Baking Mildura on a slice of success

Mildura Rural Town Council is asking the local community to turn up the heat to support this weekend’s Big Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph in Merbein.

Leisure and Events Councilor Mark Eckel said the long-running popular event – ​​which returns this year after a COVID-enforced exile – was one of the few remaining culinary community events in the area, and a point of difference.

“I remember when the event first started in Ouyen in the late 1990s/early 2000s when the township was a hive of activity as visitors, and some of the best bakers in Australia converged on the city from all over the country,” he said.

“It’s an event much sought after by other regions, so I’m glad it’s staying where it belongs – in the municipality where it all started.

“I remember when it was announced in 2011 that it would no longer take place in Ouyen, and I was then also the holder of the events portfolio, I was bombarded with calls from the media about other interested municipalities to take over the event – and my response was pretty much the same as it would be now – don’t touch, it’s our event.

Cr Eckel said the event has played an important role for the local baking industry, giving local businesses the opportunity to offer their best products in a fun and competitive environment, while serving as an economic driver for the tourism sector at large.

“I know I have spoken to previous winners that they have experienced a significant increase in activity due to their involvement with the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph, particularly if they have been an outright or category winner, because customers want to taste whatever all the fuss is about,” he said.

“And for our tourism industry, previous events have attracted visitors from as far away as Western Australia, and it’s great to see Merbein hosting the event now.”

Sunraysia Bread and Butter Bakery won the Peoples’ Choice Award in 2019 and will once again showcase its best vanilla slices this weekend.

Owner/manager Dean Picken said the event was important for the entire local baking industry.

“It’s really important, because after a few years of being on hold due to COVID, I’d like to think there’s going to be a lot of support from a lot of Victoria’s bakers, and I know there are guys from South Australia who are also coming,” Mr Picken said.

“It’s about trying to put Mildura on the map and get people from out of town to see what’s going on here.”

Mr Picken said the event served as an economic driver for the industry.

“Even this week before the event, we’re selling so many vanilla slices, and our staff in the shop are great at promoting the event when customers come in,” he said.

“The next week and months after, people are still talking about it and acknowledging it, and by participating each year, our vanilla slices just get better and better as we continue to tweak our recipe based on feedback from the judges. .”

He expects to sell at least 3,500 slices of vanilla from his stall at the event this weekend.

Janeen Norris, Australia’s leading member of the Vanilla Slice Triumph organizing committee, described the response to this year’s event as “phenomenal”.

“It was amazing, we get registrations from all over, including people arriving on the Saturday morning of the event with their registrations,” Ms. Norris said.

“The bakers were waiting for the return of the event. We got calls from people saying ‘don’t break my heart and tell me it’s not going to happen this year, tell me it’s moving on’.

“As a result, we see them coming back in numbers very close to where they were before,” she said.