A week or so ago whilst at Business Chicks breakfast for Dame Quentin Bryce with my “business support group” (also known as Fusion Biz Babes), I received a “CONGRATULATIONS” message from Kenwood Australia. I made it to the Top 10 of the #kenwoodcooksco competition. My reaction was a very Episode 1 Ladette to Lady “Holy Sh!t!”, then I dropped my phone!

This was a huge deal for me as I absolutely adore my Kenwood mixer. When setting up the cookie empire, upgrading to a bigger mixer was essential and a fairly significant investment. So I put my nerd hat on (which is a bit similar to my awesome hat but it just has a few extra omph in the brains department) and researched away. Any business owner who starts up bootstrapping will know that return on investment is key. Yeah, a pretty purple mixer would have matched my boots but if the motor is weak… well, that just wont cut it.

After extensive nerding, we finally settled on a Chef Sense XL, with an extra bowl of course! The minute I got that mixer home (around June 2016 for those playing at home), I was trying to get a regram from Kenwood. No luck.

By the way, this isn’t sponsored. I just really love my mixer and believe in the brand – hence the crazy excitement at being off to Sydney courtesy of Kenwood even if they have ignored my pathetic attempts at getting a regram. And if you think this isn’t true, I strongly suggest you check my Instagram feed for my regram attempts… taking into account the numerous Insta stories as well.

Anyway, Top 10. Off to Sydney to worship at the altar of the great Anna Polyviou, baking wizard extraordinaire and an even better human being! In between getting that congratulatory message and actually getting on the plane to Sydney, I may have read and reread the competition info a few times (by few I mean 30 or so). Walked into day 1 and well, it was more than anything I imagined during my 30 odd rereads of the competition details.

Here’s my weekend highlights (realistically just an account of the whole weekend cause it was all a highlight).

Hello awesome super helpful inspiring bakers.

The skill level, passion and drive of all the others were beyond compare. But most of all, it was their willingness to share ideas and tips that was really impressive and humbling.

From the get go, it felt like a community. So much so, that I actually had breakfast with one of the girls on Saturday morning before we headed into the official start of the weekends festivities. On Sunday, the Sydney folks helped out the interstate folks with equipment they needed for the afternoon baking exercising (it wasn’t a competition, it was just a casual Sunday arvo bake).

“Masterclass” = we all get to have a crack.

For those of us who are cooking show tragics, the masterclasses I have seen on TV was nothing like our masterclass with the great Anna Polyviou. She talked us through the recipe. Then we got to make it, with her guidance.

My bench buddy and I decided to team up, we divided who was making what and combined our superpowers rather than taking on the recipe solo. Mind you, we both acknowledged that when we bake, no one else is allowed in the kitchen, so it was a really fun experience for both of us. Well, fun for me.. you may have to ask her how she felt about it all.

Being mostly a cookie baker, it was my first time to make curd and whilst everyone was styling their baked treats… I inhaled one of the two that I made… after I took photos and consulted Kirsten and Nikki of course!

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 “Workshops” = Hey awesome professionals at the top of your game, lets totally hang for a few hours!

No doubt these are very busy and in demand people. Very successful, very talented, very accomplished, and very helpful.

Each took their time to answer questions, which there were lots of. They stayed around for the rest of the day to help us novices out. Anna and Felicity Goodchild graced us with their presence all weekend, Nikki To and Kirsten Jenkins spent the afternoon helping everyone out with styling and photography sessions. Nick Makrides upped the coolness factor of day 2 by gracing us with his presence and sharing hot tips all day.

Not for a second did it feel like an us novices and them, the super impressive accomplished professionals. It was honestly, just a weekend hang but with a learning aspect. Learning from everyone across the board.

Personalised Aprons

I had a feeling we were going to get aprons, Kenwood aprons. I didn’t think we would get aprons with our Instagram handles! And then washed for us on Saturday so we looked presentable for Sundays session.

Words escape me on how to properly describe how big a moment it was to see @bakedbyericaperth on that crisp white apron – on both days. Never, ever in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up in that situation and I often had to separate myself from the group to just soak it all in and take a moment.

