Bakery’s proving ground

MEAT pies, gingerbread men and doughnuts will be on the menu in East Timor when two apprentice bakers return to Dili in three weeks.

Abelina Da Silva-Manus, 23, and Herminia Freitas, 21, have been receiving tips this week from Beechworth Bakery chief Tom O’Toole about the art of preparing and cooking sweet and savoury delicacies.

The lessons are part of an ongoing project which has seen Mr O’Toole help set up a bakery at a Salesian convent in the Timorese capital.

Mr O’Toole was in East Timor three years ago looking to establish a bakery school when a chance meeting with a nun resulted in him helping set up a shop outside the Catholic institution.

“They had been given a donation of all this baking equipment but it was just sitting in crates in the yard,” he said.

“They had no idea how to set it up.”

Mr O’Toole, with Melbourne baker Ralph Plarre, of Melbourne firm Ferguson Plarre, and New Zealand baking instructor Graham Heaven, then helped install baking equipment and by the end of last year a kiosk was opened, selling breads and sweet and savoury baked goods.

Following through on that help Mr O’Toole and his wife Christine have flown the young apprentices to Australia to get an insight into how his bakeries operate.

“They are incredible bakers,” he said,

“Even though they don’t speak much English, you teach them once and they pick it up straight away.”

The girls have been busy memorising recipes and perfecting their technique.

“Everyone here is smiling and happy. I’m very happy here,” Ms Da Silva-Manus said.

Beechworth Bakery production manager Bray Webster said the girls were right at home in the bakery.

“Everyone just loves them,” Mr Webster said.

The girls will visit six Beechworth Bakery sites before returning to East Timor.

Their operation in Dili employs about 20 people, generating income of $5000 a month that helps run orphanages, a medical clinic, primary school and training programs.

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