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From England to New York - how baking made it possible

People across the UK look forward to the TV programme 'Great British Bake Off' – with all its tears, tarts and tantrums in the tent.

The show even inspires viewers to try their hand in the kitchen, as shown by the surge in baking supplies sales each year during the series. 

But how do you become as good as judge Mary Berry? The people in the Bake Off are skilled bakers in the making, but the right training can give your career the best foundation. That’s why Mary and countless other professionals started with City & Guilds qualifications.

Skills and freedom

One of those is Sim Cass, a professional baker based in New York.

UK-born Sim got his start as a chef apprentice in the 1970’s. At first he wanted to be a car mechanic, but his mother talked him out of it.

'If you become a mechanic, you'll always be cold and your hands will always be dirty,’ she told Sim. ‘But if you work in the kitchen, you'll always be warm and you'll never be hungry.’

It’s a decision he’s never regretted. Baking skills have opened up a world of opportunity to him, from working in luxury London restaurants, to cruising the Pacific Ocean and even owning the high-end Balthazar bakery in New York.

‘None of that could have happened without the right qualifications,’ he says.

‘It very quickly became apparent that wherever I went I could use them. I’ve been head baker nearly my whole career, because straight away it was recognised that I knew what I was doing,’ he explains.

Now he’s teaching the next generation as Dean of the Professional Bread Baking Program at New York's celebrated Institute of Culinary Education.

Make sure you love it

The right skills can open doors. But despite what you seen on the Bake Off, it’s not always a glamorous industry.

Sim says that professional baking can test your limits, but the satisfaction of creating with your hands makes it worthwhile.

‘Make sure you go and work in a bakery and see if you like it,’ he says.

‘You need to really love it because you’ll need to push through a lot of barriers to really get the joy out of it.’