If you’ve been following along on the blog or on Twitter, last week was the craziness of the International Chocolate Awards, Canada National Competition. By all accounts, it was a success. Our grand jury whittled down 100+ entries to 65, and those 65 entries were judged by a team of more than 40 food and media professionals: pastry chefs, chefs, sommeliers, ciccerones, coffee experts, and of course, chocolate experts.
And then there were 13. At an awards ceremony last Thursday, we gave out 13 gold and silver medals and a handful of nominations. The medalists automatically qualify to compete in the World Finals, taking place in London in a few weeks. A nomination means that the submission didn’t quite meet the standards of a medal, but are still of high enough quality that it stands a chance in the World Finals.
Thoughts on this year’s competition? Well, Vancouver’s Beta5 Chocolates did well (as expected), but rather than rest on last year’s laurels they won for totally new — and if you ask me, wacky — pieces. For example: a dark chocolate ganache with Fisherman’s Friend, another with bay leaf, and a white chocolate bar with candied olive pieces. It sounds ridiculous and in the wrong hands, disastrous. Thankfully, the folks at Beta5 know what they’re doing.
Montreal’s Christophe Morel scooped up the lion’s share of awards, cleaning up in the nut pralines and gianduja category. I’ll point out the coriander and orange praline as one of my personal favourites — well executed, thoughtful and delicious. The Marcona almond praline was also excellent.
It was nice to see a few new chocolatiers this year, including two from Alberta winning medals: Sweet Lollapalooza won silver for their Pure Nacional confection, and The Violet Chocolate Company won a gold for their dark milk chocolate bar with rosemary and Alberta clover honey. Rebecca, Grant, The Violet Chocolate Company‘s founder and chocolatier was in Vancouver to receive her award, and I had the pleasure of chatting with her over coffee. I’ll post her answers to my “Meet the Maker” questions in a few weeks.
I was particularly pleased that Burnaby’s Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie won a gold medal for their mango bonbon. Christophe was previously pastry chef at Vancouver’s CinCin, and only opened his shop seven months ago. If you’re in the Lower Mainland, it’s definitely worth visiting.
Rounding out the winners were Toronto’s MoRoCo Chocolat with a gold for their Sub’Lime’ confection, as well as a slew of nominations. Other nominations went to Alberta’s Jacek Chocolate and Inspiration Chocolates, and Vancouver’s Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France and WIld Sweets.
So many people helped make the Awards possible, especially the staff and students in the Baking & Pastry Arts program at Vancouver Community College; Xoxolat, who received all the entries and hosted the awards ceremony; Perseus Winery, who poured wine at said ceremony; and Mulino Marino, an artisanal polenta company in Italy who provides the palate-cleansing polenta. Thanks also to Sean Neild for snapping these great photographs.
And finally, thanks to our many judges who took time out of their busy schedules to join us, especially the grand jury members who spent four days immersed in the awards: Aubrey Lindley and Jesse Manis of Cacao in Portland, Oregon; David Mincey, chocolate educator and chef based in Victoria, BC; Sid Cross, wine and food writer in Vancouver, BC. And of course, Monica Meschini, the Awards’ Italian partner (who is quickly becoming one of my favourite people) and Martin Christy, Awards co-founder, judging director, grand jury chairman and my partner in crime for the Canadian competition.