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Alumni of the month – April 2015

Dee Monteleone
National Bakery School, 2010

Robert Humphreys

The Dee Light Bakery, founded by National Bakery School graduate Dee Monteleone, scooped top honours at the 2015 Farm Shop & Deli Show Awards and was recently named the Best Bakery in Balham and Tooting voted by their customers. The bakery is the realisation of a childhood dream for Dee who has been making cakes professionally for almost two decades.

As a young girl growing up in Sydney, Australia, Dee spent many happy hours baking with her mother and got her first job in a bakery at the age of 14. From that moment, she knew one day she would run her own bakery. When she finished her studies, she came to London with big ideas: “I did a cake decorating course at a local community centre and I was recommended to apply for The National Bakery School to further my studies.”

She soon enrolled on the Creative Technology programme, part of the National Bakery School syllabus, which combined both theoretical and practical approaches to the design of cakes: “One of my tutors was an absolute fountain of knowledge and an amazingly patient teacher who took time for everyone regardless of capability, culture, status or experience.”

The creativity and compassion showed by her academics liberated Dee to realise her potential as she developed critical bakery skills from food safety packaging to colour and design: “I now look twice before throwing any ingredients away to see if they can be used as a new texture. Working with shapes to produce amazing colour designs is also a skill I will always treasure. I learnt so many new skills throughout my time at LSBU that I use in my baking and decorating career.” One of those skills includes the passing of knowledge she gained from the National Bakery School to up-and-coming bakers as she also teaches her own classes in the back of the Dee Light Bakery, including basic cupcake to fairy magic modelling lessons.

The passion she demonstrates when running her classes and managing the open-plan bakery was recognised by customers and critics alike, as the recent Baker of the Year and Best Baker in Balham and Tooting awards can attest: “To be rewarded with an actual award by people who appreciate your time, passion, hard work and effort gives me the most amazing feeling of pride! We also had BBC’s food and drink presenter Nigel Barden as our secret shopper.”

Whilst Dee sometimes pinches herself that her journey from Sydney has brought her to the historical streets London, she still has ambitious plans for Dee Light Bakery: “I absolutely love living in London, it has such history and you can find every type of traditional and modern food here. I’ve started employing more staff so I have more time to concentrate on the opening of our second site. In fact I have employed a lot of students from the National Bakery School as I know first-hand what they have studied and how great the tutors are!”

Find out more about the award-winning Dee Light Bakery

Founded in 1894, The National Bakery School is the oldest in the world with an international reputation for courses designed in consultation with leading heads of industry. The school is often invited to make cakes with a national profile such as for Queen Elizabeth II's wedding and official Millennium celebrations.