By TOM GANNON
THE sweetest competition has hit the region with results for the inaugural Great Gippsland Vanilla Slice Bake Off expected to be announced today.
The competition, run by Gippsland Jersey has a total of 14 bakeries going head-to-head to take out the title of the region’s best Vanilla Slice.
Winners of the competition will receive a $250 Gippsland Jersey product credit and a $250 Vanrooy food equipment voucher.
Competition creator and Gippsland Jersey co-owner Sallie Jones said the competition had gained significant traction since public voting opened last week.
“It’s been awesome, so many people are jumping on this thing, it’s positive for the region and what we hope is that once the restrictions are lifting that we can put Gippsland on the map for Vanilla Slice,” she told The Express.
With many small businesses struggling over the last 18 months due to constant lockdowns, Ms Jones realised there was a need for the spotlight to be shone of local bakeries, who she believes are the “backbone” of rural communities.
“We supply a lot of milk and cream and we were realising through a decrease in orders and having conversations with people on the front line, it’s really, really hard for these people,” she said.
“For (bakers) to have an opportunity for their bakery or their story or their Vanilla Slice to be talked about a little bit, it gives them a pep in their step.”
Ms Jones said the idea for a competition came from her travels around the country.
“I’ve been thinking about a Vanilla Slice competition for years, whenever I go interstate or anything I always take note of the big stickers on bakery windows that say best pies or whatever it is,” she said.
“So we thought let’s have some fun, let’s bring some positive news, let’s bring back a bit of old school town rivalry on whose town has the best Vanilla Slices.”
Vanilla Slice was an obvious go-to for Ms Jones as dairy is at the core of farming in Gippsland.
“Vanilla Slice just screams country towns and Gippsland is Australia’s largest and best dairy region and what goes in Vanilla Slices? Milk and cream,” she said.
“Gippsland has never had a Vanilla Slice competition and it’s been really interesting to see the public vote and reading through comments on Facebook and What’s on in Gippsland with where people think the best vanilla slice is located.”
So what makes a winning Vanilla Slice? Ms Jones said it’s all about the passion which goes into making them.
“It’s the bakeries that don’t use the premixes, there are a lot of short cuts in bakeries and it’s the bakers that put in the extra effort to make their custard from scratch using really good ingredients are the ones that are going to have the light shine on them,” she said.
Traralgon Bakery owner Rex Sheehan, a pioneer of Vanilla Slices in Gippsland celebrated 40 years in the bakery business last week, Mr Sheehan said he is excited to put his famous Vanilla Slice in the public eye.
“I thought I need to get it out there, I’ve been doing it for 40 years and I’m the old school double tradie master baker, but I’ve never really put it out there,” he said.
Mr Sheeran shared his thoughts on the key to a great Vanilla Slice.
“It’s the ingredients, the Jersey milk and cream we use are extra fatty so I’m hoping that will be one up my sleeve and get me over the line,” he said.
Ms Jones said she hopes the competition will be a reoccurring, annual event. When announced, results can be found on the Gippsland Jersey Facebook page.