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Everything posted by chocophile

  1. Ruth, would you be willing to share ingredients list, proportions, and temperature for each stage? This is something I'd like to try and I am sort of hoping that this could turn into the caramel equivalent of the marshmallow thread (or would love a link to such a thread if it already exists, thanks). :Clay
  2. Many of the reports of slavery and child labor are largely unsubstantiated and exaggerated based on my admittedly armchair research (I have never been to Western Africa). Here is a link to a PDF file that presents a summary of findings of a survey of labor practices in 4 West African countries in 2002. The gist of the summary is that the majority of child labor (children under the age of 14) in the cacao industry in Western Africa is family-provided (i.e., cacao farming is part of the family business just as the small, family-owned farm is here in the US). There is a sizable percentage (but less than 10%) of child labor in Cote d'Ivoire where there is no family relationship, and this leads to a greater potential for exploitation. The 2002 survey does not show that there were any examples of "the worst forms of child labor" (defined ibid as the use of any individual under the age of 18 for the purposes of debt bondage, armed conflict, commercial sexual exploitation, drug trafficking, and other types of work identified as hazardous to children), but implies that there has been improvement since 1999 when scrutiny of forced labor practices became more acute because of international attention drawn to the matter. However, the 2002 survey does indicate that children in cacao farming in West Africa are performing dangerous jobs with potentially serious health consequences, including using machetes and applying pesticides, and that children involved in farm labor are less likely to go to school. These latter aspects of the survey's findings are echoed on the chocolateancocoa.org web site with a progress report from 2003 posted. The progress report also indicates that there are problems implementing projects aimed at reducing abusive and dangerous child labor practices due to the ongoing civil war. I have no doubt that in the past forced labor has been used to harvest cacao - pretty much anywhere slavery has been practiced, not just West Africa (if slaves were used to harvest sugar cane and tobacco in the New World you can be assured that they were used to harvest cacao, too) and there are almost certainly isolated instances of forced labor even today. However, nowadays these can only be seen as aberrations, not the norm. Child labor, as in kids on the family farm used being involved in the family business - well, that has been the norm for millennia and is still the norm today with a vast percentage of the world's children still involved in agricultural production to some extent. Is their labor forced and/or abusive? In some cases, assuredly yes - as child abuse is unfortunately not limited to situations of forced labor. Is it the norm? Thankfully, no. Scharffen Berger is not alone in their compassion for the labor force that is involved in cacao production. Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, sustainable agriculture, and related programs are also intensely interested in the subject and are doing what they can, each in their own way, to improve the lot of these farmers. I can tell you from personal experience based on my trip to the middle of nowhere in the Amazon River basin off the Rio Napo in Eastern Ecuador in 2003 that growing cacao is backbreaking labor that usually pays very little and there is a lot that can and should be done to improve the lives of cacao farmers and their families. Education and medical care loom large here, not issues that will be solved by paying individual cacao farmers more money. These have to be done on a larger scale with whole communities. One good example of what can be done is Funedesin. :Clay On a final note, the Cocoa industry initiative to end forced labor cites 2005 as the year when the practice will be eliminated.
