A Chocolate Competition
By Andreas Schwarzer
By Andreas Schwarzer
Andreas Schwarzer shares the details of the Lindt chocolate competition.
Several chocolate competitions take place all over the world every year. Some of them cater to hobbyists while others cater to professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Every two years, the challenge arises at SAIT for students and professionals to create the most intriguing chocolate pieces imaginable using Lindt chocolate.
Picture at Left: This concoction by SAIT’s Krissy Dumas won first place in the Professional Confectionary category.
Producing chocolate showpieces and other artistic creations is a skill that translates well into the retail world. Showpieces (especially those made of chocolate) are well-received by the public and, when placed in a show window, are a great way of attracting attention to your business.
Chocolate has been an intriguing and exiting enjoyable delight for thousands of years. It was revered by the Aztecs who believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and also that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities. It wasn’t until the 1800s that solid eating chocolate was developed. Imagine just drinking chocolate for so many years before actually eating it. Today, we use chocolate to celebrate any and every occasion. And every time we receive a chocolate from someone it feels like a special treat. Consuming chocolate is one obsession, and creating artistic sculptures and showpieces belongs to a total different category in the obsession department.
Now the question is, how do we prepare for such an event? A lot of planning and organizing is required for setting up such an occasion. First of all we need sponsors: companies and individuals who are actually willing to donate a certain amount of cash. These days, cash prizes seem to be the best incentive for individual professionals and students to become involved in such a competition, since such extra effort is required of participants for an event of this magnitude. This event is quite tempting for individuals with the desire to display their talents and the prospect of winning generous cash prizes based on their talent and creativity. Participants can enter three professional categories and one student (and novices) category.
Again this year, Lindt & Sprungli was the industry sponsor who donated a total of $5000 in cash towards the prizes (thank you!). We had three judges for the competition: Luzia Zemp from the Vancouver Community College Baking and Pastry Arts Department; Guy Vaugeois of Le Chocolatier in Canmore, Alberta; and Ralph Buchmüller, of Les Truffes, in Calgary.
Participation in culinary competitions has declined somewhat in recent years. It is tough to find committed people to compete. What can we do to make sure that these kinds of events don’t die out? Well, with the Lindt chocolate competition we focus on the creativity of individual entries and take into consideration the effort people make to prepare for a competition such as this, which sometimes involves travelling from a distance. Other factors that can have an impact on participation is the level of support an individual gets from their employer, or the industry.
I was very pleased that a lot of our current students who were competing in the professional categories actually won first prizes. I think part of the reason for their success is the college’s emphasis not on enormous showpieces, but rather on detail and cleanliness. Simplicity, skill and attention to detail were the key elements to our students’ success.
The bigger the better is not necessarily the rule of thumb for such a competition. Some very stunning showpieces created by professionals unfortunately did not make it in one piece to the display tables. It was quite heartbreaking to see the amount of time and effort that went into such creations. The successful showpieces were smaller with much attention to detail. The quality of the tempering process was also evident. My recommendation to anyone entering a competition is to keep it simple, clean and original.
The younger judges tend to like seeing something skillful, creative, and colourful.
All in all, the entire event was an enjoyable one for the students, professionals, organizers, and visitors who shared one common interest: a passion for chocolate and creativity.
Andreas Schwarzer is an instructor with the Baking and Pastry Arts program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.