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Delta Secondary student wins national baking competition

Provincial champion Leila Pourshahriary beats out competitors from across the country to win her division at 2022 Skills Canada National Competition

Delta Secondary School’s 2022 graduation class now includes a national champion.

Culinary arts student Leila Pourshahriary has captured the baking category for secondary students at the prestigious 2022 Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) which wrapped up on May 27 at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.

The event featured more than 350 students and apprentices from across the country competing for the title of national champion in more than 45 skilled areas. Medals were awarded to the top competitors in six skilled trade and technology sectors, including transportation, construction, manufacturing and engineering, information technology, services and employment. The competitors were evaluated based on strict industry standards.

Pourshahriary initially won the provincial stage where her task was to create a decorated cookie and bar cake with 1920s themes as well as a bread of the world within a 7.5 hours timed period.

Her cookie was a lemon pate sable decorated with royal icing in a typical 1920s pattern. She then baked two loaves of Japanese milk bread before finishing the competition with orange chiffon sponge bar cake with chocolate pastry cream. She decorated the cake in a 1920s theme, complete with feathers, carnations and pearls.

Pourshahriary created the same items for nationals except had 30 minutes less in preparation time.

According to DSS culinary arts teacher and chef Lori Pilling, she is the first DSS student to win at nationals.

“When Leila came to me in Grade 10 she was already amazing at it,” said Pilling. “She was baking at home with her parents, so she already had a super good foundation. In Grade 11 (amid COVID) we did online schooling and the students had to submit videos and Leila’s were all amazing.”

Pourshahriary enhanced her skills by signing up for the Delta School District’s Youth In Trades Program, which took her to Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) downtown campus for a 24-weeks (July to December) of learning at the post-secondary level. It was at the end of her time at VCC where the two students with the highest marks were selected to be trained for SCNC.

Pilling added the sky is the limit for the potential of her prize student that developed a passion for baking on her own. Pourshahriary plans to return to VCC to enroll in the Advanced Cakes course then work on her apprenticeship.

“My mom did some baking but I learned a lot online just watching Youtube videos and TV shows too,” she said. “I just wanted to try new things.”