October 22, 2008
Chocolate competition picks finalists
This year’s Next Generation Chocolatier Competition, which received more than 36 entries from across the country, has narrowed the contest to six finalists. Founded in 2004, the competition is held every two years and is open to U.S.-based chocolate makers who use artisan production methods, whether they are emerging professionals or student aspirants.
After an initial culling of contestants to 20 by head judge and noted chocolate educator and author Clay Gordon, the competition’s panel of judges reduced the number to the following participants: Gail Ambrosius (Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier -- Madison, Wis.), William Brown (William Dean Chocolates -- Largo, Fla.), Joanne Hansen (Bon Bon Bakery & Chocolates -- San Diego), Sarah Hart (Alma Chocolate -- Portland), Stephanie Marcon (CoCo-Luxe Confections -- Sausalito, Calif.) and Maria Valente (Chocolations -- Mamaroneck, N.Y.).
This year’s theme, “Salty Sweets,” draws upon the growing popularity of salt to extend the flavor and texture of chocolate confections. Contestants could enter work in two categories: Bonbon and bar, the latter of which is new for 2008. Awards for Best Bonbon and Best Bar, in addition to the Rising Star award -- is reserved for a student or chocolatier who has been in business for less than five years or is under 30 years of age -- will be presented at an awards ceremony to be held Nov. 5, 2008, at 6 p.m. at the 3 West Club in New York City. A fourth award, People’s Choice, also will be presented at that time.
In addition to Clay, judges consisted of a team of six experts drawn from chocolate manufacturers, established chocolatiers and corporate buyers. They included Laura Tornichio-Vidal (Guittard Chocolate), Rose Potts (Blommer Chocolate), Fritz Knipschildt (Knipschildt Chocolatier), Kee Ling Tong (Kee’s Chocolates), Steven Millard (Dean & Deluca) and Linda Sturges (Bloomingdales).
“The contestants’ entries were judged on a variety of technical factors that covered their skills as chocolatiers,” Gordon explained. “However, the main judging criteria related to taste and mouthfeel. The flavors and textures of a piece not only had to work well together, the judges also considered how well a piece reflected this year’s theme of Salty Sweets. What impressed me most was the incredible creativity the contestants’ displayed in exploring flavor combinations that would not only be enhanced by the addition of salt, but that made the unique tastes and textures of the salt they used an integral part of the piece, not just an afterthought.”
The Next Generation Chocolatier, which is managed by Vreeland and Associates, features the following corporate sponsors: Valrhona, Callebaut, E. Guittard, Blommer, SaltWorks and Chef Rubber. In addition to Candy Industry magazine, media sponsors include Dessert Professional and www.TheChocolateLife.com.