Some of Rebecca Radway’s fondest memories are of baking in her Saltair home with her late grandmother.
“She said I had a knack for it,” she said. “I could have basically no ingredients and still make something good and I’ll always have those memories.”
Blended with a dash of inspiration from reality shows such as Cake Boss and Ultimate Bake-off, a teaspoon of discovery in Ladysmith Secondary’s cooking program and a cup full of education in Vancouver Island University’s level one professional baking program, the talented 19-year-old is preparing her own recipe for sweet success, which includes being a self-employed professional baker specializing in cake decorating.
“I love to work with my hands to create things that are beautiful that people love.” she said. “Once I get a bit of a portfolio I’ll be able to approach different places and show them what I can do.”
Radway, now living in Nanaimo, said she likes to branch out from the traditional ways of decorating. One such example was her final assignment at VIU, where she was asked to produce a pastel-coloured wedding cake with fondant roses. Radway’s interpretation was a purple and black cake with large, handmade roses and leaves.
“My teacher was not happy with me at first, but after he saw the finished product he was ecstatic,” she said.
The 10-month program may not have been a piece of cake, but it has given her all the key ingredients for a rewarding career.
“It wasn’t quite what I expected, it was very production based rather than detail work, but I realized that was for the better because it taught me a lot about what I needed to know in the industry,” she said. “The detail came at the end.”
Radway received the Lieutenant Governor’s silver medal for academic achievement at VIU’s convocation ceremony last month.
“I didn’t know much about the award. My teacher gave me an application a month before school ended and I thought it was just a normal little award,” she said. “They e-mailed and told me I won and I still didn’t realize how big it was. My family was ecstatic, too.”
Radway’s passion really got cooking after moving to Ladysmith and transferring to the town’s high school for Grade 10 so she could participate in the cafeteria training program and become a chef. However once her hands were back in the dough, she didn’t look back and was closely mentored by teacher Melody Hadikin.
“My teachers there helped me out and switched things around so I could spend as much time in the bakery as possible,” she said.
Now that she has completed her level one training, she says she’ll always remember the fun times and the dough ball fights in class.
“Our class was very close, so there were a lot of moments that I remember about them,” she said.
Radway said she would like to see more recognition for the cake decorating field.
“There is a lot to it, it is an art, and it takes a lot of time and science,” she said.
“Everything has to be absolutely perfect and added at the correct moment.”