Cacao Barry presents UK WCM contestant: Ian Mark

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 fifth contestant: Ian Mark.

You are taking part in the national competition for WCM. Was this decision maturing slowly or was it a spontaneous decision?

The decision to compete in WCM 17 was a natural next step after a number of working years and after reaching some of my other goals. I decided it was time to enter and set some new goals, with a little bit of gentle encouragement.

Is this your first pastry/chocolate competition or have you already competed somewhere else?

No, this is not my first competition, I have been fortunate enough to compete nationally and internationally all over the world from the Culinary Olympics and Culinary World Cup to Bake off: Crème de la Crème.  

How was your previous experience?

Competitions mean committing to very hard work but you get out what you put in, they are extremely rewarding, and you learn so much about yourself, where you need to improve and how you cope under tight deadlines and pressure.

What was your main motive for the decision to participate in the UK WCM?

I have been part of the Combined Services Culinary Arts Team for 8 years, developing my skills and learning new techniques as part of a team. Although I was the head of pastry, I was still part of a team. Then this opportunity arose and a chance to compete on my own. I am using this as a learning tool, and to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Did you already start your preparations and if yes, when?

Yes, I have already started my preparations, I’ve undertaken courses to help develop some new skills, I’ve designed all my assignments and tried out the recipes, I feel as though I need to work beyond capacity due the strength of the competition.

Are you training alone or is anybody helping you?

I have a very strong and supportive team behind me with a wealth of experience. I am extremely lucky to have Mark Tilling helping me a great deal.  I’ve learned so much already and I am very grateful.

What are you finding most challenging?

I found the interpretation of the brief the most difficult as I really wanted to nail the brief on the head so I’ve had sleepless nights designing, re-designing, testing and re-testing, but I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end.

You are very busy also with your regular work, how do you manage to find time for the preparations?

As a RAF chef instructor I teach trainees how to cook but my team has been brilliant and allowed me to solely focus on the WCM and producing the best products I can.

What do you think are your strongest points for this competition?

I believe my strong points are my competition experiences, my determination to succeed and willingness to learn and take on board feedback.

Which part of the competition are you looking forward to the most and is there anything you wish you could skip?

I wouldn’t want to skip any part as I’m looking forward to it all but the anticipation is probably the worst bit.

A cheeky question: Why do you think you should win it?

I don’t think I should win at all, but I will give 110% and everything I’ve got to give, to give me the best possible chance. For me it’s a massive learning curve and as long as I’m learning no matter what the outcome will be, I will come out stronger.

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)?

Winning would be amazing. I’ve dreamt about it since my beginnings in pastry. I’ve looked up to and admired so many of the WCM champions, so it would be an honour and a privilege to be spoken in the same breath.