Cacao Barry presents UK WCM contestant: Barry Johnson
Six great, super talented pastry chefs and chocolatiers will this year compete in the UK pre-selection for the international competition of the World Chocolate Masters (WCM). Six people with a deep knowledge of chocolate, with skills of real masters and limitless creativity will compete together and against each other. Who will be the best? This week we are introducing the fourth contestant: Barry Johnson.
You are taking part in the national competition for WCM. Did this decision mature slowly or was it a spontaneous decision?
I have followed the competition and UK competitors for at least 6 years and have been at the last 3 WCM world finals in Paris. The decision has been maturing slowly. I always had the aspiration to take part but decided this year was the right time for me.
Is this your first pastry/chocolate competition or have you already competed somewhere else?
This is not my first competition; I have competed throughout my career and taken part in a few major international contests. The most recent one being the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie (Pastry World Cup) in 2015. I captained the British team of 3 pastry chefs to 6th place in the world; the highest ever result for a team from the UK.
How was this experience?
The Coupe du Monde experience was a steep learning curve and a fascinating introduction into the world of international pastry competitions. One thing is to support the team, attend meetings, help out at training sessions etc. but it is something quite different to actually devote your life to it. The experience benefitted my career helping me to identify my strengths and work on my weaknesses.
What was your main motive for the decision to participate in the UK WCM?
I always try to motivate myself to improve my skills and I find competitions a great way to do this. Having focused my career on chocolate for the last 6 years, this is the ultimate competition in the world. All the previous competitions I have taken part in have been team based so I’m looking forward to being in total control of my own destiny.
Did you already start your preparations and if yes, when?
Yes, I have already started gathering and rationalizing my ideas to work out which angle I will approach the competition from. The theme is incredibly interesting to me as it can be interpreted in so many different ways.
Are you training alone or is anybody helping you?
Initially I will be working alone until I get to a certain stage, then I will start involving others. With our industry being so small and friendly, I had lots of generous offers of help, which I am incredibly grateful for. Other people’s constructive opinions are very helpful but at the end of the day, I will have to make the final decisions myself.
What are you finding most challenging?
The most challenging part to date is deciding which angle to approach the theme from. The more I research the ideas, the more concepts I seem to create. I keep asking myself how far outside the box should I go?
You are very busy as a lecturer, consultant and have just started you own business, The Cocoa Lab, how do you manage to find time for the preparations?
Time management is always a challenge for me and especially when entering competitions. I will have more time over the summer as I won’t be teaching so will do most of my preparations then.
What do you think are your strongest points for this competition?
One of my strengths is that I have experienced competitions before so I know what to expect. Pressure is something I think I handle quite well and know how to react in situations if things go wrong.
Which part of the competition are you looking forward to the most and is there anything you wish you could skip?
I am looking forward to the excitement of the actual day of the competition the most. All the hard work will have been done by then and I will treat it as another practice run. The only part I would skip is the cleaning up afterwards.
A cheeky question: Why do you think you should win it?
I would certainly be thrilled to win. The field is incredibly strong this year so I think the competition will be unbelievably close. In my opinion, the candidate that comprehends the theme the best and performs the best on the day should win, and I’m working hard to make sure that candidate is me!
And if you will win it, what will this win mean to you and what will be the next challenge you will take (beside going to WCM)?
Whatever happens I will be incredibly proud to have taken part. My business will take priority after the competition together with planning my wedding.