Welcome to Uncommon Sense – Competition Tips from Champions to get everyone even more into shape for Pastry Live 2016!
Over the past decade, The Chicago School of Mold Making/Chicago Culinary FX has developed hundreds of custom silicone molds with many of the best chefs in the industry. We also send Beatrice S. Schneider, our creative director, to photograph and support them during the actual international events, gleaning a wealth of knowledge from our talented friends. When it comes to sharing information gained by experience, our collaborators have much to offer. As the time counts down for Pastry Live 2016, here are tips from past champion competitors.
Beatrice caught up with 2014 National Showpiece Champion Pastry Chef Bill Foltz, who was kind and generous enough to share these pearls of wisdom…
Uncommon Sense-Trials and tribulations of Bill Foltz
1. Practice in the worst conditions possible to get used to humidity and heat, and how it affects your sugar or chocolate.
2. Would recommend using fondant sugar blend for the Sugar Teams. Isomalt is great, but in high humidity conditions (Atlanta), fondant will keep the shine while being judged.
3. Be flexible in your design. Every practice may render something slightly different which may be good or bad. Some of my best ideas are mistakes…
4. Practice together, A LOT… Judges can see in your movements how cohesive you are as a team. It is like a great relationship, it should just flow…
5. Organization, organization, organization…
6. Keep a clear work space and make sure all your equipment has a place; keep it in that place while it is not in use.
7. Clean as you go!!! I always believe that no judge should be able to look at your work space and tell what you have been doing.
8. Find the most critical and brutally honest person to give feedback. For me, it is my wife Patty. Honesty sometimes hurts the ego but it makes you better in the long run. The kiss of death is hearing “that is so good.” Unless it is a judge telling you after the competition, you need to hear what you could improve upon.
9. Pack well. I don’t care if you are going next door; pack like it is going to Europe. I have seen far too many competitors lose pieces in transit.
10. Keep pieces insulated. Packing material such as garbage bags and bubble wrap help control temperature of your pieces also. Sugar and chocolate do not like major changes in temperature. Sugar will shatter when exposed to -10°F wind chill in NYC in February.
11. Rules: They are there for a reason. If you do not understand what is meant by a 12” x 12” base, you need to call somebody. The competition part is hard enough that you don’t need to lose points before you even get out of the starting gate.
12. Focus on the colors you are using. Research color schemes, paint swatches at the local hardware store, or the color wheel. Opposite colors on the wheel (red and green, blue and orange, etc…) all complement each other. Experiment with shades of the colors (mustard and moss green, burnt orange and navy blue). Add some browns, blacks to get away from the primary shades.
13. Use contrast in your showpiece. Layer lighter and darker colors when designing flowers to show more technique and make it stand out to the eye. Sometimes the best elements of the piece are hidden in similar colors.
14. Try to incorporate the theme in your shape and the shape into your theme. Take risks. When we did the “Dragon Ball” showpiece in 2014, each piece relied on the other to stand creating a tripod base. Tripods distribute the load of the piece onto other bases.
15. Chose teammates based on great work ethic, attention to detail and great reputation.
16. Don’t sweat the other competitors… You are your worst enemy when it comes to confidence and morale. Competitors are only as good as that day; meaning you could have the best ideas going into it, but execution is everything.
Thank you Chef Bill for your hard-earned words of wisdom!
We hope you have found these insights helpful. If you really like them, please share the links. Let’s raise the bar for everyone.
Beatrice Schneider & Michael Joy
Creative Director & Master Mold Maker
Chicago School of Mold Making/Chicago Culinary FX