And whilst we are on the never ever topic, I never ever thought I would be making an Anna Polyviou dish in front of Anna herself. I love watching cooking shows but wouldn’t consider applying for one – way too stressful! I figured best case scenario would be a ticketed workshop with the punk princess of pastry herself.

Tech Speak

I already mentioned my nerd hat, so theres no denying that theres a nerd lurking underneath all this cookie dough. When Ellie and Marcus from Kenwood starting speaking techie about the machine, well…… it got me and a few other baking nerds in the room totes excited.

I flog my  Chef Sense mixer a fair bit and I love it but I have never taken the time to read the manual. A quick scan at best! But to hear about the engineering, research and design process was really cool. Yeah, its not for everyone but it got my gears going alright.

Flights and Accommodation

Being from way over West of the country, I always imagine that for anyone hosting competitions in other States, it wouldn’t make logical or logistical sense to pick someone from WA to win or as a finalist.

Why? Imagine all the extra costs with flights and accommodation. But, these lovely folks took a chance on me and what I now refer to as my poorly lit slideshow, and flew me over.

As a reformed pessimist, a part of me still thought that it would be a shared apartment because hey cost effective! But nope, this rando from Perth got really awesome and spacious digs with the fluffiest pillow known to man – 4 of them, just as I require….

Failure is totally cool

A common theme through the weekend was that failure is okay. More than okay actually, it leads to opportunities and unexpected learnings. Its not really about how perfect things are, its more about how you got there, the process, the opportunities – be it in life or in a baking situation. Failure isn’t the end.

The Entrance

Is there a better feeling than walking into a room, to find a super impressive mixer all tied up in a pretty bow, your personalised apron waiting for you?

For me, that was insanely exciting but then as a lover of pens and other note taking implements, the booklet and pens in each of our workstations combined with the mixer and apron, well, I was two seconds off being a blubbering mess.

I LOVE PENS AND I LOVE TAKING NOTES! OMG! Totally winning!

Oh, not only that but to have an impressive bunch of really nice people clapping and cheering you on for your accomplishment is also something I could easily get used to every time I walk into a room.

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If Jeremy Clarkson tried to make meringue with this mixer, I can guarantee you he would be screaming POOOOOWWWWWEEERRRRR the whole time like he does when he takes the Bugatti Veyron for a spin. This machine is powerful, so powerful it literally shook my world Really, the table was moving!

The Kenwood Cooks Collective Community

This weekend was the first Kenwood Cooks Collective. However, aside from the 10 of us who were picked out of 500 entrants, the people involved in making the whole weekend happen have worked together in the past.

The team that was there on the weekend from the ladies in black organising the logistics  (hi there, Liquid Ideas ladies), to the workshop presenters, to the Kenwood team… you really got a sense of community. This wasn’t a stuffy corporate relationship.

These were a bunch of people who truly believed in what they were creating and who seemed to actually, genuinely enjoy working together to the point that we even all had dinner together.

Through the whole weekend, it felt like everyone was happy to be there for the full two days to share the experience with 10 fairly overwhelmed and excited home bakers.

It was an epic weekend and I am still in an absolute pinch myself did that really happen daze.

For as long as I can remember, I have always claimed October as MY month. October 7 is a public holiday in my hometown for the town fiesta and I saw that as a sign to up the notch in terms of my birthday celebrations and anticipations. I claim the whole month but October 7 is when I start to get REALLY excited.

In recent years, I have been given more reason to get excited about MY month. On October 7, 2012 I had my Masters graduation. On October 7, 2016 my permit to start a business from our home kitchen got approved. On October 7, 2017 I got to meet a new community, I got to be part of the inaugural Kenwood Cooks Collective, a pretty awesome collective I tell ya.

To spend a whole weekend, a really surreal weekend with this community, was beyond my usual MY month celebrations. So Kenwood, pressures on now guys, how are you going to top MY month next year? It can’t go downhill from here or you would have ruined my birthday month forever 😛

about erica

At this point in time, I have lived my life 50/50 in the Philippines and Australia, I am determined to make a positive impact in both countries I consider my home. Through Baked by Erica, I endeavour to spread joy and happiness to everyone I meet through delicious baked treats and use the profits from these treats to spread the joy and happiness further to a small farming community in the Philippines. Building an empire and changing lives, one cookie at a time!

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