Yesterday, I received a “screener” copy of the DVD, “Kings of Pastry,” a documentary that focuses on Jacquy Pfeiffer’s quest to capture the Meillerus Ouvriers de France (MOF), that country’s most prestigious award for food professionals.
The timing couldn’t have been better since this morning I went to visit Cacao Barry L’art du Chocalatier Challenge competition, which was being sponsored by Barry Callebaut and held at its Chocolate Academy right here in Chicago.
Given that this is the playoffs weekend for the National Football League, I’d say this combination of events parallels watching back-to-back conference championship games.
But let me return back to the “Kings of Pastry,” which both my wife and I watched last evening. The documentary follows Pfeiffer’s attempt to garner the blue-white-and-red collar that only MOFs can wear. Pfeiffer, who together with his MOF colleague, Sebastien Canone is a co-founder of the French Pastry School here in Chicago, returns back to his childhood home of Alsace, France, to practice for the three-day competition held in Lyons.
Anyone’s who’s ever aspired to be a master pastry chef or chocolatier should see this film. Directors D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, capture Pfeiifer’s commitment to his art as well as his connection to family.
The film also details the extraordinary attention to detail that the MOF competition demands from its participants as well as the extraordinarily high standards of craftsmanship, innovation and stamina necessary to actually even make the finals. Under the watchful eyes of his coaches, which included Canone, Pfeiffer fine tunes a game plan that basically was three years in the making.
The preparations leading up to the MOF final, nevertheless, don’t quite prepare anyone for what’s the sweets equivalent of the IronMan competition. Only the best and bravest need show up. I won’t give away the ending, but strongly urge everyone in the sweets business to give this real-life snapshot of pressure-cooker pastry making a gander. But if you’re watching this with someone special, I suggest you also have some sweets on hand, say macaroons, to add a 3-D relevancy to the viewing.
Stirred by the “Kings of Pastry,” I eagerly dashed off this morning for a short visit to the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy to catch their second day of the L’art du Chocolatier Competition.
To my pleasant surprise, I saw both Pfeiffer and Canone there, both having been asked to judge the professional segment of the chocolate competition. We chatted briefly about the current contest as well as the recent expansion at the French Pastry School. Both of these masters were in their element at the Academy, commenting on the high skill level prevalent amongst the finalists.Mind you, this isn’t the MOF, but definitely a step in the right direction.
The Cacao Barry L’art du Chocolatier Challenge was established by Barry Callebaut North America to encourage both students and professionals to demonstrate their skills and innovation.Yesterday, six student finalist from a field of 50 competed in creating a plated dessert that involved using Cacao Barry ingredient. Sean Pera from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York won the top prize. Today, Abigail Dahan from Park Hyatt Chicago took home the crown.
Congrats to those and all the finalists that competed. Look for more coverage on our web site and in the magazine. Now, let’s see if I can make it through all this snow in Boston.