  3. Lysbeth: I can second the recommendation of Benjamin Box in Providence that Christopher recommended. Good people, good products, and a number of other people recommend and use them, including Garrison Confections (Drew Shotts). I have heard that they can be a trifle slow, however, maybe Christopher can speak to his experience. The Package Nakazawa link that nightscotsman provided is one that I've been looking for for a while (Thanks, Neil.) I've seen samples and the work is gorgeous. They'd be perfect for a semi-custom application using a stock box and your doing something special to make it your own - ribbons, stickers, emboss/deboss, etc. Heck, a standard box with a ribbon held down with sealing wax and a custom seal is very elegant and quite inexpensive at the same time. Nakazawa prices look very competitive especially if they are "all-in" and includes things like the candy pads. Another option is a French company called Prime - some of their products (as well as others) are available through Chocolat-Chocolat in Canada. Prices seem high but they are in Canadian dollars and volume discounts are probably available. Semi-custom is the way to go here, too. :Clay
  4. Wendy: You're thinking of chocolate melters from Mol d'Art. Here's a link with a picture and a price: Mol d'Art Chocolate Melter Hilliard and others make them, too, but this is probably the one you're thinking of. :Clay
  5. PAN, A very cogent observation. The hardest thing to do as a chocolatier is to do consistently good work -- consistently. Not all of Kee's flavors work for me but that's as much where I am coming from as anything else. From an objective standpoint she does manage to get well-balanced flavors that harmonize with the taste of the chocolate she uses. That's not to say that each batch is identical and sometimes the balance of flavors varies. I bought a fair amount of stuff from Kee for corporate gifting over the holidays and noticed a lot more pinholes in the molds than normal. This is no doubt due to the much higher than normal volume of production, but it's hitting everything dead on day in and day out that separates merely very good from the great. Kee is very good at what she does, but she's not in the company of people the likes of Hevin, Bernachon, and Linxe, among others. :Clay
  6. Fairway has good prices for Callebaut. 4.99/# for small quantities, but I recently purchased 20kg for $125 ($2.84/#). ← If you fancy the trip up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (you can take the subway) you can get Callebaut in bulk for $4/lb at Teitel Bros. They offer only two varieties, a milk and a semisweet, in slabs by the front register. They'll carve up a chunk and weigh it for you right there. (Also, dried nuts, dried fruits, cheeses, sausages, canned San Marzano tomatoes, and more.) Of course, if the only reason you go to Arthur Ave is to get chocolate the trip is wasted. Go there with cash (most places don't take cards) and visit Biancardi's (a great butcher), Randazzo's (fish), Tino's (deli on 187th for sandwiches, espresso, olive oils, vinegars, dried pasta), Borgatti's (on 187s, fresh pasta), and make sure to go into the retail market for the produce (Boiano's), pizza (Cafe Mercato), and to watch them hand-roll cigars. :Clay
  7. I don't like his stuff at all and that recent Chocolate review in Time Out New York had some unkind words about his stuff from I think Robert Linxe. ← It was Michel Richart who made the comments in an article in New York magazine. I have the utmost personal respect for Jacques; he is a great guy who can connect with his audience and in many respects is to pastry what Emeril is to culinary. However, in my opinion, his chocolate could be better than it is, especially given his reputation. One reason is that he does not use the best chocolate (he uses Belcolade). However, and Jacques is very open about this, he is making the chocolate that his audience wants and is willing to pay for. Would he sell more - and make more money - if he made "better" chocolates? Probably not. High end confections - at any price - are among the most affordable of luxury and gourmet foods. I can go into La Maison du Chocolat and buy half-a-dozen pieces of Robert Linxe's work and pay far less than $10 and probably closer to $5 and really have a great treat and taste experience. If I wanted to go out and taste some Chateau d'Yquem the entry price would be astronomically higher as is the tariff for one of my favorite indulgences, gold-label AIB certified balsamic vinegar. Leonidas is an inexpensive "mass market" chocolate in Belgium. At about $28/lb retail here in the US, it has a landed cost of no more than $14/lb and a cost of manufacturing of somewhere around $5-7/lb. As someone explained to me recently, in Belgium, Leonidas is the chocolate people buy for themselves but do not buy as gifts. It's typically Belgian in the sense that it's comparatively light and sweet - which of course is why we North Americans tend to like it. It's well made and competent and - for the price - is a pretty good deal. But it can't compare with artisan chocolate because it's not an artisan product. In the same article referenced above, Martine's was also rated lowly by the tasting panel despite getting raves from almost everyone else. Martine's, in my opinion, is very Belgian which means that it's really light and sweet. I