One of my favorite world-class culinary events is the epic Sirha Show at EurExpo Lyon-France. Held every two years, it hosts two of the culinary world’s most prestigious competitions, one being the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie 2015. This year’s event welcomed 21 teams comprised of a pastry chef, chocolate specialist and ice-cream chef, from all over the world. Held over two long days, kept lively by 2,700 cheering supporters, the intense competition was scrutinized by the top judges who critiqued the teams and their work based on tenacity, creativity and innovation.
With so much to share, we pulled together photo highlights, including the event, Le Photographe’s official dessert plate photos and the carved ice section in this Postcard Series. We hope you enjoy this enchanting collection.
Congratulations to the Winners!
Gold went to Team Italy; Emmanuele Forcone, Francesco Boccia and Fabrizio Donatone.They took home the Gold Medal, the Gold Trophy, and 21’000 Euros in prize money.
Silver was awarded to Team Japan; Kazuhiro Nakayama, Junji Tokunaga and Shinichi Sugita. They brought home the Silver Medal, the Silver Trophy, and 12’000 Euros in prize money.
Bronze went to Team USA; John Kraus, Joshua Johnson and Scott Green, who brought home the Bronze Medal, the Bronze Trophy, and 6’000 Euros in prize money.
A special prize “Team Spirit” was awarded to Guatemala for it’s solidarity and teamwork. At the award ceremony, the announcement of their prize got an emotional standing ovation as their wheelchair bound team member despite their limitation, had produced remarkable chocolate work.
The highly coveted Vase de Sèvres prize – offered by the President of the French Republic was awarded for best marks on their the buffet presentation went to Team Italy.
Other special prizes included:
• “Sculpted Ice” awarded to the Philippines who participated at the contest for the first time.
• “Chocolate” is awarded to Malaysia.
• “Sugar” is awarded to Denmark.
• “Best Promotional Campaign” is awarded to Switzerland.
• “Best Innovative Spirit” is awarded to Italy for the icing of its creations.
• “Press Prize” was awarded to Japan for it’s chocolate desserts.
• “Best Promotional Poster” is awarded to Morocco by the social media users.
Winners Share What Got Them There
I had a chance to catch up with Team USA after the event and these are the sweet pearls of wisdom they shared:
At the 2015 Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, Team USA, captained by John Kraus, with Joshua Johnson and Scott Green, brought home the bronze medal, a massive accomplishment. It takes an enormous amount of dedication, time and support to compete at this level, let alone skill, talent and drive to actually win a medal.
Josh Johnson was bitten by the competition bug while assisting Sébastien Canonne when he got his title of M.O.F. (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) best craftsman of France. In 2011 Josh with Scott Green as a teammate, and Donald Wressell as team captain, won the National Pastry Team Championship. The following year the same team competed at the World Pastry Championship, was awarded Best Dégustation and took home the silver medal.
When the USA Coupe du Monde team was coming together for 2015, with icons of American pastry Donald Wressell and Ewald Notter as coaches, Josh Johnson, Scott Green and John Kraus as the team members, they all knew it was special. Chef Scott said, “I realized the opportunity to work with John, Josh, Ewald and Donald would never come around again and I wanted to work with my heroes and friends. I did it for the experience; it’s a bucket list thing.” Josh added, “We all understood that this was the one, the most important competition we were going to do together.”
Having just come off the World Competition, the team was primed to hit their stride and continue strong. They shared a super high level of trust. They had cross-trained and each knew what their team mates were doing and could anticipate each other’s moves. If there was any veering from the plan, there was an understanding that it was going to work itself out in that same level of trust. “If you drop something- both would drop it as a team and rebuild it as a team” affirmed Josh.
With the stellar lineup and such high respect for the competition, people from our tight-knit pastry community were happy to share and help. Donald Wressel, not just one of the best pastry chefs in the country but an exceptional craftsman, was always there with every resource and saw to it that things got done. Midwest Imports opened their doors and became the training facility. The team trained there four to five days at a time, every two weeks for a whole year leading up to the competition. Practice sessions were trial runs of the same routine that they would be running at the event, down to what they would eat and having to wait to start in the kitchen. The practice runs went on for 10 hours straight, just like at the competition.
When I spoke to Scott Green he had some great insights into a champion’s mind frame; “Before you go into the competition, you have to ask yourself why are you competing – what do you want to achieve? Do you want to challenge yourself, or put yourself in the spotlight? Just be honest with yourself.”
He added ”You have be ultra-competitive in your work ethic and drive. On the flip side, you have to let go of the results. I learned earlier in competitions how not to feel the pressure. I put things into perspective. At the end of the day whether you win or your piece breaks or you do bad time, in the grand scheme it’s not that big a deal. “Failure” is just part of the learning process, a sometimes necessary step. Not being afraid of failure and not even having negative thoughts lets me really enjoy the experience and achieve peak performance. So be very clear about why you are competing- at this level it’s very much a mental thing.”
I asked Scott how this competition changed him; ”You have to buy into the mode and system, sacrifice time and energy. There is always a big jump in my skill and craftsmanship pre-competition and post. You think you are organized, and know how to prioritize and multitask. This is so hyper organized it’s down to the second. Forcing yourself into that space is so great. People forget who won and who lost- but you’ll never forget what you have learned and who you have become. Those things don’t go away. At the end of the day it’s about the bonds of friendship and the work method; how you learn things, work, development recipes and productions, ability to focus etc. It boosts you to the next level of performance.”
After the actual competition in Lyon, both Josh and Scott said it was their best day. “It was a perfect storm; great team, great support, great run. We put out everything we had. Walking away I know we got beat, but by teams that were better. “
Scott added, “After a competition I am the same chef the day I was before. It’s very eye opening. The competition is just a blip in time. What matters is how gracefully I lose, how humbly I win, and how I treat the people I work with.”
Josh loved the team and “would gladly work with John and Scott again in a heartbeat. I respect people who welcome the passion and work from the fire within.” He was really impressed by camaraderie at the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie. “Here we were supported by the greatest pastry chefs in the world. That could have been intimating, but the atmosphere was so respectful of everyone and warm, that it was really fun. “
Scott notes, “To future chefs I would say when you watch the competitions, yes, the showpieces, desserts and product are great but, watch the chefs work; how do they use their work space, how do the teams work together, how clean are their aprons at the end.” In the details lay the keys to mastery.
At the time this was published, Scott Green is Executive Pastry Chef at Langham and writes an excellent pastry blog; devilsfoodkitchen.com. Joshua Johnson is the Head Pastry Chef at Kohler, a five star five diamond resort and loves interacting with people, teaching, mentoring and being creative.
A competition of this caliber celebrates excellence and the heritage of the international contestants, fostering innovations like non-other. The Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie is an event not to be missed.
Thank you for joining us and see you at the next event!
Beatrice S. Schneider
Chicago Culinary FX & Chicago School of Mold Making