UK & Ireland WCM countdown - 7 days to go
In a week, six talented, hard working pastry chefs from the UK and Ireland are going to compete in the national competition for the World Chocolate Masters. The international World Chocolate Masters competition will happen in Paris in 2018 and is the largest competition worldwide focusing only on chocolate. When talking to this year’s national contestants, they all seem to be well prepared and looking forward to the challenge. The hardest aspect of WCM, some contestants say, is that they compete alone, not within a team. Each of them has to master all the different skills and techniques alone. There is nobody assisting you, nobody helping when things get tough.
While pressure is rising, we had a quick chat with Ruth Hinks, the founder and director of Cocoa Black, the pastry & chocolate school and shop, who was not only competing at the national selection a few years ago, but has also been the highest ranked UK & Ireland contestant ever at the international World Chocolate Masters challenge and with Alistair Birt, the head pastry chef at Harrods, who was the winner of the last UK & Ireland competition and made us proud at the last World Chocolate Masters in Paris.
Ruth, how was competing in UK & Ireland chocolate masters?
It was a great honour to be selected to compete. The pressure leading up to the competition was immense, but it was also a highly enjoyable experience. I met some great chefs (competitors and judges) on the journey, many of whom are now friends.
And how was it for Alistair?
Competing in the national selection was a fantastic experience. There is a lot of support within the industry wanting to see all the UK and Ireland finalists doing well. It’s a great atmosphere! However it was an extremely nerve racking and stressful day. I’m looking forward to being on the other side this time around.
What did Alistair learn from the competition?
I learnt to push every aspect of the product from the way it tastes to how it is packaged. If it is good, how can we make it even better? It also pushed me to learn and create new techniques and that was the main reason why I entered.
That you can never stop learning. The industry is evolving so quickly and competition is one of the best ways to ensure that your skills remain current.
What is Ruth’s and Alistair’s last minute advice to the competitors?
Ruth: “Try to enjoy the competition and learn all you can from the experience. You are already winners in my book — just by being here, putting your reputation on the line takes guts.”
Alistair: “The advice I would give to any competitor this year would be to enjoy the experience and meet as many new people as possible. There is a lot of work and preparation to do, more than people think, so just enjoy showing the world what you have created. Good luck to all!”