NAIT’s Baking program chair, Alan Dumonceaux, is headed to Paris on Feb. 3 to represent Canada in the Masters de la Boulangerie. This is the Baking Masters – Dumonceaux describes it as the Olympics of the pastry world.
“The World Cup of Baking is like the World Cup of Soccer. Once every four years, it’s national teams and you’re representing your country and yourself. The pressure is really high.”
In order to qualify for the Masters in 2018, Dumonceaux has had to put in years of hard work. As part of Baking Team Canada, he and his team competed in Argentina in 2015 for the Louis Lesaffre Cup. The team qualified for the World Cup of Baking in 2016. Out of 34 teams that competed in the World Cup, only the top six candidates from each category are chosen to move on to the Masters competition. This is where the baking elite compete for the title of World Master Baker.
A large difference between the World Cup and the Masters, is that Dumonceaux will be competing on his own. Baking croissants, brioche and a dish representing their home country, the bakers will have only 10 hours to complete all three categories: two hours in the evening and eight hours, beginning the following morning.
“The eight hours, you don’t stop. You work as fast as you can, as hard as you can and you don’t stop for eight hours.”
Dumonceaux has already completed his third full run through, which mimics the competition.
“Simulating the competition is to get your timing right because you can’t be late.” These simulations are only one day of training; Dumonceaux trains every day.
“Every day, seven days a week, for six months, you don’t stop. All of my weekends I’m here [at NAIT].”
Dumonceaux has been baking for 33 years. He began as a journeyman cook at the Four Seasons in Edmonton and came across the competitive baking life unexpectedly. In 2008 he was part of Baking Team Canada but as the team manager. At a competition in Las Vegas, one of the candidates found themselves unwell and under-prepared for their category, so Dumonceaux stepped in. Since then, he has been active in the competitive world and will soon find himself as one of only two Canadians in Paris in February. This will be his only shot at the Masters, since candidates can only qualify and compete one time.
Another challenge that Dumonceaux will have to overcome at the Masters competition is his allergy to flour, which is an occupational workplace hazard in the baking world.
“You’ve probably heard of coal miners lung, farmer’s get wheat lung, this really fine dust that gets into your lungs and its not supposed to be there. I do my best to mitigate any airborne flour dust but those first two hours where I’m scaling and mixing lots of dough, I’ll wear a respirator.”
The competitive baking world is extremely competitive, with hours of training and injuries to overcome. Dumonceaux, who has been a teacher at NAIT for 17 years, will represent Canada in the most prestigious baking competition in the world – the first time a Canadian has ever qualified for the event.
– Kelsey Baker
– Photo by Kathleen Freeman