don't particularly like light and sweet confections, so I don't like Martine's. As for Lindt's Lindor truffles. Read the ingredients label. Irrespective of their mouthfeel (which is pretty good for the price) there are ingredients in there that don't belong in chocolate (and that are there solely to increase shelf stability of the product). One side note is that Ghirardeli and owned by Lindt and is close to four times the size. Lindt does make some nice bars, however, especially for the price. Wegman's product was created by Pierre Herme and is among the best products in its price range. Certainly better than Leonidas (and not that much more expensive) and much better than the "core" Godiva line (the one sold year-round) while being less expensive. Because of the French influence it tends to be darker and less sweet than most Belgian confections (including the one-Belgian Godiva) which means that a much smaller audience will appreciate it. The jury is divided about Godiva "G" however here I am not going to try to argue with success. They are appealing to the upper end of their core audience, wooing those who fled to other brands back to the fold -- and they are phenomenally successful with it. Is it worth $100/lb? Well, that's up to an individual's taste. Personally, I prefer the work that Norman does for himself, which is also significaly less expensive. It is a truism that you can't eat the box, but many people identify quality with the Godiva gold ballotin (funnily enough, the ballotin was invented by Jean Neuhaus, founder of Neuhaus, as was the shell-molded truffle the Belgians call a praline), so even though the Wegman product is less expensive and more interesting, it is not perceived to be in the same quality arena by those who are not among the chocolate cognoscenti. Godiva's current Diva ad campaign is great as can be expected by a company with real marketing chops courtesy of parent Campbell Soup. A better comparison, at least from a sociological perspective is Starbucks. 10 years ago, paying more than $1 for a cup of coffee outside a white linen restaurant or in a hotel was unusual. Today, people think little of plonking down $4 or more at least once a day for their half caf decaf mocha lotta whatever. The same things is true with chocolate. You can walk into a great chocolate store (and there are great chocolate stores here in NY) pay under $5 and walk out with a great experience. It's the "value" angle here that people seem to be missing -- it's not just price. So - where is the best chocolate in Manhattan? For my money, the best value in chocolate from a price/taste/experience standpoint is Kee's Chocolates down on 80 Thompson St just south of Spring. It's a tiny shop that allows lots of interaction with Kee herself and you can see the stuff being made right there. It's fresh. It's genuine. Pieces are under $2 each (they are not sold by the pound and I haven't weighed them out to get a price/pound) so you can pick up a pair for about the same price as the afternoon caffeine fix from the mega-chain. The lychee-pineapple, creme brulee, passion fruit heart, and praline are among my favorites. What's not over the top is the packaging, which is very understated, and definitely contributes to the relative low cost - you're not paying for a fancy box. Another interesting point, Kee was awarded a 29 for Taste by Zagat. Think of the restaurants that are taste rated in this rather rarified atmosphere and you can see that Kee keeps some very august company. The point about getting chocolates at wholesale is interesting, if you can, and you want to have a lot of the same kind around. Usually you can't buy less than a pound (a kilo for most imports) and cases are usually not mixed. Cluizel at wholesale, last I looked (early summer 04) was under $20/lb (which makes the $87/lb that Debauve & Gallais charges for it breathtaking). Last I heard, (early summer 03) Jacques was about $22/lb. I don't know where Valrhona is priced these days in part because I don't know how the recent run-up in the value of the Euro is affecting prices. An oft-overlooked domestic source is Garrison Confections. I purchased pieces from Drew (Shotts) in April 04 at wholesale at about $.50 piece and he sold me exact piece counts, not pound weights, which I truly appreciate so I don't overbuy (there are 130 - 180 pieces/kg in many European imports). Drew does great work that largely goes unrecognized. If I lived in Providence still (I attended RISD there in the early 80s) and I could walk into hist store any buy the stuff over the counter, he'd rate not too far below Kee's on the value scale. :Clay
  8. Why not try southern flavors? Bourbon (how about mint julep - a bourbon/mint combo), pecan praline, sweet potato, sweet tea, and the like. These are sure to please the locals as well as more cosmopolitan palates. :Clay
  9. There are some great flavor ideas here. 200 is not a lot, you should be able to bang them out at well under an hour per flavor once you get the rhythm down and assuming that the texture of the ganaches is right. :Clay
