If images of everyday life in the Philippines are any indication, the baking industry remains robust these days, perhaps even more than ever. Whether in airconditioned malls or in busy side streets, bake shops and bread stores are common and well-patronized fixtures. From the smell of pan de sal in the morning to the colorful sight of sweet cakes during birthdays and special occasions, the Filipinos’ love for baked goodies is enduring.
Industry figures affirm this optimistic picture of the baking industry in the country. Establishments manufacturing breads, cakes, pastries, pies and similar “perishable” bakery products accounted for a substantial portion of nationwide enterprises at around 27 percent, according to data from the 2015 Annual Survey of Philippine Business. Bakeries also employed more than 87,000 workers or around 26 percent of total workers in the manufacturing scene, making it the second biggest employment generator in the industry.
With the introduction of the K to 12 Senior High School (SHS) program and its technical-vocational livelihood (TVL) track that offers bread and pastry making courses, young Filipinos can now gain more experience and expertise that will help them establish more successful careers in the field—whether as employed professionals or entrepreneurs.
To bolster this, leading Filipino food manufacturer Universal Robina Corporation (URC) Flour & Pasta Dvision organizes an annual baking contest that serves as a venue where budding bakers and pastry chefs can showcase their skills as well as engage in a friendly competition with each other. The result is a growing culture of excellence among today’s generation of baking experts who can conquer the global arena.
This year, the contest was renamed the Flourish Pilipinas Baking Competition as an integral part of URC Flour’s overall Flourish Pilipinas program. A collaborative effort with DepEd, Flourish Pilipinas aims to support proper, standardized and professionalized development of SHS students taking up bread and pastry making classes under the TVL track.
Through the Flourish Pilipinas program, URC and DepEd created an interactive multimedia toolkit on producing economical but delicious bread and pastries. URC also provided high quality flour for use during the classes’ practical sessions. The program was piloted in selected schools in Davao, Makati, and Pasig, initially benefiting more than 1,100 students.
“Creating the toolkit was central to the Flourish Pilipinas program but hosting this competition allows us to take a step further. Through this competition, our participants can build on what they learned from their classrooms and further sharpen their expertise as the country’s future bakers and pastry chefs,” stated URC Flour’s sales, marketing and distribution director Naida Ebora.
Center of excellence
The two-day baking competition gathered student teams from nine of the 11 beneficiary schools of Flourish Pilipinas in a challenge to develop unique, innovative and creative recipes for breads and cakes that are healthy and nutritious as well. The event was held at the Baker John Academy, which was developed just in time for the competition. Located at the Bridgetowne business hub in Quezon City, the 179-square meter facility boasts of complete, state-of-the-art equipment for bread and pastry production—a veritable laboratory for bread makers, pastry chefs and culinary enthusiasts to develop their skills.
Its laboratory has 10 fully equipped workstations with a worktable, sink and three types of ovens: convection, deck and table. Each station can accommodate up to five students. The baking laboratory also has a lobby café that showcases URC Flour’s renowned bread products under the Baker John brand.
“By opening the Baker John Academy, we hope to build on the milestones of the Flourish Pilipinas and give a hub for young bakers to unlock their full potential. In the long run, we see the Baker John Academy playing a central role to URC’s contribution in shaping the future generation of Filipino bakers and pastry chefs,” shared Ebora.
Flavors of the future
As evidenced by the winning entries in the 4th Flourish Pilipinas Baking Competition, the Baker John Academy as well as the collective efforts of URC Flour along with its partners and sponsors provided big help to inspire the students and equip them with all the necessary tools and techniques to create their culinary visions.
In the Cake baking category, the top recipe was a Sweet Potato Carrot Cake by Ralph Christian Mangilit and Alaura Daele Pabandero from Sta. Lucia High School. For the Bread Baking category, the winning recipe was the Macabasa loaf—short for the ingredients malunggay, carrot, and kalabasa (squash)—by Stephanie Jane Escobido and Rowell Villanueva from Makati High School.
“Following the successful run of this year’s competition, we are actively looking at how we can enhance the learning experiences we can have for our young bakers so they can further drive the growth of the baking industry. To make this happen, we are looking at other collaborations that will help us achieve this goal,” remarked Ebora.
URC plans to seek accreditation from the Technical, Education, Skills, and Development Authority (TESDA) to boost Baker John Academy’s status as a learning center for those looking at careers as bakers, pastry chefs and culinary professionals. By all indications, the success of the Flourish Pilipinas Baking Competition will ensure many more innovative ideas to come in the bread and pastry making industry.
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