chocolate masters ruth hinks
Ruth Hinks wins the UK Chocolate Masters competition during the Speciality and Fine Foods Fair. Picture originally appeared on the Fair's Twitter feed. 

Ruth Hinks was just 13 years old when she first started making and selling handmade chocolates from her father’s dental practice in South Africa in 1985.

Nearly three decades later, her hard work has paid off. This week the owner of Cocoa Black won the UK Chocolate Masters competition held during the Speciality and Fine Food Fair at Olympia, London.

As reported in Big Hospitality, Hinks was the first woman to win the title  — but it wasn’t her first title by any means.

According to information on the Cocoa Black website, she was named Australian Pastry Chef of the Year in 1994. She then was invited to join the Australian Culinary Team and went on to win medals at the 2000 and 2004 Culinary Olympics in Germany.  

Before launching Cocoa Black, Ruth held head pastry chef positions at numerous 5-star hotels, including the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh.

Then, in 2003 Ruth met her future husband David, who was working with KPMG on temporary assignment in Sydney. They married in 2005 and returned to Peebles in the UK with their sights set on launching a business.  With their diverse but complimentary backgrounds, Cocoa Black was all but inevitable, the website reads.

Hinks beat out three other competitors for the UK Chocolate Masters title, including: Alistair Birt, head chocolatier for William Curley; Conor McAlonan, owner of Liberty Boy Confections in Cork, Ireland; and Richie Heppell, head chef at Royal Air Force Officers Mess, RAF Leuchars.

The theme of the three-day competition was 'The Architecture of Taste' and it had to be reflected in all of the creations. Contestants were required to create a large chocolate showpiece, a chocolate-layered cake, a moulded praline/moulded bonbon and a gastronomic chocolate dessert. For the last assignment, each contestant had to revisit a classic recipe that reflected his or her country’s tradition, which for the UK is a chocolate log.

Hinks will now go on to compete in the World Chocolate Masters in 2013 against other chocolatiers from around the globe, each representing his or her own county.