  10. I use a pressure cooker to make dulce de leche when I need it. Instead of taking three hours in an open pot, cooking time is about 30 minutes once the pot is up to pressure. Don't put the can directly on the floor of the pot; mine has a perforated disk that's raised about 1/2 above the bottom. Remove the labels from the cans, fill to rim (make sure the cans are completely submerged, of course), and put the top on. It's very important to release the pressure immediately when cooking is done and remove the cans from the hot water otherwise they will keep on cooking and you'll be left with a solid congealed mass of caramelized milk. Tasty, but not dulce de leche, and sometimes the sugar crystallizes which is not cool. I tend to use the dulce de leche I make mostly as a flavoring for milk chocolate ganache, but I've also used it straight as a sauce for ice cream, as a filling for crepes, and as a glaze for cakes, etc. :Clay
  11. TJ's Pound Plus bars are a good bargain and are good choices for eating chocolates for what they are. They can be used for baking but I have found them to be not fluid enough when tempered to work with even when I am pushing 92. (I recently used the milk for making s'mores for my daughter's Brownie troop - dip the graham cracker into the tempered milk chocolate add a mini marshmallow and let set. Yumm, but the chocolate was really too thick. The girls liked them though and I suppose that's what really counts.) There are a lot of great milk chocolates out there but everything that has been said here about evaluating chocolate for eating versus baking versus molding/enrobing is right. They are three different applications and each needs to be approached separately - technically as well as with regards to taste. From a tasting perspective I have found it most useful to comparatively taste several chocolates at the same time in flights of four to five and choose a favorite, then compare favorites from different flights. It's the comparative aspect of tasting that seems to work best for me; it's much harder to do in isolation. Did any of you see New York Magazine this past issue? They asked Francois Payard to do a blindfolded taste test of mass market chocolates and confections. His impressions may surprise you - he got virtually all of them wrong and "liked" some things that I am pretty sure he never would have admitted to liking if he knew what he was eating. For me, I tend to like - for eating - milk chocolates with at least 45% cocoa content; the Cluizel 45% Lait pur Java and the Slittis 45, 62, and 70% have been among my favorites, but recently I've been eating the Felchlin Creole (49%) and the new Plantations 48%. I don't do much baking or chocolate making with milk chocolate but when I do I tend to look for simple flavors with caramel notes that fit within a budget that's usually not mine to set. I look for chocolates (milk and dark) that don't take away from the other flavors I am trying to convey; complement, not contrast. For much of my event work I go to a shop down in Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (which is not too far from me) that sells a workable Callebaut milk and dark in chunks for about $4/lb retail and I just go there and buy only what I need when I need it. For what I do with it and for the intended audience it's perfect. :Clay
  12. Here's a question I am struggling with in regards to Vosges and other chocolatiers and chocolate manufacturers whose marketing image differs radically from the reality of production: Does it really matter? The Vosges image (to me) is fashionista au courant with lots of deliberate references to haute couture. That makes me think that things are lovingly hand made in small batches by specially trained Vosges employees hewing to the desire to produce elegant product for a highly discerning (and rich) clientele. Problem is, there are many other gourmet food products (not necessarily pastry) that are not made by the company marketing them. Instead, these companies hire other companies to cook, bottle, and label, which is, in essence, what Vosges does. Does the consumer really care? Am I holding Vosges to the wrong standard by wanting them to hand make, in house, everything they sell? There is another instance just like this that I am in the middle of writing about and I am struggling with how to handle it. Does it matter? Should I care? Keep in mind that the question about product does not diminish my respect and admiration for what Katrina, Natalie, et al have managed to accomplish. That part is brilliant - though I wonder, given the other issues I have, whether or not it is sustainable in the long run. :Clay
  13. Wendy: There have been a number of different posts encouraging you to consider your audience. Because you are in a casual club dining establishment, "Study In/Of ..." does not work because that's not your audience. -) The place I would start is the non-dessert menus, take your cue from the descriptions there. -) Ask the exec chef to help you come up with phrase ideas. Maybe there's someone else on the staff who can help. The GM? At my club, if I were faced with this dilemma, those are the two people I would go to first. Helps build the relationship and rapport, involves them in your thinking, gets them involved in knowing what's selling and what doesn't. There are also people on various committees that I might call on if I still needed help. Even the servers (well, maybe one or two of them) might be able to help - after all, they are the ones who will be describing the dessert to the customers if assistance is asked for? -) Does the audience know what a dacquoise is? The suggestion to have replacement