An Educator, Master Baker – Pastry Chef, and Artist – Sculptor
Bert began his apprenticeship in his hometown near Vienna, but was interrupted by the war, and his subsequent draft into the Navy. Only one day before WW II ended, Bert narrowly avoided drowning after his ship sank. He quickly escaped from imprisonment and made his way back to Vienna.
Due to the post-war food food shortages, resuming his apprenticeship had to wait. Bert joined the police force as a temporary officer. In due course he was able to complete his apprenticeship, and supplementing this with extra night school courses obtained his Master’s Degree in Pastry work. His test piece was a sugar replica of the renowned St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.
In 1953, Bert, hearing glowing accounts of Canada, decided to emigrate. The young professional found employment almost immediately at the famed Bon Ton Patisserie in Vancouver, working 56 hours a week for the grand sum of $38.00. He was a satisfied new Canadian. However, being aware of the ups and downs of working for others, as his experience blossomed, he acquired his own bakery, eventually expanding to three outlets.
A major change in his life came when he met Janet and it was decided that he would cut down on his workload and seek a more congenial employment. The next four years were enjoyable ones spent in Hawaii working at a Danish/Japanese bakery, and also in prestigious hotels in Honolulu. During this time Bert gathered three gold and three silver medals at International culinary competitions. He also found time to publish two books on pastry making techniques between 1962 and 1972.
In 1966, Bert joined the B.C.I.T. (known at that time as Burnaby Vocational School) and obtained his teaching certificate and won many more medals, three bronze and five gold at competitions.
In 1971, Bert Phillips was invited to join the gourmet society, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. He was instrumental in creating the Bailliage of Vancouver, and served as its Bailli for 25 years. In 1973, he initiated the Bailliage of Victoria and assisted in the reorganization of the Nanaimo bailliage. In 1999, he opened the Bailliage du Val d’Okanagan in Kelowna. And after 30 years of service, Bert was presented the Star of Excellence by the Bailli Délégué du Canada, Mr. Hayo Maier.
Bert joined the British Columbia Chefs Association in 1967. After years of being an active member he became a Life Member in 1988. During his tenure as an educator, Bert’s pastry expertise was sought out by other countries and their institutions. Bert worked in various capacities in Granada, South Korea, Burma (now Myanmar), Fiji, and Singapore.
As a final observation from a fellow chef, Bert, a patient and dedicated instructor frequently baffled his students after demonstrating a technique which he performed so easily, with seemingly no effort, but when they tried it….need we say more? Of course they did it eventually….and with success!
Why did Bert choose this craft so many years ago? “I was always artistically inclined. I enjoyed drawing and sculpting. In pastry, I have found a medium to express my artistry. And, I did this over the years, all my working life” he concludes. An artist’s life work indeed!