Food section chief steward Denise Podlich
Food section chief steward Denise Podlich Rob Williams

Baking Fairy God Mother whips up fourth decade at show

FORTY years ago, the Fairy God Mother of baking, Denise Podlich, and her late husband Norm turned their interest to the Ipswich Show.

Norm was an avid gardener, obsessed with gerberas and roses and Denise knew her way around a madeira cake like no one else. It's been six years since Norm passed away but Denise, the Ipswich Show foods category Chief Steward, has committed to continuing her late husband's legacy.

She has returned year after year to make sure avid cooks and up-and-coming bakers have a local platform to display their goods. Together with good friend Rita Walton, who took over from Norm as horticulture Chief Steward, Denise is one of many committed volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scene to keep the show classics alive.

"It's a thing that your curse when something goes wrong but I would never give it up, I love it," Denise said.

"Gerberas and roses were Norm's category, but particularly gerberas. He knew everything about gerberas and he knew how to show them. You don't just cut it and put it in a jar, you have to shape the petals.

Denise has since turned her attention to baking after Norm encouraged her to enter some family favourites into country shows.

"My madeira cake is my speciality. In all the years I've been entering with it, I have never lost, it would be more than 30 years," she said.

"I don't give out the recipe. You have to find a good recipe, there are lots for every cake but you have to find one that is good and just stick to it.

More than 280 cakes, sweets and, preserves and baked goods were entered to this year's show but the record for most entries is set at 378.

"I love the cooking and baking and seeing what other people put in. Especially when we get new entrants. A lot of my entrants were older ladies and they've stopped baking so now I'm getting a lot of new mums coming through who are starting to bake and that's great," Denise said.

"It's nice to be able to give them hints and tips and they've come back the next year and taken your advice.

Beside the cakes, Denise's favourite part of any regional show is something her father taught her.

"Going back to my father's era, I love the wood chopping. My dad was an axeman and I can remember being dragged to the show as a little girl and I hated it then but as I grew older, I came to love it," she said.