phrases is a good idea for elements that may not be well known by the average customer. -) I like having a set of categories and one or two selections within the categories. Having a standard description for the category would help - one or two good adjectives is all you need. -) Cookbooks may be good sources for names, but probably not descriptions. How did the come up with the name Red Velvet cake, anyway. Look at other menus for suggestions for wordings. There are lots of menus online it seems to me that you can look to for inspiration. -) Take a creative writing course specifically for people looking to be food writers. The Learning Annex offers these here in NYC. A local community college might have something along this line, too. -) Do you have a local paper? "Bribe" a reporter/writer with free dessert samples to have them help you with the descriptions. Maybe that would lead to press coverage. :Clay
  14. Wendy, there is a Qualita Q-Box in plain white that's 1.5x1.5 inches square and 1 3/16 tall when closed. Cost is $19.62/100 (plus shipping) right in your target price range. These will work for shell molds or enrobed pieces, but maybe not "truffe nature" style pieces unless they are fairly small. Also at the same price, silver and gold on the outside, white on the inside. Assembly is dead nuts simple and takes about 3 seconds. Plus, I am sure they have a candy cup that is perfectly sized to fit this box if you don't already have them. They sent me a .PDF catalog page that I can forward to you separately via e-mail if you want. :Clay
  15. Wendy: What style of box are you looking for - or are you completely open? Edited to add: Qualita paper has a style that might work for you. I don't see a 1-piece box on the site but I have trouble believing that it's never been asked for. Visit: http://www.qualitapaper.com/html/Box_Qbox.htm :Clay
  16. I was watching Michael Chiarella the other day while in the kitchen making dinner and he had what I think is a great idea that might fit here. His used a hazelnut/coffee gelato and espresso, but it could easily be adapted. In a coffee mug, place a piece of biscotti and a generous scoop of the gelato. Top with very frothy hot steamed milk. Bring to the table with a pitcher of espresso and let the guest pour the espresso over the top. Substitute the espresso with hot chocolate, maybe nix/replace the biscotti, and vary the flavors of the gelato and you've got something that is very versatile and definitely unusual. :Clay
  17. Wendy: A couple of sources come to mind instantly: ModPac (http://www.modpac.com/) and Glerup-Revere (http://www.glerup-revere.com/). I have used both companies and tend to have had better service from ModPac, but that is probably because they are here in NY rather than in Seattle, where is where Glerup-Revere is located. In general, Glerup-Revere offers more upscale packaging while ModPad is more modest (plain). One thing to consider is that G-R has a $75 minimum order. ModPac has a pretty generous sample program - they'll pretty much send you one of anything to take a look at. Also, when looking at boxes, one thing to consider is the labor it takes to assemble the box. In the case of a 1-piece, all you may have to do is to unfold it as it will be glued and then folded flat. This is good. If you have to assemble a box it can take more than triple the amount of time it takes to fill it and then close it, significantly increasing labor costs. Might not mean anything when doing them in small quantities, but when you have 500 to do (as I once did - and 12 & 24-piece boxes to boot), then the additional time really adds up, especially when deadlines loom. Finally, when looking at boxes make sure to ask about candy cups that are sized to fit the particular box. Too small does not provide enough protection, too big and the presentation looks really sloppy. :Clay
  18. I want to thank alacarte for mentioning my reviews of Jacques Torres and Vosges on chocophile.com. However, the URL given for the Vosges review was incomplete, the full URL (for those who are interested) is: http://www.chocophile.com/index.php/chocop.../review-vosges/ BTW - if we're talking exotic flavors they've been around from the very beginning. The history of chocolate includes mentions of hot peppers, exotic spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice), nuts, colorings (achiote), and flowers such as jasmine from the times of the Spanish "discovery" of chocolate in the early 1500s - although jasmine flowers may have been a 1600s Italian innovation. Of course, they were spicing up beverages, not eating chocolate - but I think it still counts as the principle is the same. :Clay
  19. I was in Vermont recently and picked up a gallon jug of maple syrup. I like the idea of a maple marshmallow - any experience/suggestion substituting maple syrup for corn syrup/glucose? A colleague suggested adding some glucose to the maple syrup to keep it from crystallizing but that's about as much help as I've got so far. TIA, Clay
