getting fresh: Setting our own standardsI suppose that having the occasion to sample and then judge chocolates from some new as well as established chocolatiers can be viewed as a task that only a chosen few have been graced with.
To do so twice, would seem a luxury that few are accorded.
Amazingly, such an opportunity did befall me. Of course, as editor-in-chief of Candy Industry for the past 10 years, you would think that the act of sampling and tasting chocolate should be a daily occurrence. Let’s just say it has its cycles, with seasonal offerings and show occasions providing me with more theobroma tastings, and summer - for obvious reasons - providing fewer chances.
In the past, Candy Industry also has organized a chocolate hazelnut contest, which required chocolatiers to concoct a praline and/or truffle using chocolate from a specific supplier and hazelnuts. During that event, I acted as a judge alongside several other experts, ranging from a culinary chef to a Chicago newspaper food critic.
Several years ago, I also was asked to judge chocolates at a Next Generation chocolatier event as well as a Chicago Luxury Chocolate Salon, which was organized by Taste TV.
It was my association with Taste TV that connected me to the two most recent judging opportunities, the Las Vegas and Chicago Luxury Chocolate Salon tasting events.
I didn’t really know how the judging would be handled until I received an e-mail from the organizers. First, in asking whether I wanted to be on the judging panel for Chicago, they also inquired whether I would be willing to also double duty for the Las Vegas event.
Thinking “how can one say no to chocolate,” I agreed. What followed was a most pleasant lesson in the depth and breadth of chocolatiers throughout America.
First, I received a large box containing samples from chocolatiers participating in the Las Vegas competition just before the Fourth of July holiday. In gazing at the various samples from 11 chocolatiers, I realized this was going to be a rather daunting task.
Our judging score sheet had various categories that the samples had to be evaluated; this wasn’t going to be a snap process. Aside from reviewing chocolate bars, truffles and pralines that were now scattered across my dining room table, I had to look for best presentation and packaging, best gift set, best ingredient combination, most luxurious chocolate experience, etc.
On the first night of sampling, after tasting the 10th piece of chocolate, and making my appropriate notation on the sheets in front of me, I simply had to stop. My palette, despite cleansing with water -- and wine -- was overloaded.
So I realized that this tasting process would have to continue over several nights in order to give every chocolate piece their due.
What was especially engaging about this judging was the caliber of the samples I was tasting. Rich, wonderful chocolates featuring some amazing ingredient combinations that simply delivered incredible flavor sensations. Bravo, America! You have arrived as a nation that has both talent and skill in artisan chocolates.
Oh yea, then the second box of chocolates came, this one for the Chicago Luxury Chocolate Salon judging. Luckily, several of the chocolatiers that were participating in the Las Vegas competition also were doing so in the Chicago event.
Although I won’t reveal how I voted or for whom, I will simply state that the chocolate renaissance that’s been going on in the United States continues to be in full bloom.
Chocolatiers involved with such companies as Amano Aritsan Chocolate, Jade Chocolaes, Vice, Chocoveda, Coco-luxe, Aphrodite, Alter Eco, Jade, Posh Chocolates, Dolce Bella and Marti Chocolates can take a well-deserved bow.
And that’s just from the Las Vegas competition.
So visit www.luxurychocolatesalon.com to find out the state of chocolate. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well we’re doing here in America.
Chicago's French Pastry School is recognized for facility expansionChicago Mayor Richard M. Daley presided over the inauguration of The French Pastry School’s new teaching kitchen and research facilities in the City Colleges of Chicago District Headquarters on July 12. With the new and expanded facilities, The French Pastry School doubles in size, fulfilling rising demand for specialized instruction in the pastry field. The school’s additional space will accommodate more students for existing and future programs.
“We are so glad that internationally acclaimed chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne established The French Pastry School in Chicago and at the City Colleges of Chicago,” Daley said. “I, like all of you, share a passion for the culinary arts and I’m proud that the school instructs over one thousand students and pastry professionals in hands-on classes each year and offers three programs.”
Also present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were the founders and deans of The French Pastry School, Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F.; the faculty and staff of The French Pastry School; and the Chancellor of City Colleges, Cheryl Hyman.
“This is one of the best programs at City Colleges of Chicago,” Hyman said, “They have an 80% job placement rate; I think that’s phenomenal. Their program is one that we can mirror throughout the entire district.”
Immediately following the ribbon-cutting ceremony was a reception celebrating the upcoming edition of Cap’Recette, an international culinary periodical that focuses on high-profile chefs of a particular city. For the first time, Chicago has been selected to represent the United States in Cap’Recette, which is published twice a year by Cap’Fruit, a French company that provides high-quality fruit purées to chefs all over the world.
Daley delivered a message of congratulations on the selection, saying “As you all know, Chicago is home to a great number of innovative chefs, restaurateurs and food producers who provide a palette of extraordinary tastes. They are true artists who have helped enhance our city’s reputation in the food and wine industry, and as a result, have brought thousands of hungry visitors here. I want to thank Cap’Fruit, the publishers of Cap’Recette magazine, for selecting Chicago to represent the United States in its upcoming issue.”
