Ever since the advent of the Great British Bake-Off, the dreams of ‘I want to be an astronaut’ or ‘I want to be a vet’ have probably been replaced with ‘I want to bake cakes.’ With the wholesome Britishness, Mary Berry’s dulcet tones, and the delicious creations that come out of the oven, GBBO has sold a job prospect to millions better than any career fair could ever do.
For most of us, however, whether it’s a lack of opportunity or, like me, the inability to cook a cake without burning either it or the kitchen, this will remain a dream. And as with many other dreams, it takes a while to make them reality. University gets in the way, then a few years scrabbling around for graduate jobs, and then finally we might hit upon what we love doing.
One girl, however, has been in her dream job since she left school aged 18. What’s more, she took the risk and dropped out of university to pursue it. As a pupil at a grammar school, she did what no one else in her school had dared to do, which was reject the status quo in favour of something more fulfilling.
Jasmine Wisdish, now 21, has just started up her own baking company, Truly Delicious Bakes. Only three years ago she was starting Royal Holloway University, to study Classics. A few weeks into term she was working in Harrods’ café Ladurée where she climbed the ranks to Chef de Partie to gain experience and a good reputation for her company. Jasmine then began working in independent bakeries and is now launching her own company. In three years, Jasmine has achieved what many of us hope to do in our 30s, down to sheer motivation and belief in her ability to succeed.
I was lucky enough to interview Jasmine to find out what it takes to thrive in the industry.
What made you realise university wasn’t for you?
Once I started lectures I realised that, although Classics is interesting, it wasn’t something I wanted to do full time and I couldn’t see a future in it. Also, if I’m going to spend 30 grand or more I better love the subject I’m studying!
Was it hard to make the decision to drop out?
It wasn’t especially difficult because I can be quite stubborn when I want to be. Once I had made my decision there was no convincing me otherwise. To be honest, it was quite scary at the time to take such a big risk but I knew I’d made the right decision once I’d done it.
Do you think more people should do it?
Obviously if you’re three years into a degree don’t drop out, you’re almost there! I was only six weeks in so I hadn’t really wasted any time or money. I had reservations before I went to university and I knew what I wanted to do when I left so when I dropped out I had a clear direction to take. But don’t just leave because you’re finding one essay particularly difficult! However, if there’s something else you want to do and you feel like university isn’t the right decision at the moment, discuss it with other people because you’ve got to really consider it. But remember, there’s no point being miserable and spending money on something you hate.
Does the education system makes it hard to do it?
Schools and society in general are so university focused but getting a degree isn’t the be all and end all of life. Sure, it is a big part of it but there are some valuable lessons that can’t be learnt at university. I’ve definitely grown as a person and gained skills that I wouldn’t have had if I stayed.
Any advice for students wanting to pursue a career in baking?
Do not think that it will be easy! Any job in the hospitality industry is hard; long working hours, stressful environments, and standing all day. Just be ready to think on your feet and be flexible. However, if you are passionate about baking it will all be worth it. Also, invest in a pair of comfortable shoes – they may be ugly but boy will they save your feet.
Who was your favourite GBBO star?
Hands down has to be Selasi. He was so cool and charming and definitely brought some sex appeal to the tent. I’ve heard he wants to open a bakery in London; I’ll be first in line to work there!
What’s your favourite cake recipe?
I love Paul Hollywood’s brioche recipe. The texture is so light and fluffy but still deliciously rich. It’s best eaten warm or fried until golden in butter and sugar. It takes a bit of time and effort but it’s totally worth it
What are the plans for the future?
I’m aiming at some point to do the Diplôme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in London. The course looks amazing and I’m excited to learn and to be able to bake five days a week. Then hopefully in the future once I’ve had more experience I will open my own bakery.
Any advice for amateur bakers?
Just keep practising! The difference to my cake making when I first started and my level is now is huge. Signing up to Pinterest and baking Instagrams will provide you with so much inspiration for new flavours and techniques. Don’t let baking failures set you back, just keep trying until you get it right. Also maybe try and find some baking classes if you want to hone your skills in one particular area of cake making.
Any great bakeries we should visit?
One of my favourite places is Cocomaya, a small French bakery just round the corner from Paddington Station. Their food is all made in house, ranging from mini sandwiches to beautiful cakes; perfect for Sunday afternoon tea or taking away the food and having a picnic in Hyde Park. My favourite is their mini chocolate cake it’s so dense and fudgy – absolute heaven!
Don’t forget to check out Jasmine’s website Truly Delicious Bakes for more information!
Photograph: Jasmine Widish