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Young apprentice heads to international skills competition

Clarissa Roque is only 19-years-old, but her talent in pastry arts is outstanding, and she’ll soon be in Kazan, Russia to compete at the WorldSkills Competition.

Clarissa Roque is only 19-years-old, but her talent in pastry arts is outstanding, and she’ll soon be in Kazan, Russia to compete at the WorldSkills Competition.

From August 22 to 27, WorldSkills will see more than 1,600 competitors under the age of 23 from 66 countries competing in 56 areas for a chance to win a prestigious medal in their chosen skill. The theme this year is Formula One Grand Prix Racing.

Clarissa’s been training 50-60 hours a week in the kitchen for the past 10 months to perfect her designs for the competition in baking. Over four days, she’ll be making a sugar piece, two marzipan figurines, a two-tiered buttercream cake, 20 hand-piped and hand-dipped chocolates, a confection, a petit fours, and a plated dessert.

While WorldSkills will be a new experience for her, Clarissa’s no stranger to the pressures of an event like this. She’s been competing since she was 15—she’s participated in the provincial SkillsBC event four times, where she won a gold medal in 2018 and then went on to win a bronze medal at the national Skills Canada competition.

“Doing the competitions definitely helped me deal with stress and pressure,” said Clarissa. “Each year, I become more comfortable.”

Clarissa knew at a very young age that baking would be her passion. “My parents said I’d been helping them out in the kitchen since I was two or three years old. Whenever I helped them make any dessert, it meant that I got to eat it, so that got me hooked!”

As she got older, she sought opportunities to learn her craft. She started with home economics in high school, took various food courses, and then registered for the Industry Training Authority (ITA) Youth Train in Trades program in baking.

“The ITA program gave me a basic introduction to baking and technical skills and taught me the fundamentals,” Clarissa recalls. “It was fun, and I would recommend it to other students.”

She’s currently doing the ITA apprenticeship program, with technical training at Vancouver Community College (VCC) and the work component at Chez Christophe Chocolaterie and Patisserie. She’ll be starting the final year of her apprenticeship in the fall, working towards her Red Seal.

Wolfgang Dauke, Instructor of Baking and Pastry Arts at VCC has been training Clarissa since she competed at Skills Canada last year.

“It’s great that she has the desire and dedication to do this and that we have young students that actually want to compete,” he said. “As I work with her, I’m picking up different things that I didn’t even know about. Watching how she goes through the process has really been the greatest experience.”

Wolfgang and Clarissa agreed that passion and dedication are what young bakers need to succeed.

“Baking’s a great job to have, but it’s a tough job to have. You need to be dedicated to it to be able to do what Clarissa’s doing at her age,” said Wolfgang. “If you find out that you really love baking, pastry, or pastry arts, then the world is open to you. You can become a superchef as long as you have the talent and you want to put in the time that it takes to be a great chef.”

“You need to be passionate and driven because the industry can be tough at times,” Clarissa advises. “You need to just keep going and keep your head up when it gets rough.”

Good luck at WorldSkills, Clarissa. Bring home a medal!

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