Contributors to the Chicago edition, which will be published later this month, include Chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., joined by some of the best chefs in the city. They include Chef Carrie Nahabedian, co-owner of NAHA, James Beard award winner and first woman inducted into the Chefs Hall of Fame, along with Pastry Chef Craig Harzewski; Executive Chef Kai Lermen of the Peninsula, along with Executive Pastry Chef Céline Plano; Chef Dimitri Fayard, owner of Vanille Pâtisserie, Pastry World Champion 2008; Executive Chef Dominique Tougne of Bistro 110; Executive Chef Sotero Gallegos of La Sardine, along with Chef de Cuisine Scott Jambrosek; Pastry Chef Frédéric Moreau of the Park Hyatt; Chef Della Gossett, Pastry Chef Instructor at The French Pastry School and former Pastry Chef of Charlie Trotter’s; and Chef Jean Joho, Chef/Owner of Everest Room.
Cap’Recette is published in four languages and distributed worldwide to all the major leaders of the hospitality business. The reception on Monday was held to honor this upcoming edition, in which participating chefs showcase their recipes and Chicago establishments. Past celebrations have been held in Paris, France, Gijon, Spain, London and England. Next, the torch will be passed to Hong Kong and Alvin Leung, celebrity chef and owner of Bo Innovation.
For more information about The French Pastry School, visit www.frenchpastryschool.com.
Lindt, Federer make perfect matchPremium Swiss chocolatier Lindt and Roger Federer, Lindt’s newly appointed Global Brand Ambassador, have teamed up to launch “The Perfect Match” sweepstakes -- an online game offering consumers the chance to win a variety of premium chocolate prizes and the opportunity to meet the Swiss tennis star.
Consumers are invited to visit www.lindt.com to participate in “The Perfect Match” sweepstakes, a game matching different flavors of Lindt’s iconic, smooth-melting Lindor Truffles. Now through Sept. 12, visitors can enter daily to win prizes such as Lindt Chocolate gift cards ($25-$100 in value), gift baskets containing premium Lindt products, Lindor Truffle gift towers and Nike duffle bags autographed by Federer and filled with Lindor Truffles.
Five lucky players will receive a three-day trip for two to New York this summer, where they can watch Federer in action as he plays in one of the biggest tennis events of the year: the U.S. Open. In addition, all players will be entered in the grand-prize sweepstakes for a chance to win a three-day trip for two to Zurich, Switzerland, to visit Lindt’s global headquarters. During the trip, the winner will attend a meet-and-greet with Federer and take a personalized tour of the historic Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate plant.
“The values Federer and Lindt share -- Swiss, premium, passion, quality -- makes our partnership a ‘perfect match,’” says Thomas Linemayr, chief executive officer and president of Lindt USA. “Our sweepstakes is a great way for consumers to get a personal taste of our Swiss heritage, and experience the enjoyment of our premium chocolate and tennis-related prizes.”
The sweepstakes is being promoted at point-of-sale with various stickers on Lindor Truffle bags, headers on Lindor and Excellence shippers, and tear pads.
For more information about Lindt, visit www.lindt.com, check out its newly launched Facebook page www.facebook.com/LindtChocolate, or find the company on Twitter www.twitter.com/lindt_chocolate.
Barry Callebaut introduces ACTICOAIn response to demand for functional food by health-conscious Americans, cocoa and chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut rolled out its ACTICOA chocolate products for the North American market at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago this week.
Manufactured using a special process to preserve the maximum level of cocoa flavanols that occur naturally in the cocoa bean, ACTICOA chocolate products provide guaranteed levels of flavanols, which have been linked to several important health benefits for the body.
“Today’s consumers are increasingly seeking out healthier options, so Barry Callebaut has spent years working to reinvent chocolate through innovative research and development initiatives designed to harness the healthy components of cocoa and preserve them in new chocolate products,” says Hans Vriens, chief innovation officer at Barry Callebaut. “With ACTICOA, North American consumers will be able to enjoy great-tasting chocolate that has been scientifically proven to have a wide range of health benefits -- from helping to maintain cardiovascular health to nourishing healthy skin.”
While found in abundance in raw cocoa beans, most cocoa flavanols are destroyed during the conventional chocolate-making process. Barry Callebaut has developed a distinctive process that preserves up to 80% of the flavanol content of raw cocoa.
The ACTICOA manufacturing process starts at the cocoa plantation. Together with cocoa farmers, Barry Callebaut has investigated ways of growing, harvesting and treating the beans in such a way that a maximum amount of cocoa flavanols in the beans is preserved, together with the taste and aroma.
Every step in manufacturing process has been optimized to maintain the flavanols at the natural high level. The end result is a chocolate product that combines excellent taste with the natural cocoa flavanols that offer various health benefits when consumed in a small portion as part of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
ACTICOA chocolate products have been scientifically proven to have numerous health benefits due to their concentration of cocoa flavanols. Regular consumption of the cocoa flavanols found in ACTICOA, Barry Callebaut reports, helps keep you young and fit, helps maintain cardiovascular health and helps maintain skin health.
The flavor of ACTICOA chocolate is authentic and identical to the indulgent, rich and varied flavors that consumers love in traditional chocolate, the company asserts; this is because ACTICOA chocolate is made without additional additives and only preserves what is naturally present in cocoa. Barry Callebaut offers ACTICOA chocolate in dark and milk chocolate varieties.
For more information, visit www.acticoa.com/en/.
David Michael & Co. grows sales forceCaleb Berridge is the newest member of David Michael & Co.’s Sales Training Account Management Program (STAMP). The new associate account manager is a recent graduate of Indiana University.
STAMP, an intensive 12-month training program, covers all aspects of the food and beverage industry. The program also provides a thorough orientation of the David Michael organization, including its products, business philosophy, commitment to quality and the full range of customer service procedures that lead to on-going client satisfaction for the international flavor company.
For more information about David Michael & Co., visit www.dmflavors.com.