Baker Dean Tilden took on the world in France and did us proudPHOTOS

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Rutherford baker joins an elite group TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald spoke to him last July. Tilden represented in the 2018 Bakery Masters in Paris in February, which is regarded as the Olympics of the baking world.He finished third and is rightly proud of the result – but it is also bittersweet for a competitive man so dedicated to his craft.
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A mere five marks separated first place and third place and competition rules state that Tilden cannot compete again. The best of the best bakers in the world only get one shot at the title and are then expected to step aside and coach up-and-coming talent, become a judge or generallywork to improve baking standards worldwide.

Regardless, he has earned the title ofMaster Baker and if that doesn’t mean much to you, it really should. It certainly means something in Europe, where bakers at this elite level are treated with the greatest ofrespect.

“When they were promoting the competition over in Europe I was getting 10 or 20 Facebook friend requests a day from bakers from all over the world, wanting to watch and learn from what I was doing. And when my coachBrett Noy competed two years ago, the French president turned up and askedto meet the bakers,” Tilden tells Weekender.

Talking about the exposure givento, say, sportspeople compared to world-class tradespeoplegetsthe self-described “Rutherford ranga” a little hot under the collar. It also, though, strengthens his resolve to promote the trades as a career path and help young people lacking direction in life, as he once did.

But first, the competition thatTilden spent hundreds of hourspreparing for.

“Iwas dead set ready to go. I was there. I’m super proud of coming third but I think I had the products to come first,” he says.“My coach Brett has judged world cups and competed at the same level and he was saying ‘Mate,I think we’ve got this.’A few other people were saying the same thing.

“I think the judges may have been a bit on the conservative side. Nothing against the winner from the Netherlands, of course, but I went with more innovative, decorative breads. I mean, I made the Opera House out of sourdough and it took me 10 weeks to get the shape right.”

Another of Tilden’s entries was a non-traditional take on a vol-au-vent with a sourdough and corn chip base, purple polenta, a filling of chicken and corn bechamel with fried corn and a baked chicken wing on top. He describes it as a nutritionalmeal for a busy person on their way home from work.

“Look,the winner may have blown us out of the park with taste. But to be in there with a fighting chance and so close to winning …It hurts a bit.”

The competition was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. Tilden workednon-stop for eight hours and a minor error while preparing his yeasts the night ended up costing him five minutes at the start of the competition. And that five minutes meant he couldn’t stop to have a drink for four hours, let alone go to the bathroom.

A severely dehydrated Tilden got to the six-hour mark and his hands cramped so badly he struggled to roll thedough.

“Ilearned a lot about myself, though, that I can really push myself to the limit. When Ifinished I pumped three litres of water into me before it even touched the sides. I couldn’t tell you what happened in those eight hours because I had trained so hard I wasin a robotic state.”

So, was it worth it?The answer is a resounding yes from Tilden.

“I didn’t win but what am I going to do? Cry about it? Or pass the skills I’ve gained on to the next generation?This competition is about proving yourself andpassing your knowledge on to the next person.

“I want to get the message across that it’s OK to be a tradie. Twenty years ago when I left school in year 9 to start an apprenticeshipI was told I’d amount to nothing –and look at me now. You can be an apprentice and it can put food on your table for the rest of your life.

“I cancall myself a Master Baker now and I’m proud of that. Now my focus is on helping new Aussie baking talent.We’ve got some really good bakers here now asking how they can get involved. I know we can get a win and be the best in the world.”

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