getting fresh: Next Generation Chocolatiers arriving in style, panacheI’m sure a few of you were able to attend the Chocolate Show in New York City last week, which in addition to its fabulous opening night Chocolate Fashion show, featured a broad range of activities as well as leading chocolate manufacturers from all over the world.
This year, Barry Callebaut, together with the French Culinary Institute in New York City, hosted the competition for the American representative that will compete in the World Chocolate Masters showdown in Paris next year.
Lionel Clement, the chef chocolatier at the Wynn Hotel, walked away with the U.S. National Chocolate Master title after putting together an impressive chocolate sculpture displaying the silhouette of a woman’s face, accompanied by flowing hair and an elaborate hat, all of which symbolized the “Haut Couture” theme deliciously.
As a result, Clement will be the one wearing the Stars and Stripes patch on his whites and traveling to Paris for the 2009 World Chocolate Masters competition that will take place Oct. 14-16 at the Salon du Chocolat Professionnel.
Clement, who completed the Les Sorbets school in France and spent five years working at Lenotre in Paris, obviously represents the pinnacle of chocolate artistry. We’ll be keeping our eyes on Clement, wishing him the same success in Paris as in New York, while he works his magic alongside 19 other world-class chocolatiers.
At the same time, there was another competition -- held just before the opening of the Chocolate Show -- that I believe warrants our attention, as well.
The Next Generation Chocolatier Competition, which is managed by Vreeland & Associates and held every two years, focuses on up-and-coming U.S.-based chocolatiers who use artisan methods in their chocolate making.
This year’s theme, “Salty Sweets,” accented the growing popularity of adding salt to extend the flavor and texture of chocolate confections. Awards are given for the Best Bar, the Best Bonbon, Rising Star (student or chocolatier in the business less than five years or under 30 years of age) and People’s Choice (chocolatier selected by attendees at the awards reception after tasting samples).
Although I wasn’t able to attend the Next Generation Chocolatier Competition Awards ceremony, host Curtis Vreeland provided me with not only a list of those who garnered the awards -- as well as a description of their entries -- but also a compilation of judges’ comments.
Head judge Clay Gordon, author and chocolate connoisseur, summed up the competition best by saying he was personally impressed “by the seriousness with which the chocolatiers paid attention to the theme,” but also “by the playfulness of many of the flavor combinations and forms.”
Certainly, the descriptions of the winning entries reinforce that observation. For example, Gail Ambrosius of Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier in Madison, Wis., took Best Bar honors with her 3 Hot Nuts Bar. This beauty features toasted pine nuts, pepitas and pistachios tossed with chipotle powder, cayenne and smoked paprika, then sprinkled on a wafer thin bar of 70% dark Columbian chocolate and finished with Chile Verde salt.
As Gordon explained, “Gail Ambrosius' 3 Hot Nuts Bar did well, in part, because of its unusual presentation for a bar -- a sort of modern mendiant [Classic French bark containing dried fruits and nuts.]. The judges really liked its size and thinness, very unusual for a bar presentation. The judges also felt that the balance of textures between the chocolate and the nuts was complemented by the combination of chili heat accented by the salt. I think that this piece has the potential to influence other chocolatiers' perceptions of what a chocolate 'bar' is.”
The Best Bonbon title went to Stephanie Marcon of Coco-Luxe Confections in San Francisco for her Molasses Shoo-Fly Caramel, a black strap molasses-based caramel blended with spices, covered in Venezuelan dark chocolate and accented with Salish Northwest Alderwood smoked sea salt.
As Gordon noted in his comments, this was a “love it/hate it” entry for the judging panel. Nevertheless, the bonbon has the potential “to develop a cult-like following,” which always is a good thing.
Bill Brown of William Dean Chocolates in Largo, Florida won the People’s Choice Awards with his Mexican Mango piece, which replicates the Mexican custom of “eating fresh fruit and squeezing fresh lime juice on it and then sprinkling on salt and chili powder,” the chocolatier explained. The mango bonbon uses Valrhona Caraibe 66% for enrobing, Valrhona Jivara Lactee milk chocolate for the ganache, Boiron mange fruit puree and Saltworks’ Green Chile Fusion salt.
The Rising Star award went to Sara Hart of Alma Chocolate in Portland, whose Salty Nutty Toffee Bar and Satay Peanut Butter Cup inspired the panel to acknowledge her efforts.
As Gordon pointed out, “The judges felt that the Satay piece has a lot of promise in its mix of ginger/lime/peanut/spice but felt that the balance between the center and the shell still needed some work. The judges also liked the taste and the texture of the toffee with the chocolate and nuts and felt that it was one of the more interesting combinations of toffee, chocolate and nuts that they'd ever tasted.”
Honorable Mentions were presented to Joanne Hansen of Bon Bon Bakery & Chocolates in San Diego and Maria Valente of Chocolations in Mamaroneck, N.Y. for their respective Mayan bonbon and Dark Chocolate, Dried Blueberry and Salty Almond bar entries.
