Pierre ZIMMERMANN, coach for the French team that became world champions in the 2008 Bakery World Cup, reveals his secrets on how to prepare for high level competition…
Competitions provide the spice in a professional career.
It goes without saying that participating in a bakery competition of worldwide importance requires intensive preparation. In addition to having in-depth knowledge of your products, you have to work on yourself, accepting the possibility of failure as well as victory. This cannot be done without an external person, the coach.
You have not only acquired experience as a coach for the French team, world champions in 2008, but also as a winning candidate in the Bakery World Cup in 1996. What do you think are the main essential stages in preparing for a high level competition like the Louis Lesaffre Cup?
First of all, it is vital to have a thorough knowledge of the regulations. It is therefore advisable to be assisted by one or more people who have already taken part in this type of competition. Then you have to adopt a product enhancement strategy, "selling" the products to the members of the jury. In fact, you have to find products that comply with the regulations, which are the most eye-catching and will earn points for their presentation, texture, taste…
On this basis, you must select and produce twice as many products as required by the regulations. This will help you determine which products to choose for the competition. Ask for an outside opinion to help guide you in your choice of product.
The rest of the preparation is aimed at fine-tuning the selected recipes. There is only one way to do this: numerous trials and a systematic debriefing. This is necessary to acquire the reflex actions that help you save time: you can start with a full 20-hour programme, and succeed in cutting it down to 8 hours in the competition. This fine-tuning phase is fairly long.
How much training is needed to really prepare a team and what is the purpose of a systematic debriefing?
At least ten individual training sessions are needed, alternating with team training sessions.
After each test, for both preparation and training follow-up, it is vital to hold a debriefing meeting, representing 30% of the time together. This is when the work is analysed by a person outside the team. Each product must be marked according to the regulatory criteria (number of pieces, appearance, cooking, texture, taste…). This is the role of the coach, and possibly, another person. From the criticisms and comments made during this stage, a number of positive and constructive ideas will emerge.
The aim of the debriefing is to guide subsequent training sessions, as well as to find sales pitches and key words to champion your products. It must be written down to provide a pattern of how the team's work is evolving. This enables team members to fine-tune their strategy and work without repeating the same mistakes.
As regards team know-how, what are the main points to work on?
Know-how represents the way of behaving, of dressing, the attitude to adopt in the competition and also when dealing with the media.
Above all, there must be a good team spirit and everyone must support each other in the overall organisation. There is only room for one winning team, so each person must be prepared for winning but also for losing. A team can only be really close-knit if it is managed over a long period by the same professional.
The notion of fair play is also very important in the attitude to adopt for a competition of this calibre. You must want to take part to learn from each person's talent and not hesitate to strike up contacts.
After the competition, these rich relationships are often the only thing left, enabling you to continue to make progress and providing other career possibilities.
What are the notions of "communication" to work on with a team?
Firstly, team members have to work on media management. As soon as a team is involved in an extraordinary competition like the Louis Lesaffre Cup, it must expect to be the target of media attention and to be available. Before the competition, you should not reveal too much, keeping an element of surprise for the jury's grading. This often helps to win points. You have to find the right balance when giving information to journalists. (Develop the candidates' profile, highlight the sponsors, talk about the competition and its specific features) and don't hesitate to give them presentation products.
Secondly, you must take great care with appearance and product presentation. This includes the way of dressing (uniform, costume), while retaining a certain similarity that identifies a team with a national style. In order to persuade the jury of the quality of the products made, define two or three key words for each of them. These must be committed to memory so they are not forgotten during the jury presentation, especially as this is always an emotional moment, a fairly stressful time.
Crédit photo : Pierre Zimmermann - studio pygmalion