Boillon’s own career in baking began with a compromise, after his parents weren’t keen on him working the long night shifts then required of bakers.
“At 15 years of age I realised school and studying wasn’t what I wanted to do. I started looking for options and decided to be a baker, but my parents weren’t happy: the shifts started at 10pm and went through the night, so I started as a pastry chef instead,” he says.
Eventually, he came back to baking.
“I loved food, and the creativity and beauty of baking,” he says.
That love eventually led to Australia’s Laurent Bakery, which has been running for more than 25 years. It’s a big enterprise. In 2018 Laurent signed a 10-year agreement to supply sourdough bread to Coles, and that year alone purchased 15,000 tonnes of flour (all Australian produced and sourced).
His passion for the product extends to training the bakers of tomorrow.
“When people first start learning they need to know how to touch the dough: to organise, feel and mould it. When they start to perform well with that, we start to teach them to make it. Then you can learn how to bake. In making bread, 50 per cent of the success is the first stage of the dough making and shaping the bread, and 50 per cent is in the baking,” he says.
Boillon says passion is a big part of success as a baker, and it’s a quality that’s hard to find.
“If you are qualified and experienced it is easy to get work. I’ll pay $100,000 to 150,000 if you show me [that you know] how to bake,” he says.
Boillon believes the shortage of skilled bakers stems partly from the way that, when companies find good tradespeople, they eventually make them managers.
“That’s a big mistake,” he says, offering a better long term solution.
“Pay the baker well.”
Training up skilled bakers is one reason Boillon is passionate about mentoring. Laurent Bakery works closely with Victorian high schools to provide the on-the-job component of the TAFE qualifications some high school students complete in their senior years. To date this has primarily been done with patisserie students, but Boillon would like to extend the work to bakers.
He’s also keen to work with other young people to help them discover if baking lights their fire the way it did for him.
“To succeed in life you need to find your thing,” says Boillon.
Study: Apprenticeships are common for bakers and a Certificate III in Bread Baking can be a good place to start. Back it up with some hands-on experience.
Skills: Passion and a love of food goes a long way. “It’s an incredible job, it brings a lot of joy,” says Boillon.
Tips: “To make bread you just need water and flour, it looks easy, but the level of complexity you are dealing with is incredible,” says Boillon.