Those who know me know, that one of my biggest passions in the kitchen is the world of pastry. Precise preparation and concentration is my thing and being a pastry chef requires a lot of these two qualities. There are a lot of chefs, that have impressed me with their pastry skills, but to name a few personal heroes, I’d mention the Roca brothers and Albert Adrià. I’ve got a lot of inspiration on attitude, imagination and determination from these chefs. Good role models have a big impact on your personal progress and growth. And so does competing.
Something, that does bother me in the pastry world, is that pastry chefs often don’t get the appreciation nor the support they deserve. That’s why I’m more than proud to be involved in the process of changing that through competitions. Like I’ve said before, competitions are a way of giving chefs a stage to shine and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on a competition, that I experienced some time ago.
The first ever Dessert Master competition took place in Tampere a few weeks back and I was asked to be a member of the jury. The eight semifinalists were given the task to create a dessert and a cake which then were evaluated by the jury. The same thing was repeated with the finalists the second day. The experience was something very different from my normal every day.
The jury had seven members, that were all kitchen or food professionals with a wide experience from the field. Each judge gave points on flavor, structure, visual design, innovativeness and execution. The judging itself was mostly unanimous, but there were of course some division in opinions and points. It is important to have jury members that have different opinions and points of view. This way the contestants get rich and valuable feedback from them in the end.
For me, it was especially interesting to see, how each contestant started working on their dishes, what the idea behind the dish was and which techniques were used in the execution. I value personal style and imagination in the chef’s work. Great chefs can think independently and create something nobody’s ever seen before. In the pastry world, basic knowledge is knowing how ingredients like sugars, eggs and dairy products work. Knowing how to emulsify, pasteurise and ferment. But to know how to go beyond basics, is something I appreciate. And I was happy to see that there was a lot of innovativeness in this competition. Especially in the cakes.
Being a judge in the Dessert Master competition was even more fun than expected. Both the contestants and the judges took home tons of inspiration and positive energy. This is another reason, why i say “yes” to judging. It was also nice to see old friends at the fair where the competition was held. These events gather together a lot of people from the industry and it’s a good place for networking. Two days went by quickly and in good company. The atmosphere at the competition and amongst the jury was very positive and professional, even if everyone was in a sugar high all the time (I personally survived the days by using the hotel gym every morning).
I’m really happy competitions like this are organized and I highly encourage chefs to apply to them. Congratulations to Simo Pietarinen on winning!