  20. Ah, yes. Garbage in, Garbage out. It does make a difference with chocolate but, sadly, only to some people in some situations. Don't believe me? Try this test for the average consumer walking into your place of business. If it's a restaurant and you're making dessert, you have to try this test after a full meal, not standalone. Make a recipe, any recipe that calls for unsweetened chocolate -- twice. The only difference is in the brand of unsweetened chocolate. For this test, it should be a baked good with flour. Serve the two different desserts and ask the diners a) if there is any difference between the two; b) if there is a difference what the difference is; c) which one they prefer. (You have to work to not to give away the answer you want with your body language or other subtle clues.) Point is, the average person (not non-smoking pastry chef with trained palate) usually can't tell the difference after a couple of drinks, coffee, and the average restaurant meal replete with salt and fat. Also, many people will actually prefer the taste that is familiar to them and some of the most familiar chocolate flavors are Nestle, Hershey, and Baker's - not Callebaut, Cocoa Barry, Schokinag, Belcolade, Cocoa Noel, etc. Now, if someone comes in and just orders the dessert, then it might well be different, but again, my experience suggests that it will make a real, substantive difference only to many fewer than half of all diners and even then mostly in fine dining establishments, not casual or family, where "value" (tonnage) is a key attribute. Now, don't get me wrong, I wish it were different and my whole business is predicated on moving people up the food chain to learn to appreciate higher quality chocolate. But that's my experience. :Clay
  21. Most unsweetened chocolate is made to be baked/cooked with, not eaten, and therefore most of it -- including Baker's -- is, not surprisingly, not suitable for eating. It's often very gritty and/or chalky, bitter to the point of being harsh, and sometimes surprisingly acidic. Virtually all of those characteristics (or defects) will be hidden when the chocolate is added to flour, butter, sugar, leavening ingredients, and flavorings. What is important is the intensity of the flavor that the unsweetened chocolate provides. MOST consumer recipes assume commercially available chocolate. ALL of the recipes in Marcel Desaulnier's books are made with chocolate that can be purchased in just about any grocery store in the country: Baker's and Nestle's, usually. "Higher end" recipes might be formulated with a gourmet couverture, what's important is that the other ingredients complement/contrast/hide the particular characteristics of the chocolate There are unsweetened chocolates (100% cocoa content) chocolates that are made to be eaten. They are an acquired taste, can be used for baking, but they are usually much to expensive in a commercial setting. Some percentage of chocolate is made from cocoa powder and cocoa butter, not directly from cocoa liquor. This is because by processing the liquor into powder and butter, the manufacturer can use lower-cost ingredients and has far more control over all of the physical, chemical, and organoleptic characteristics of the intermediate and final products. For example, cocoa powder that is extracted using a hydraulic press as opposed to an expeller (screw) press requires less butter to reconstitute as the pressure changes its surface characteristics and it absorbs less butter. Slight changes in the amount of alakali and roasting temperature markedly change the color and flavor of powder and butter. However, most chocolate made this way is used for coating purposes (e.g., the outer shell of a candy bar) rather than made into a blocks of chocolate for baking or for making confections. :Clay
  22. If It's Not Too Late: Many Fondue pots have absolutely terrible heat control and very thin bottoms making it very easy to scorch and ruin the sauce within. Scorched chocolate does not smell very nice, leat alone taste good (did this once on New Year's Eve - one of my guests brought a fondue pot for me to try and I did and scorched the chocolate; the pot was thinner and flame hotter than I was used to). Heavying up on the dairy (cream/butter) with a tad of corn syrup can raise the scorch point - but make sure the sterno flames are set to very low. :Clay
  23. Although my business is not wholesale and there have been times when I have been late in paying accounts due to collections challenges and other cash flow issues at my end, I have found humor to be one of the great ways to get bills paid, especially with smaller companies. I have not found humor to work for large companies. A true example of late collection (120 days) just recently finally got some results (50% payment which basically covered my out of pocket expenses, not my time) included the following. Up until I sent this fax I was getting no response from faxes and phone calls. Dear Customer: Congratulations! You are only the second client of mine in nearly 20 years not to pay one of my bills. The only other one was {an infamous Wall Street junk bond magnate who went to jail}. {... more ...} Well, I got a call from them the afternoon I sent the fax and payment was sent within 48 hours. Their excuse? Their client did not pay them. (They are now suing their client, an Italian furniture manufacturer, so I might get the rest, but who knows if/when.) The part about being stiffed only once in nearly 20 years is true, I guess I am lucky. Any guesses about who the junk bond magnate was? Policy from now in is a deposit of 100% of the estimated out-of-pocket costs with balance due upon delivery/completion unless/until credit has been established.
