Valrhona’s chef competition previews pastry and chocolate trends

By Kristine Sherred contact

- Last updated on GMT

Six finalists competed at an in-person competition, with the winner, runner-up and press selection holding their prizes. (Photo courtesy of Valrhona and StarChefs)
Six finalists competed at an in-person competition, with the winner, runner-up and press selection holding their prizes. (Photo courtesy of Valrhona and StarChefs)

Related tags: Chocolate, Pastry, Premium chocolate, artisan, Competition, Chef, Chocolate confectionery, craft chocolate, Valrhona

StarChefs and the French chocolate maker – a chef favorite – challenged pastry professionals to create a plated dessert and petits fours recipe using its 46% milk chocolate from the Dominican Republic.
Kevin Clemenceau C3 competition
Chef Kevin Clemenceau at work (Photo courtesy of Valrhona and StarChefs)

Chef Kevin Clemenceau of andSons Chocolatiers in Beverly  Hills, California, took the crown in early November with his petits four recipe called ‘The Marias.’ They featured cocoa streusel, crunchy pralines, and cacao nibs with a decorative chocolate disk. Valrhona’s Bahibé chocolate was integral to the additional elements of Chantilly, salted caramel and gold leaf décor.

His plated dessert, called ‘Neyba,’ also wowed judges with its inclusion of nuts, spice and acidity – combining vanilla-tonka crème Anglaise and yuzu sauce. Using Bahibé, Clemenceau added a crèmeux, Bavaroise mousse, miror and rocher glaze, plus a hazelnut and cacao nib nougatine.

This year marks the fifth edition of the C3 competition​, as it is known. Valrhona first invited North American participants in 2015.

In March, Clemenceau will compete against the six other regional champions at the Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) convention in Singapore.

Something that this competition does is that it starts to show a trend in the industry. I’m really intrigued by how we’re going away from the flowing desserts to the center-plated again. I believe, with chocolate, it’s to showcase the décor. I think competition changes the industry. Tomorrow, people will start to see and do this décor or this flavor. ​– Keegan Gerhard, event host and pastry chef

C3 brings pastry chefs together through chocolate

Six pastry chefs from the US and Canada submitted recipes to a panel of judges including: Pierre Hermé (of the renowned Hermé pastry shops); Kelly Fields of Willa Jean, a beloved New Orleans restaurant; Ghaya Oliveira, the pastry chef of New York City’s Michelin-starred Daniel; and Lincoln Carson, chef and partner of Bon Temps in Los Angeles.

KevinClemenceau-plateddessert-l
Chef Kevin Clemenceau's winning plated dessert (Photo courtesy of Valrhona and StarChefs)

The 2017 winner, Minz Pizzaro of New York’s L’Appart, also joined the expert group.

Patrice Demers, who owns an eponymous pâtissier in Montreal, Canada, praised the submissions, which were open to any restaurant or catering professional.

“I think the level was really high, and there were not one or two persons really above everybody else,”​ he said, adding the ‘intricate’ desserts boasted plenty of components.

“It’s impressive what they achieved in that short amount of time.”

(Valrhona opened the competition in September.)

The other three finalists hailed from Virginia (Desarae Bittle of the Greenbrier), Canada (Takunori Hirayama of Duo Pâtisserie), and New York City (Weilu Wang of Eleven Madison Park).

Valrhona Bahibé 46%

A high-cocoa milk chocolate, Bahibé blends ‘intense cocoa notes’ with a ‘gentle milky flavor,’ according to the maker – plus ‘nutty hues, fruity acidity and a slightly bitter edge.’

The single-origin Bahibé was so named for the Dominic Republic’s cactus flower, ‘Rosa de Bayahibe.’

Valrhona recommends pairing the chocolate with sweet fruits like banana, pineapple, mandarin; spices such as vanilla, pepper and coffee; and notes of caramel, honey, grains, or sesame.

Valrhona offers sneak peek to dessert trends

The judges selected Eunji Lee of Junksik, a modern Korean restaurant in New York City, as runner-up for her ‘Roasted Chestnut’ petits four, featuring cognac and chestnut cream, chocolate tuile, and a Bahibé chesnut ‘crunchy’ and cocoa butter mixture.

Lee’s plated dessert, called ‘Giwa,’ harkened to her roots with a sesame cream and crunchy, a caramel made with soy sauce, plus coconut sorbet. Bahibé was featured in the form of a brownie, crèmeux, feuilletage and sable crumble.

Press attending the event – hosted for the third consecutive year by Keegan Gerhard, formerly of the Food Network Challenge – chose the recipes of Jim Hutchinson, who works for luxury resort Winvian Farms in Connecticut.

Both of his desserts played with tropical flavors, such as passion fruit, yuzu and coconut, alongside hints of spice through Szechuan peppercorns.

C3 compeition-judges
Judges tasting the chefs' creations (Photo courtesy of Valrhona and StarChefs)

“Something that this competition does is that it starts to show a trend in the industry,”​ said Gerhard, appreciating the move back to center-plated desserts. “I think competition changes the industry. Tomorrow, people will start to see and do this décor or this flavor.”

Each regional winner, in each of the three categories, receives $1000 to $5000.

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