Less than a quarter of Australia's 35,000 baking and pastry chefs are women. TAFE NSW Armidale student and Moxons Bakery apprentice Kyah Valler may be one of the minority, but she's found the recipe for success.
The 20-year-old claimed a silver medal in the Bake Skills Australia Champion Pastry Chef Competition and a win in the Great Aussie Pie competition, where she competed against some of the country's most talented bakers.
"I was pretty stoked with those results!" Kyah said. "I entered the competitions for a bit of practice, so I wasn't expecting to go so well."
Growing up, she loved cooking and making cakes. An apprenticeship and studying at TAFE NSW made more sense for her than going to university, she said.
"When I first came into the baking industry, I was surprised to learn it was a male-dominated industry, especially now because I love it so much, and couldn't imagine doing anything else."
Craig Cornwell, head baker at Moxons Bakery, supported her throughout her apprenticeship, Kyah said. "I'm grateful to have such a great mentor who encourages me to be creative and succeed in the workplace."
Moxons Bakery owners Roger and Anne Bourke were full of praise for Kyah, who is in the final year of her Certificate III Retail Baking apprenticeship after starting with their business in 2015.
"It's really hard to find staff who have the talent and passion to do well in this industry," Mr Bourke said, "but Kyah certainly has those skills. She's a perfectionist and a wonderful asset to our business."
Mrs Bourke added: "We're really proud of Kyah and everything she has achieved so far. She's learning a lot at TAFE NSW and putting it into practice and enhancing her skills here. She has a really big future in this industry."
TAFE NSW Hospitality Head Teacher Matt McAllister shared these sentiments. "Kyah started as a school-based apprentice. Over the past four years, the hospitality teaching section have seen her develop into a wonderfully creative and talented baker."
He believed Kyah was an outstanding role model for other women considering careers as bakers or pastry cooks to study at TAFE NSW.
For more information on baking, pastry and hospitality courses at TAFE NSW, phone 131 601 or visit www.tafensw.edu.au.