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SOUTHPARK MAGAZINE – Kneading to Win

sparkmag

Internationally acclaimed master baker Harry Peemoeller adds “coach” title to impressive resume of global culinary accomplishments.

For Harry Peemoeller, senior baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University, bread is not simply the “staff of life,” but very much a way of life, and a competitive one at that.

Peemoeller is a certified master baker by the German Culinary Institute and award winning baker from competitions around the globe. He was one of only three bakers representing Team USA in the prestigious 2012 Paris Coupe du Monde, the World Cup of Baking, winning the silver medal in the Artistic Design Category.

This September Peemoeller coaches the U.S. team competing in Munich, Germany in the iga-UIBC-CUP Baker, an international competition with twelve nations vying for top honors. He’s taking two of his best students from Charlotte, Katie Vanek and Ashley Nichols, to compete against professional bakers from countries such as France, Japan, Demark, China, Peru and Germany.

“This competition is really a springboard for new talent,” said Peemoeller, 55. “To gain this competitive experience and receive this type of international exposure is not only a wonderful opportunity for the students, but a showcase for U.S. talent and illustration of the level of culinary skills we are developing here at JWU.”

Team USA Returns to Paris

Peemoeller is also coach for Team USA in the 2016 Coupe du Monde, returning to Paris in February 2016. The three-man team competes in four categories: baguettes and bread from around the world; sweet Viennese pastries; savory presentations; and an artistic piece, Peemoeller’s particular area of expertise.

Peemoeller’s own path to baking mastery began in Todendorf, Germany, a small town outside of Hamburg. From age 10 he began working in his stepfather’s commercial and retail bakery. By 14 he was already putting in 10-12 hour days as an apprentice.

“I quickly learned how difficult the life as a baker could be,” said Peemoeller, “It was practically legalized slavery.”

He stayed at his craft, achieving master baker status at age 22. Peemoeller came to the U.S. in 1989 working at the commercial bakery supplier for Disney World in Orlando, and then his own Miami bakery. He landed at Johnson and Wales in Norfolk, Virginia in 2000 and transferred to Charlotte in 2005 when the university relocated here.

“Judges in these competitions look at several criteria in evaluating the creations, such as innovation, flavor, visual appeal, and commercially viability of the product,” said Peemoeller.

Preparation for competition baking is grueling. Peemoeller noted practice for the Munich competition involved virtually every weekend for the past several months.
“There are hours of set up, run time, and cleanup as well as experimentation and practice on various equipment,” said Peemoeller, who noted his coaching role is one of advising and sharing his insight from his own completive efforts.

“The students are the ones who come up with the concepts and innovative ideas. This is part of what I find exciting about competition. People push boundaries. I’m always learning new techniques and approaches.”

For his professional team competing in Paris, the practice is even more involved.

They have been working since May in preparation,” said Peemoeller, who noted the strain can sometimes be too much for the competitors. “I tell them what a mentor once told me, ‘There is the podium, where you want to stand on it is up to you.’ I know I push them, but I want them to be at their best.”

The only thing not tough about this baker is his heavenly, edible creations.

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