU Charlotte and consisted of recent grad Ashley Nichols '15, Katie Vanek '16 and Austin Scoles '18. In addition, team mentors Harry Peemoeller (who won silver at the 2012 Paris Coupe du Monde) and Baking & Pastry Arts Dept. Chair Amy Felder traveled to Munich to assist the team. We talked to Katie and Austin about their amazing experience at the competition.
How did you get involved with the competition?
Katie: Chef Peemoeller had talked with a TA who we were working with and she invited us to make bread one weekend in November. We played with bread for a few weekends, and eventually we were the only ones to show up week after week. As it got closer to the end of the school year, it was decided that Ashley and I would be on the team. From January to May we worked on product development. And from June to September, we practiced every weekend (sometimes twice a week) and only had minor tweaks to our set products.
Austin: As a freshman baking and pastry student, I made it a point to make as many connections with all the staff and faculty I came in contact with. I had no idea the connections I made would allow me to go on a highly educational trip to Germany before I even began my second year at JWU!
The IBA was first brought to my attention during my first term. I was approached by Chef Peemoeller, who asked if I could help out. Of course I would never say no to such a tremendous opportunity!
I was the assistant for Katie and Ashley during the summer. I did a little of everything: I made doughs, prepped various items, and did dishes. Although it wasn’t the most glamorous job I loved every moment we shared as a team. Besides being their assistant I also held bake sales to raise money for our trip and shipping of ingredients and molds. We held 5 bake sales, which raised more than $2,000.
Ashley, Austin and Katie having fun in beautiful Munich. Photo courtesy of Austin Scoles.
It’s surreal that we competed in a global competition. I hope to keep competing—Coupe du Monde 2018?”
Team mentor Chef Peemoeller is a Certified Master Baker who has won numerous baking competitions. Best advice he gave you?
Katie: Chef Peemoeller is incredibly talented — and so smart and so humble that I can only hope to be like him in those aspects and more when I am older. He gave us so much advice over the whole summer that it’s hard to pick out just one. The best thing he did for us was push us to be better — and he gave so much of his time to us. I’m nothing but grateful for this experience and learning so much from such an amazing person.
Austin: “Never settle for anything less than your best.”
Munich! What was your first impression of the city?
Katie: People drive very fast! I honestly didn’t really look at the city and absorb it until after we competed [the competition]. The architecture is breathtaking and city was gorgeous. I loved driving and walking around and wish we could have seen more.
The IBA is a huge baking/fast food trade show. Coolest thing you tried? Biggest trends you saw?
Katie: The coolest thing we saw at the trade show — besides the restaurants they built inside (!) — was a cutting machine that used a very fine and concentrated stream of water to cut everything from cake to napoleons. It was computer-operated so you could program all types of designs. It was incredible to watch!
Biggest thing we saw a lot of in most of the display cases were modern entremets. [Note: An entremet or entremets (from Old French, literally meaning “between servings”) is in modern French cuisine a small dish served between courses or simply a dessert.] Entremets are huge in Europe but not really well known in the US, so it was nice to see some different designs.
Austin: The IBA trade show is one of the largest trade shows of its kind. It’s hard to think of anything that we didn’t see or try. The pastry section of the trade show was what I found most impressive. I was able to see new glazes, flavor profiles and techniques.
Tell us about the competition itself. What was your setup like?
Katie: It was surreal to walk into a pop kitchen and just do what we’ve been doing for the past 10 months. We set up our lab at school as close as we could to [the Munich kitchen] so it made it a lot easier.
I remember the entire 7 hours it took us to compete. It was really hard because the equipment and dishes were different so we had to constantly adjust. It was just like we practiced except we had to keep jumping hurdle after hurdle which was exhausting. Then after a very intense 7 hours, we had just 30 minutes to set up our table display. Immediately after that we had to clean our whole lab and get judged at the same time. So each team would go and present their products one at a time, and the others would keep cleaning until it was their turn. After we finished we were very worn out but so proud of ourselves for doing it.
How do you feel now that you have an international competition under your belt? What’s next?
Katie: It’s still surreal that we competed in an international competition. I will probably keep competing until I’m out of school, then think about competing professionally if I find a job that permits it. Coupe du Monde 2018?
Austin: I plan to complete my Internship at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie this winter, then continue on to JWU Charlotte’s food service management program.
Note: Noritoshi Shibuya and Hirokazu Asai from Japan won Gold at the 2015 competition, with teams from Netherlands, France and Hungary medaling as well.
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Ashley hard at work on Team USA's presentation for the judges. Right: The beautiful presentation table. Photos: Austin Scoles