The 2nd Annual StarChefs.com Pastry Competition at the 6th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress: Round 2
The morning started with a whirl of sugar, chocolate, and plenty of PreGel pistachio paste as Sunday’s 11 winners went on to compete on the Main Stage in Round 2 of the 2nd Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition. With only one hour to wrap up this round’s challenge—a plated dessert—the energy quickly rose from the moment Emcee Keegan Gerhard called start. As Gerhard put it, “Today the momentum is harder. Some of the jovial nature of day one is gone and it’s game face today.”
Pastry Chef Manabu Inoue plates his Plated Desserts in Round 2
Part of getting into the game for these chefs was adjusting their plating approach, with only 10 minutes to execute complex plated desserts. While many competitors finished with minutes to spare (and plenty of time to wipe clean their plates), others plated down to the final moment, adding last second garnishes, foams, and sauces. And although each chef was required to use PreGel’s 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pistachio Superior Paste, the variety of presented plates couldn’t have been more varied.
Judging began as John Park of Lukshon plated down to the wire, finishing last touches on his pistachio-mascarpone cake with passion fruit-elderflower ice cream just as head floor judge, and PreGel corporate Pastry Chef, Fredrick Monti called time. Judge Michael Laiskonis immediately cut open the cake, examining its fine crumb texture before tasting and discussing it with fellow judge, and the official Executive Pastry Chef of the competition, Johnny Iuzzini.
Manabu Inoue's Pistachio Parfait Glacé in Chocolate Purse, Strawberry Mascarpone Cheesecake, and Strawberry Gelée
The judges were curious about Dana Cree's earthy forest presentation of pine wood bark and ferns. Cree drew inspiration for the dish from her time spent working in Kadeau in Denmark; while thinking about the pistachio flavor, she noticed wild apples growing under a window outside her pastry station and combined these flavors, along with a goat cheese mousse, to create her dessert. The judges wondered initially if the pine bark garnish was actually a chocolate meringue in disguise, causing them to tap at it with the back of their spoons (perhaps bringing out the added pine essence of the wood).
Judges Michael Laiskonis, Johnny Iuzzini, Elizabeth Falkner, Claudia Fleming and Jeffrey Steingarten deliberate over the plated desserts
Ramon Perez's dish seemed to be a pleasant surprise especially with judge and Pastry Chef Claudia Flemming; her eyes widened as she broke open the liquid Madirofolo chocolate ganache bonbon and watched the chocolate shell crack open bursting with chocolate. The black sesame praline added a distinct and complementary savory nuttiness to the pistachio components. Chef Manabu Inoue, known for his chocolate work, showcased his talent with an abstract chocolate handbag holding a pistachio parfait glacé. Judges were amused by the presentation and all of them tried to pick up the chocolate bag by its handle. Various techniques and textures of pistachio were presented, and the judges tasted each component individually as well as together in different combinations, sometimes nodding with approval, other times, with contemplation.
But only three could advance to the final day and compete for the chance to win the grand prize. Along with a shot at the final round, the semi-finalists each received a $3,000 coupon for Bravo equipment, $2,000 worth of Carpigiani equipment, a Hobart N50 5-quart mixer, a Waring Commercial Combination Food Processor with LiquiLock™ Seal System, and a Traveler “Culinarist” Tote.
Round 2 Finalists:
Chris Ford: Pistachio Crème with Coconut Caramel, Cocoa Meringue, Candied Pistachios, and Praline Cocoa Sherbet
By Katherine Sacks and Joanne Liu
Ramon Perez: Soft Madirofolo Chocolate Ganache, Black Sesame Praline, Pistachio Tuile, Chartreuse Gel, and Pistachio Ice Cream
Antonio Bachour: Pistachio Cream with Lemon Curd, Pistachio Sponge, Bread Croquant, Candied Pistachio, Yogurt Sauce, and Green Apple Sorbet