Posted on March 8, 2024

Keeping baking mastery alive

Baking student in lab


VCC Baking and Pastry Arts grad Ratanawan Choowatanakiat (Lily) was brand new to baking when, like many others around the world, COVID-19 put an end to her career as an airline cabin crew member.

In her search for something new, Lily turned to her lifelong curiosity. That's when she decided to study baking at VCC as an international student in Fall 2022.

“As a consumer, I always loved baked goods,” she says. “I wanted to know how to hit the right flavours, and how to make such beautiful products.”

At VCC, she learned it all. Training as commercial bakers, students learn to make artisan breads, wedding cakes, entremet desserts, petit fours, chocolates, confections, cookies and croissants that all get sold to the general public at the Downtown campus Seiffert Market + Bakeshop.

“At the end of the day, I just want to make somebody happy with the creations I make,” she says.


New skills, new opportunities

Everyone who enters the Baking and Pastry Arts program at VCC starts on the same base level, regardless of their previous background in the trade. This was one of the aspects Lily enjoyed as an international student with no prior commercial baking experience.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this program is to keep an open mind,” she says. “Be willing to learn every single day.”

Lily’s thirst for learning has already taken her to new heights. This spring, Lily is set to compete in the provincial Skills BC competition – a huge opportunity, given that the Olympics-style event is open to international students for the first time.

This spring, she appeared as the face of VCC's revitalized brand identity and campaign Real Learning for Real Change.

“I never intended to compete [in Skills] or thought I would be part of this huge campaign,” she confides, as fellow classmates marvelled at how far she’s come. “I took this program because I want to be the best of myself. I’m competing with myself.”

She is currently training under VCC instructor Wolfgang Dauke, known informally as the “master of sugar”.


Handing down the skills

Her experience so far has led her to think about the future of the baking industry.

“There’s a need for more specialists like Wolfgang,” she says. “As expert bakers near retirement, who will pass on the techniques, knowledge and skills to other people?”

For now, she plans to bring communities together with her own bakery down the road, drawing cultural flavours from her heritage home country, Thailand. With enough specialized skills, she keeps an open mind about potentially training others in the future.

“Ask yourself, what’s your purpose? Why are you here?” “When you know your purpose, you can better focus on your end goal.”

Rise to the top. Learn expert techniques in pastry arts, chocolate, cake design and more in VCC’s state-of-the-art bakeries. Check out the Baking and Pastry Arts programs programs available for International students at VCC.