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Daniel Li recently won the LA Judge Award in Sydney, which recognises the best apprentice baker in Australasia. He is currently enrolled at Polytechnic West and has an apprenticeship with Bakers Delight Noranda.

What made you decide to become a baker?

I finished my engineering degree at UWA and I decided to take a break and pursue one of my passions. I started an apprenticeship on a whim for a bit of fun, never intending to take it seriously. I’m one and a half years in now and I’m enjoying it more than ever with no plans to stop.


Do you feel your course is helping you find your future path?

For sure, the skills and knowledge I’ve gained in my course were essential for my field of work. Coming to Polytechnic West has also given me the opportunity to participate in various baking competitions, which have given me the leg up in my baking career.


What was the hardest thing about the LA Judge competition?

Time was not my friend. Just like in a real bakery, we were constantly working against the clock trying to get things done on time without compromising on quality. The competition was not just about how good your final product was, but took into account all aspects of being a baker including theoretical knowledge, time management, work flow, teamwork, hygiene and more.


What has interested you the most in terms of the course content you’ve studied?

My favourite part of the course was probably learning about the process of creating artisan breads like baguettes, ciabattas and sourdoughs, but getting to make and eat sweet buns and danishes is pretty high up on that list as well.


Have you made any mistakes along the way that you now find quite humorous?

If we ever forget to bring our own aprons, we have to wear disposable plastic aprons that are essentially huge plastic bags. They look ridiculous, are extremely noisy and everyone hates wearing them. Needless to say, I’ve forgotten my apron more than a few times.


How is the course structured, in a day to day sense?

I was learning through an apprenticeship so I came in one day every week, which was considered paid work by my employer. We started the day with a quick brief and calculations for what we were making that day, then spend the rest of the day creating/packing the bread and fitting some theory in any free time we had along the way.


What are your plans after you finish at Polytechnic West?

I plan to travel to Europe to learn and experience the authentic breads. If possible I’d love to get into some European bakeries and pick up some of their trade secrets.


Any tips for someone starting a Polytechnic West course?

If there’s anything you want to learn but there’s something holding you back from starting or continuing a course find someone or call up and ask. It doesn’t matter if it’s money, time, or if you’re just afraid of doing something new, there’s always a way. Every person I’ve dealt with at Polytechnic West has been extremely helpful.


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