  24. Wendy: I just want to weigh in on this issue of team membership and representation. The WPTC is not an "official" international event in the sense that there are no national sactioning bodies answering to an international co-ordinating body as is the case with the International Olympic Committee and the various national committees. Teams are not "officially" representing their countries as there is no coordinating body whose job it is to pick a "national" team and no international coordinating body whose job it is to pick a "world's best." The WPTC is a commercial event, and the organizers work with individuals and organizations local to each country who pick teams to represent them. It is up to each country to decide how they choose who will represent them. In the case of the WPTC, it is the National Pastry Team Championship competition that determines the US team for the WPTC. Teams are chosen, I understand, through peer consensus that team members have what it takes to compete. Teams are identified by the name of their captain and can be assembled from anywhere with the only stipulation being that team members must actually work in the US. Team captains choose who they want on their team, and the team bears sole responsibility for the cost of training. Sounds fair to me. The winning team at the Nationals becomes the US team at the Worlds irrespective of the country(ies) of origin of the members. When there is the equivalent infrastructure of the Olympics or the World Cup then some more rigorous standard may need to be applied. The situation is more akin to the European Football league where Beckham plays for Real Madrid - a Brit on a championship Spanish team. In the meantime, Carymax is free to set the rules as it sees fit. The fact that the rules change should not be perceived to be corrupt, but as an acknowledgement that the system is always striving to become more perfect. If a team does not, cannot, or will not agree to abide by the rules then they don't have to compete. Earlier in this thread I mentioned that in many competitions the "winner" is often not the "best," but the person or team that makes the fewest mistakes. If the rules call for wearing gloves and a team does not wear them, they lose points. And - they have no one to blame but themselves. In this case, not wearing gloves (or not stacking chablons or not leaving dirty dishes in the sink at the end of the day) is the difference between 1st and 2nd place. The same thing was true for the French. Too many ingredients prepared in advance -- contravening rules they should have been aware of -- and they lose points. How many points were deducted we may never know, but perhaps enough to make the difference between a 2nd and a 3rd place finish. With NO changes in the actual work produced and simply paying attention to the rules the finish could easily have been Belgium, France, US. In the end, it is the team manager's, team captain's, and team members' fault for not knowing what the rules are and following them precisely. One way to interpret the display of emotion by the Belgian and French teams is that they wanted to place the blame for losing on someone else rather than shouldering responsibility for the rule infractions that they knew probably cost them victory. Knowing a little bit about the scoring for competitions, Carymax has done a great deal to address what they perceive to be the shortcomings of other judging systems and the WPTC and NPTC are far more open than any other similar competition anywhere. Jacques Torres has a very difficult job, but I believe that he, the other judges, and the organizers went out of their way to let everyone know about the decisions they were making - decisions they knew could have a direct effect on the outcome. As I also mentioned earlier, and echoing Steve's comments about there being a French-style of work. Well, Western European, anyway. Take a close look at the sugar pieces produced by Japan and South Korea in Neil's excellent pictures. They are not Western European and in the future of this event, teams that stick to western iconography and formal structures will soon find themselves at a disadvantage in the artistic category. Eventually I can see that leaking over into cultural differences in taste perception. Why so much caramel? Because most of the judges are Western and Westerners like caramel in their desserts a lot more than wasabi. While I do not predict that fugu will ever find its way into an entremet glace, I certainly hope that the Japanese (every team, in fact) will dig deep into their culinary history and create items that reflect their tastes -- and that the judges will reward that courage. South Korea did win for best sugar showpiece, and that is an excellent harbinger of things to come. It is precisely because the techniques and processes are rigidly prescribed while the art is not that this competition works as well as it does. I would hate to see it the other way around - where the art was rigidly prescribed and it did not matter how the teams got there. :Clay
  25. Team 2 was Germany Teams 9 and 10 were Singapore and Australia (don't remember which was which) Team 11 was Switzerland Can you detect the relevance to the theme in each plated dessert? I can't though dry ice makes sense. I think the French also used the dry ice on their buffet table presentation.
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