All things Chocolate!

with Valrhona!



All Things Chocolate!

Article by: Molly Adams

A few weeks ago I had the honor of joining Valrhona Chocolate to be part of their Chocolate Chefs Competition (C3) where 6 pastry chefs from North America competed to showcase their skills in all things chocolate.  The event took place at Brooklyn Expo Center as part of the 14th annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress.

This competition serves as a way for leaders in the industry to come together and showcase skills, new techniques and discuss trends in the chocolate and pastry world.  In order to be eligible for the competition, pastry chefs from all over North America over the age of 21 must submit a recipe for both a petit four and a plated dessert. The entries (around 34 in total) are reviewed by a committee made up of members of l’Ecole Valrhona and StarChefs before 6 finalists are selected.  The six finalists are then invited to the Valrhona C3 North American Final for a chance to win a grand prize of $5000 and the opportunity to compete in the International final in Singapore in March of 2020. Prizes were also awarded to the runner-up, as well as a press jury selection.

This year the lineup of competing chefs included Chef Desarae Bittle of The Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia, Chef Kevin Clemenceau of And Sons in LA, Chef Takunori Hirayama of Duo Patisserie in Ontario, CA, Chef Eunji Lee of Jungsik in New York, Chef Weilu Wang of Eleven Madison Park in New York and Chef Jim Hutchinson of Winvian Farm in Connecticut. During the competition each of the pastry chefs must make both a petit four and a plated dessert to present to the panel of judges, and they only have 5 hours to do so!  Everything must be made from scratch on site and while working, the competitors were judged by two work judges, Chef Lincoln Carson and Chef Kamel Guechida. These working judges watch to make to see how organized the chefs are, how much food they waste, how clean their stations are as well making sure they adhere to the timeline of the competition. 

There was also a panel of six tasting judges, all of esteemed backgrounds.  This panel judged the desserts based on the originality of the recipes, taste, aesthetics and plating, the different textures used and the respect of the theme of the competition. This year the chocolate showcased was the Valrhona BAHIBÉ 46%. BAHIBÉ has a very high cocoa content which adds a deep cocoa flavor to the creamy milk chocolate base. It’s the perfect balance between milk and dark chocolate and it’s nutty essence and slight acidity makes it a natural pairing for both nuts and fresh fruits.  The cocoa used to make this couverture hails from the Dominican Republic and gets its name from the Islands’ famous cactus flower, the “Rosa de Bayahibe”.

Members of the tasting jury included the “Picasso of Pastry” himself, Executive Pastry Chef Pierre Hermé who’s namesake pastry shop (Maison Pierre Hermé) has become a top dessert destination all over the world. Hermé was also joined by Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fields who won the 2019 James Beard Foundation award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” for her work in her New Orleans restaurant, Willa Jean. From the north, Executive Pastry Chef Patrice Demers joined the panel from his home base of Montreal where he owns his own pasty shop, Patrice Pâtissier. Executive Pastry Chef Ghaya Oliveira of DANIEL also served as a tasting judge, bringing over 20 years of experience to the table.  Oliveira also won the James Beard Foundation award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2017. Representing the West Coast was Executive Pastry Chef Belinda Leong of the amazing b.Patisserie. Last but certainly not least was Executive Pastry Chef Mina Pizarro Pastry Chef at L'Appart in NYC, who won the North American Selection for the Valrhona C3 in 2017!

 As a member of the Press Jury I had a very difficult job of tasting each of the finalists petit four and plated dessert and judging them on the same criteria as the tasting judges.  It was one of the best Mondays I’ve had at work in a long time! Each dish was so well-executed, inspiring and most of all, delicious! I absolutely loved the flavor of the BAHIBÉ 46% and enjoyed seeing it used in so many different applications including plays on form, texture and shape. Although it was a very tight race, the winner was Chef Kevin Clemenceau who made a petit four featuring a cocoa streusel, crunchy praline and cocoa nibs, a BAHIBÉ 46% chantilly, a BAHIBÉ 46% salted caramel and an edible gold leaf decor. Aka, one very perfect bite!  For his plated dessert, Clemenceau defied gravity with his stacked dessert including Vanilla-tonka crème Anglaise, cocoa streusel, BAHIBÉ 46% crémeux, BAHIBÉ 46% Bavaroise mousse, BAHIBÉ 46% mirror glaze, yuzu sauce, BAHIBÉ 46% chocolate decor, Rocher glaze, and a hazelnut cocoa nib nougatine.

The runner up was Chef Eunji Lee and the winner of the press prize was Chef Jim Hutchison. 

I’m so grateful to have been part of such an inspiring competition and will certainly apply some of these amazing techniques and flavor combination in some of my own baking and chocolate making. Big thanks to our friends as Valrhona for including The Feedfeed on such a special day.  We’ll be looking forward to following along the final competition in March! 

Craving chocolate now?  Great!  Join us December 7th, 2019 at The Feedfeed & Valrhona Charity Holiday Bake Sale.  Purchase your ticket and get all of the details here