Meet the Finalists for Cacao Barry's L'Art du Chocolatier Challenge

It's coming up soon, and the finalists are preparing for it. Cacao Barry's annual L'Art du Chocolatier Challenge is a competition that requires skill, creativity, and design expertise using the French chocolate. While call-for-entries had 37 submissions nationwide, there are only seven pastry chefs chosen for the chocolate competition. It takes place May 4th through the 6th and will be held at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago, and $15,000 worth of prizes are at stake, divided up between the prizes, and airfare is included for all the finalists.

Okay, so who are the lucky chosen ones? Here are the finalists.

Simon Bregardis, Assistant Pastry Chef, Bellagio Hotel & Resort

Florent Cheveau, Pastry Chef, Jean Phillip
Hichem Lahreche, Executive Pastry Chef, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Wesley Mayton, Complex Pastry Chef, The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel
Russ Thayer, Assistant Pastry Chef, PreGel America
Natalie Collins, Assistant Pastry Chef, The Mansion at the MGM Grand
 Not Pictured:
Yoshikazu Kizu, Pastry Chef, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grand Lakes

If you think the finalists are distinguished, here are the judges from around the world:
  • Ramon Morató (Cacao Barry Technical Advisor & Director of the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Acadamy in Spain)
  • Christophe Morel (Master Chocolatier and Pastry Chef)
  • Dimitri Fayard (Pastry Chef Instructor at The French Pastry School in Chicago)
  • Jonathan Garnier (Chef & Co-owner of La Gilde Culiniare and Mycryo Ambassador)
  • Dominique Ansel (Executive Pastry Chef and Owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery)
  • Sarah Kosikowski (Executive Pastry Chef for Trump International Hotel & Tower)
  • Patrick Fahy (Executive Pastry Chef for The Sofitel)
  • Jerome Landrieu (Cacao Barry Technical Advisor & Director of the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago)

Prizes and Competition Rules

The seven finalists had to successfully complete qualifying preliminary rounds. Everyone in the competition will have six hours to complete their showpiece, chocolate tablet and the chocolate pastries. No items may be prebaked prior for the original chocolate pastry or chocolate tablet and only the Gâteaux de Voyage, spreadable paste, and components of the showpiece are allowed to be prepared before the competition. So, time will be limited and they must work quickly and accurately. Think you can handle it? Here are the final competition requirements - the actual structure of the competition:
  1. Original Gâteaux de Voyage: an original but replicable travel cake brought to the competition completely finished - one for tasting and one for photographing, both presented in final packaging. Must be identical to the one presented in the finalists selection.
  2. Original Spreadable Paste: original spreadable paste brought to the competition completely finished in final packaging - one for tasting and one for photographing. This also must be identical to the one presented in the finalists selection.
  3. Tabletop Showpiece: this will be used to display the photographed gâteaux de voyage and three identical chocolate tablets. No height requirements but the base cannot exceed 30 inches by 30 inches in size. While components can be brought to the competition, it must be assembled on site.
  4. Original Chocolate Pastry: original in nature, three must be produced for photographing and seven for tasting - and all must be identical, weigh between 80 and 100 grams, not exceed one portion, and have a minimum of three different textures. (yikes!)
  5. Chocolate Tablet: three for display, one for photographing, two for tasting. Also, each must weigh between 100 to 180 grams, and have a minimum of two textures in the filling - which does not include the shell or enrobing which is optional.
  6. Recipe Booklet: Each of the seven contestants need to provide eight hard copies (and one digital) recipe booklet with all the recipes and diagrams included - for each component. Of course, these will be judged also on appearance, accurate yields, and organization.
There were 37 who were brave enough to tackle this chocolate competition, and only seven remain for the top three spots (Grand Prize, Second Prize, and Third Prize). For those in the industry who would like to see this in action and will be in Chicago during that time - RSVP to CacaoBarryRSVP @ Freddy Diaz, renowned mixologist, will prepare Boiron puré-based cocktails, and Jonathan Garnier (one of the judges) will prepare hors d'oeuvres using Mycryo - Cacao Barry's powder form cocoa butter.

If you get the chance to go, send me an email or photos and tell me all about it. Would love to hear about it.  :)

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