My First Competition
By Mitch Stamm
On October 23, 2006, my teammate Jody Klocko and I were at the awards ceremony of the National Bread and Pastry Championship. The bronze medal winners were announced and I was fearful and relieved at the same time. Fearful that we had not medaled, relieved (and hopeful) that we might still be in contention for gold or silver.
Then we were announced as the winners of the silver medal. Again a wave of mixed emotions washed over me. Why had we not won gold? And yet, relief and joy that we had won the silver medal. Up on the stage, we received our medals, check, and congratulations in a rush of excitement.
February through May, 2006: I would spend one or two of my days off working on product development. I did not have a teammate, but I persisted. Summer arrived and I began working on product daily, which was actually a way to avoid working on the showpiece. At the World Pastry Forum in July, Jody and I were introduced. After several discussions, we decided to become teammates. In late August, Jody began traveling to Providence on weekends to practice. With renewed inspiration, I had immediate and dramatic improvements in all areas of my work.
In September and October, we were training on weekends with timed practice sessions. After only two months of practicing on weekends, we packed up and headed to Atlantic City.
The big day arrived and my jitters vanished with the starter’s whistle. I went to work with intensity and focus that were stronger than ever. In a blur, Day One was over. After a fitful night’s sleep, I was ready for Day Two. Before I could believe it, everything was done. All tastings had been submitted; we placed our showpieces on the display table and tiptoed away. I was relieved, happy, euphoric, and just a little sad that it was over.
I felt good about our work. Was it perfect? No, but it was respectable, and after all, it was my first competition. I was giddy as friends, colleagues, and spectators offered their congratulations.
Working with Jody, I learned to work with professionalism and humility. Not to mention how to “work clean.” I was forced to analyze every movement for its rewards and consequences, and as a result, my baking skills and problem solving skills were sharpened in ways that I am only now realizing.
Would I do it again? I’m not sure. Would I recommend competing? Absolutely. Am I glad it’s over? Oh heck, yeah!
I would like to thank Carymax for creating a venue for bakers which allows them the opportunity to improve and to showcase their skills. It’s rare for professional bakers to be afforded an opportunity to bake solely for the love of baking. To all of the sponsors, supporters, and volunteers of the event, I also offer my thanks and appreciation. I would like to congratulate my fellow competitors and commend them for what they do daily and for their effort in Atlantic City. I have tremendous gratitude for all of those who supported and contributed to team Stamm/Klocko. To the judges: Thank you for your constructive criticism and words of encouragement. To my teammate: YOU. ARE. THE. MAN.