Just to give you an idea of how creative these chocolatiers can be, Joanne Hansen used sweet corn in her bonbon. As Gordon himself remarked, the judges didn’t really know what to expect when they heard sweet corn was an ingredient.
But as the head judge affirmed, “While a traditional element of Mayan cacao-based beverages, corn is not a common ingredient in modern confections. The overall balance between the mould, the decoration, the filling, and the way the salt enhanced the other flavors was what delighted the judges. It's not often the case that non-traditional ingredients and flavors come together in a piece that could become a standard, but this may be one of those pieces.”
And that’s what I especially like about the Next Generation Chocolatier competition. With these young chocolatiers to be, the sky’s the limit. And more often than not it works. Consider the list of winners from 2006, and you’ll realize that these artisans have already made names for themselves: Michael Krug and L. Burdick of L.A. Burdick, Andrew Shotts of Garrison Confections, Christopher Elbow of Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolates, Kee Ling Tong of Kee's Chocolates, and Kristy Choo of Jin Patisserie.
So congrats to the winners and their creative concoctions. Sweet corn and chocolate … who would have thought!
For more information, visit www.vreelandassociates.com.
Butlers Chocolates wins awardsDublin-based Butlers Chocolates, founded in 1932, has announced that two of its chocolate bars won gold and silver medals at the Blas na hÉireann Awards, National Irish Food Awards 2008. In the chocolate category, the company’s 100 gm. Organic 70% Dark Chocolate Bar with Mint Pieces took the gold, while its 100 gm. Organic 70% Dark Chocolate Bar with Ginger Pieces achieved the silver-medal status.
Butlers Chocolates’ organic bars are available in the company’s 14 chocolate cafés and select retail outlets, as well as online at www.butlerschocolates.com. Each bar has a suggested retail price of €2.95.
Cargill opens cocoa facility in GhanaWith two cocoa facilities already located in West Africa (in Côte d’Ivoire and near Abidjan), Cargill opened its third operation in the area this month. The company invested $100 million in the new cocoa processing facility, located in Tema, Ghana. By using the latest technology, the new plant can transform 65,000 tons of cocoa beans into cocoa liquor, butter and powders annually, according to Cargill. In turn, the company will extend its range of cocoa powders in West Africa, supplying its customers with new colors and flavors.
The opening ceremony in Tema was officiated over by the president of the Republic of Ghana, John A. Kufuor, and chairman and CEO of Cargill, Greg Page.
“This cocoa facility already has brought employment to almost a thousand construction workers; creates new opportunities for Ghanaian cocoa farmers; provides full time employment and training for about 200 employees in the plant, indirect employment for hundreds more, and supports Ghana’s growing economy,” Page says.
For more information, visit www.cargill.com.
Fortitech launches global initiativeSchenectady, N.Y.-based Fortitech, which produces custom nutrient premixes, has launched a World Initiative for Nutrition (WIN) to help the estimated two billion people who suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. With on-demand support from Fortitech's six facilities worldwide, WIN will work with governmental and non-governmental organizations, ingredient suppliers, local food mills and manufacturers to develop and deliver tailored nutritional solutions that are practical, effective and quality assured.
Spearheading this new initiative as Director of WIN is Françoise Chomé, who comes from the GAIN Foundation (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition). There, she was responsible for launching and maintaining multiple food fortification programs, reaching more than 280 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
"The message we want to convey through WIN is that nutrition is not the problem, it is the solution,” Chomé says. "Food fortification not only impacts the health of the individual, but the health and economic wellbeing of the nations and communities to which they belong.”
Since the company's founding, Fortitech has been passionately involved with numerous fortification programs addressing micronutrient malnutrition. WIN is expanding Fortitech's mission to partner with the many groups and organizations that are already dedicated to global nutrition issues. In the past, the company has provided technical expertise to several national fortification programs in Asia and in Africa, and to NGOs (non-governmental organizations) working around the world to formulate customized premixes to fortify foods commonly consumed in those regions. Fortitech also supplies the World Food Programme with high quality micronutrient premixes for the fortified cereal-based food distributed through their programs.
For additional information about WIN, visit www.fortitech.com/win.
Sweet 'N Low goes contemporaryCommack, New York-based Healthy Food Brands, LLC has announced that it is launching a completely new, sleek, contemporary look for its Sweet ‘N Low Sugar Free Hard Candies, set to hit the marketplace in January 2009.
The new package features an attractive metallic outer peg beg with brilliant graphics for shelf-impact. The individual candies are wrapped in colorful metallic foils for candy dish appeal.
“The package design hadn’t been changed since 2001, so it needed a renewal,” says James Vasquez, director of marketing for Healthy Food Brands, LLC.
In addition to new packaging, the Sweet ‘N Low product flavors have been enhanced for its International Coffee, Butterscotch, Peppermint and Fruit flavors, and two new varieties have been unveiled: Pomegranate Punch and Blueberry-Acai Medley. All flavors now are infused with antioxidant vitamins.
For more information, visit www.hfbusa.com.