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Monica prepares croissants in the kitchen on her training course at IES Jacaranda. Marilú Báez
Mónica Rufián: An artisan in the making with a passion for baking bread and other pastry delights
Food and drink

Mónica Rufián: An artisan in the making with a passion for baking bread and other pastry delights

This young woman, a student on a specialist course in professional baking at IES Jacaranda in Malaga, has won second place in the world championship for promising young bakers and pastry chefs recently held in Reykjavik

Francisco Gutiérrez

Malaga

Tuesday, 2 July 2024, 14:25

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A very commendable second place, a great experience on a personal level and some training days with top-level professionals were Mónica Rufián's reward for so much hard work, participating in the world championship for promising young bakers and pastry chefs. With her colleague, Isabel García from La Rioja, the young woman who is training in Malaga represented Spain in this international competition for young bakers, held at the beginning of June in the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. Sweden won, but only with two points ahead of the young Spaniards, who in turn finished ahead of countries such as France, with a great tradition in patisserie, and Germany, the largest producer and consumer of bread in Europe.

Monica gave herself no respite and, after three days in Reykjavik and a long flight home with a stopover in Madrid, she quickly rejoined the kitchen at her training centre, IES Jacaranda in the city, to finish her studies in the specialised course in artisan breads and pastries, led by her course tutor Juan Carlos Martínez de la Ossa. "We had yet to try out the panettone, and so the youngsters came on Sunday to prepare the dough, which has to rest for 24 hours", said their teacher as an example of how dedicated and involved these students are on this course.

Mónica Rufián Nieto was one of the students on this course. An "outstanding" girl, "with very clear ideas, great perception and an aptitude for artisan baking", said the teacher.

Mónica is from Alcalá la Real (Jaén), she is 20 years old and, together with Isabel García from La Rioja, she was part of the team that represented Spain in the international young bakers' competition, alongside the national coach and selector, José Roldán, and technical director Jesús Sánchez. Mónica became part of the Espigas team, the national selection of artisan bakers from CEOPÁN (the Spanish Confederation of the Bread Industry) and the Spanish Association of Baking, Pastry and Cake Manufacturers.

Childhood dreams

It was very clear to the young girl that her future lay among flour, yeast, fermenting dough and ovens, turning her childhood dreams into reality. Her grandfather Antonio had a bakery and with him she acquired a love for the profession. Her experience would come a few years later, through two rounds of vocational training that took her far from her hometown and her family, specifically to Granada and IES Hurtado de Mendoza where she first studied bread making and pastry making and then cookery.

Mónica and Professor Martínez de la Ossa, in front of one of the ovens where the students put the finishing touches to their creations. Marilú Báez

On her professional journey she crossed paths with the teacher Juan Carlos Martínez de la Ossa, who was already teaching his craft at IES Jacaranda. He is also the Andalusian coordinator of the 'skill' (the championships, more like the Olympics, for those in professional, vocational training) in the bakery category. Monica was a gold medallist in the Andalusian and then the national championships in 2022. As a gold medallist she then represented Spain in the last EuroSkills, held in the Polish city of Gdansk in September last year. In preparation for these championships, she began professional ties with Professor Martínez de la Ossa. Mónica says that it has been a "very complete" training, which she recommends to anyone interested in craft baking: "it has been like doing a master's degree, a very intense training and with our teacher Juan Carlos always looking for perfection", she said.

Mónica is "proud" of what the Spanish team has achieved. Good results aside, she considers herself satisfied with what she has learned and the experience of living together with young people from other countries who, like them, are passionate about artisan baking: "Experiencing the championship has been the best prize", she said. During the three days of competition, they had to make a wide range of products, and then it was her turn to make a really artistic piece: taking a helping of treated bread dough, she had to take it through the whole process of making the bread into a finished piece, much like a maestro of wine-making takes the grape and turns it into a fine bottle of wine.

In her hometown, Alcalá la Real, she will soon open her own bakery, where she will have free rein to show off her love for this profession, this craft, this trade

Monica encourages young people like herself to take up this age-old profession that has evolved with the times. "Today it is possible to reconcile work and personal life, we don't have the early morning hours of decades ago and it is a profession that allows you to be creative." She also believes that for some years now artisan bread has become much more appreciated by the public. "We are on the right track, it is more expensive, but people are beginning to appreciate things that are well-made, using good flours and leavening agents and dedicating the time necessary to make good loaves of bread and loaves that are one-offs", she said.

Her father is helping her to realise her dream of setting up her own bakery in their home town. The family tradition was broken when her grandfather stopped working. Now she wants to recover those old flavours and smells of bread made with love and dedication, with all the time needed to turn simple products such as flour, water and yeast into a delight for the senses. Dulce Pasión, the name chosen for her future bakery, is a declaration of intent. Together with the castle of La Mota, it will be one more great reason to visit Alcalá la Real.

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