Ten years ago he barely spoke a word of English and had little baking experience but patisserie owner Jason Hay is this year's Weston Milling Trainee of the Year.
Jason and Annie Hay of Richoux Patisserie in Ellerslie have previously won awards for their pies and hot cross buns.
Mr Hay was one of 10 finalists who competed in a live bake-off in Napier on August 19 and 20.
Each contestant had to make a pound cake, a savoury tart, grain bread and a sweet flan.
"There was a lot of pressure because it was open to the public," Mr Hay says.
This is the third year he has entered and Mr Hay was gunning for first place after coming third in 2009 and second last year.
"I've been training hard," he says.
"I've been trying a lot of different flavours before we picked one for the competition," he says.
Mr Hay moved to New Zealand from Cambodia in 2001 and bought Richoux Patisserie in Ellerslie in 2007 after he sold his Blockhouse Bay bakery. He got into baking thanks to a series of jobs with bakeries and food companies while studying English.
"My passion is with food," he says.Mr Hay is aiming to finish his level four qualification in plant and craft baking by the end of the year but his ambitions do not stop there. He is hoping to open another Richoux branch in the new year.
Mr Hay will be one of the judges for the 2012 competition which will be held in Auckland.
- East And Bays Courier
Last updated 10:14 26/08/2011
BREADWINNER: Baker Jason Hay is this year's Weston Milling Trainee of the Year. He and wife Annie Hay own Richoux Patisserie in Ellerslie.