Interview with Bianca Tia Mesuria – Winner of Le Cordon Bleu Julia Child Scholarship
In September 2019 renowned culinary institute, Le Cordon Bleu London announced the winner of their coveted Julia Child Scholarship. Bianca Tia Mesuria from Hackney in London went home with the title after beating off immense competition for the prize. Our co-founder Mecca Ibrahim caught up with her to find out more about the competition, meeting baking legend Mary Berry and appearing on BBC Saturday Kitchen Live.
How did you get into food in the first place?
Food has been part of my DNA. I was around a lot of food when growing up, my family are great cooks. I taught myself how to bake while I was living with my grandfather. I was using a very old oven and there were a number of initial disasters, but somehow I had the will to persevere and continue baking. Through trial and error I corrected all my mistakes. I experimented a lot & baked for friends and family and made everyone in my sight a bit of a guinea pig. I also did a lot of charity bakes and made many cupcakes for charity fundraising.
What made you decide to apply for Le Cordon Bleu Julia Child Scholarship and can you tell us a little about the application process?
At the time I applied I had been made redundant I saw Le Cordon Bleu promoting the Julia Child scholarship on Instagram and applied on a whim in the middle of a number of job applications. I had to submit my initial answers to four questions and thought – yes I can do that. After the online application, I got invited for an interview in person for the semi finals. I was interviewed by four judges, there was a sensory exam, a test about Le Cordon Bleu and a video submission too. I didn’t know how much I wanted it until I got there on the day, as I was quite anxious about not getting through. A few weeks later I got invited back for the finals.
On the day of the finals you get dressed in your chef whites, you’re being filmed by the BBC. We then had a demonstration by Chef Julie Walsh and by Lois Farmer, the previous winner of the first scholarship. This was all about de-constructing desserts. After that you had a short while to prep and plan what you were going to put on your plate. Then we went into the kitchen to do our magic.
Being in an unfamiliar kitchen will throw you. I wasn’t used to electric hobs so this definitely threw me when it came to making caramel. Then at the last minute when I was ready to give my plate to the judges, the pen which I had been doing notes with fell into my quenelle. But at the end it was all OK. You are then asked to talk about your dishes, your inspirations, the flavour combinations and then the judges go away and judge your plates.
What was it like meeting Mary Berry?
She is lovely, such a sweet lady. When she announced my name as the winner. I just burst into tears. I remember her wiping away my tears which was such a lovely moment.
We saw you on BBC Saturday Kitchen Live too – what was that experience like?
It was a lovely experience to do my first live TV interview. I only knew about it the day before, so had less than 12 hours, but felt so blessed on that day. It was great to be asked to do something like that.
What are your plans for the future now?
One thing that Le Cordon Bleu ask, is what would your ideal business be and what would be unique about it? For the last five and half years I was working in community development and CSR in construction. I didn’t want to let this experience to go to nothing, so using my community experience, I plan to set up a social enterprise and a community tea room. I want my own restaurant, but I want part of it to teach people who may not have gone down a route of formal education and I want it to help give people a sense of purpose.
Who are some of your inspirations in the food world?
I’ve always loved Jamie Oliver. He’s a big campaigner and you can tell the passion he has for chefs. I’d also love to be a pioneer chef like Dominique Ansel one day.
You’re on a desert island and you have one ingredient you can’t live without. Plus if there was one dish type you could live on forever what would that be?
The ingredient would be hot sauce or garlic, I couldn’t live without them. I’m also a big rice fan so the dish type would be rice and peas.
What one piece of advice would you like to give someone in your position?
Whenever I have moved careers I have always rushed to get another a job. Because I felt the need to do something. But after my redundancy I took a step back and did what I wanted to do rather than what society or other people felt I should be doing. So I enjoyed the time I had off after my redundancy. I would say to myself be patient. Enjoy the space you are in. That little bit of respite put patience in a new perspective for me.
Your passion will ultimately come through and you need to believe that you have done the best you can do. There’s no point in comparing yourself to others. Your personality should see you through.
You can follow Bianca Tia on Instagram at @misssuricupcakes_ and we wish her all the best for her future career and her scholarship at Le Cordon Bleu which starts in January 2020.
For more information visit Le Cordon Bleu Julia Child Scholarship website.
You might also like our interview with Julie Walsh Head Patisserie Chef at Le Cordon Bleu, and podcast with Le Cordon Bleu alumni Luciana Berry . There’s also inspiration from our interview with, Olivia Burt, the first woman to reach the Roux Scholarship finals in four years.