Childhood favourite turned dream career
Mikayla Bishop is an Angliss alumna who was baking-obsessed from a young age. Having completed her patisserie qualifications in 2014, she has since been working at establishments as diverse as the Grand Hyatt, to the Chateau Yering where she works today. We spoke to Mikayla about life since Angliss as she reflected on her career journey to date.
Mikayla, what is it that attracted you to the art of patisserie? Were there any pivotal moments or memories that led you here?
I've loved baking ever since I was a kid. I think I have my mum to thank for that. Growing up, my brother and I never ate store-bought snacks and junk food. Unlike other kids at school, our morning teas were home-baked cupcakes, slices, brownies, cookies or whatever mum had made that weekend.
Every Sunday afternoon I'd sit at the bench watching Mum bake for the week. I would be watching but mostly waiting to lick the bowls after she was done! I used to also like experimenting with ingredients and making my own cake batters. So I guess it was growing up with home-baked foods and my friends' jealousy that made me love the art of baking and know that it would make the perfect job for me!
How did your course prepare you for working in patisserie?
The course mostly teaches you the very basics of being a pastry chef. I gained enough knowledge through this that meant I could confidently apply for jobs. However, once you actually have a job, there's always more to learn. Every kitchen has its own recipes and its own way fo doing things.
What learning resources and facilities did you find most useful on campus?
At Angliss, my teachers were my greatest resource. Any questions I had I went to them for real-life answers.
Tell us, what is a typical day like in your job at Chateau Yering? do you commute to the Yarra Valley? How do you prepare for a typical day?
A typical day would involve me starting at 8 am (unless doing a night shift). I start by going through the service fridge and then check what functions we have on for the day and week ahead. I then write out a prep list for the day and work through that until I am done. Depending on the week I may have conferences to cater for, or we may have weddings. We're open for high tea every weekend as well. I drive to the Yarra Valley and it's a beautiful drive!
What have been some of the highlights of working at Chateau Yering?
One of the biggest highlights has been going from a big commercial hotel where everything is made in bulk quantities, to a small boutique hotel where I could learn more. I finally got the chance to have some creative freedom and be able to do what I wanted to do. At age 24 I created my first ever menu working here, which I believe is an incredible accomplishment. At the time I had only been in the industry for 4 years and to be creating a fine dining dessert menu at that point was amazing. I have since created two other menus for seasonal changes, with the most recent menu being the most successful to date.
What 3 tips would you give to people who want to start a career in patisserie?
1. Do not give up! Hospitality is by far one of the most challenging industries to work in. You'll work very long days and you'll be on your feet for many hours. But the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. If you're willing to work hard you'll learn so much more and become a far better chef in the long run.
2. Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes when you explore things you're not used to, you end up producing your best and most creative work. There is so much competition out there among pastry chefs, so the more daring you are and the more willing you are to go beyond what you're comfortable with, the more impressive you will be.
3. Don't let yourself be bullied and not heard. I made that mistake for too long in my early careers and it stopped me from succeeding. If you aren't being treated well be sure to speak up and make sure people know you exist and that you have ideas! Don't ever let anyone believe you aren't good enough. Do what you think is right and don't let yourself be blocked and not get the chance to be creative and give things a shot.
What is your favourite sweet on the menu at Chateau Yering?
Definitely the Three Berries Tart. The base can be likened to granola and the main ingredients are dates, coconut, and macadamias. It's flavoured with raspberry powder and on top is a blackberry mousse, finished with mixed berry jelly. I've garnished the plate with a raspberry gel, crispy blueberry meringues, blackberry creameux, fresh blueberries and raspberries.
What has surprised you most about being a patissier?
One of the most surprising things I found about being a patissier was just how unique my skills are. Working in a kitchen with other non-patissier chefs, it's interesting to see how specialised my skills are. The chefs I work with have very limited pastry knowledge, and what's common knowledge for me isn't common knowledge to them. For instance, one of the chefs I worked with needed to whip egg whites and he had a lot of yolk in it. He asked me if it would still work and I almost laughed; obviously, it would not work! Common sense to me but not to everyone else...
What pastry trends do you see as the next big craze for 2020 and beyond?
Oh boy... who knows. What I've noticed recently is an increase in savoury items being incorporated into sweets. I'm seeing peas in a lot of things. I saw a pea sorbet recently... maybe that's going to be the next big thing: putting things in sweets that shouldn't work but just do!