MICHAEL Oksinski used to bake desserts to take his mind off his HSC exams.
What started as a hobby has now turned into a career for the young pastry chef, who is heading to Melbourne in May for the Savour Patissier of the Year competition.
For the past three months, the West Pennant Hills resident has been making entremets, tarts, eclairs and plated desserts to get the recipes perfect for when he has cook and present the food for the world-class judges.
“It is pretty exciting,” Mr Oksinski said.
“I did it last year in Sydney and it was a good experience.
“You do get nervous, but you have to be confident that you’ve done well “
The former Oakhill College student gets plenty of time in the kitchen, working at dessert shop Du Plessy Praline in West Pymble.
Although he makes the same desserts that his boss’s loyal customers have regularly purchased for the past 20 years, Mr Oksinski sometimes works on new ideas and sees if they are popular by how many desserts he sells.
His creativity and passion for working in a kitchen started at home when he made cakes and other baked desserts to take a break from his heavy HSC workload.
“It started out as a hobby while I was at school. I didn’t want to go to university, but a family friend suggested that I do a diploma cooking course at TAFE,” Oksinski said.
“I started my apprenticeship in 2014. My brothers, my girlfriends and my parents all get to try my food and give their thoughts.”
He finished eighth out of 26 in 2016, but Mr Oksinski is expecting a much tougher competition this year.
There are more entrants and people from all over the world have entered.
“Getting into the top 10 again is my ultimate goal,” Mr Oksinski said. “The competition is really strong, and although I’m aiming higher I will be happy to finish in the top 10.
“This year I’ve given myself more time to prepare. All of my dishes are completely different from the first idea I had for them.”
Mr Oksinski’s strength is his entremets. He finished third in the category in 2016, which helped him crack the top 10.
Competition founder Kirsten Tibballs said Mr Oksinski was short-listed for the competition after she received many nominations for the competition.
“The standard of finalists we have for this year’s competition is outstanding,” Ms Tibballs said.
”Competitors have been personally selected based on their skills and experience, and it’s thrilling that we’ll get to see finalists from around the world in competition.”
Christophe Michalak and Jordi Roca, who are regarded among the best pastry chefs in the world, will be part of the judging panel.
There is more than $15,000 worth of prizes up for grabs.