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Congrats to Team USA - WPTC


lepatissier
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The competition was remarkable for many reasons, not least of which is that the US won - again. Remember, this is the second time in two tries that the US won on their home turf and in this case the Belgians and French were regarded as the odds-on favorites for the first two positions with third place up for grabs among perhaps three or four teams.

The US team winning - again - against the odds, contributed to the perception by other teams that the judging was rigged. Though how it could have been is a mystery to me for the process of judging is set up to remove biases by one judge for their team's work. As far as I know it is far fairer than the Coupe de Monde. (Speaking of which, the European teams are unbeatable on their home turf. Teams can beef about bad judging, but acting unprofessional is, well, unprofessional. I heard that all of the people involved in creating a disturbance at the awards apologized after the emotional intensity of the moment subsided.)

FWIW, I think Carymax was more than a little surprised at the result. For a long time there has been an unquestioned assumption of the superiority of the MOF. Team France had four (including the coach). Belgium had two. The US had only one. Surely a team with four MOFs has the edge? The conventional wisdom was yes -- and even the event organizers thought this way. Notably, the competition will poke some holes in the unquestioned assumption of the "natural" superiority of the MOF.

There were some allegations about changing the judges' scores, but as far as I know, these where unsubstantiated (and untrue). However, if there is one part of the process that can be subverted, it is in the transferring of marks from the judges' scorecards to the spreadsheet/program that calculates the final scores. The only way I can see to open up that process would be for the organizers to hire an outside auditor to oversee the process and certify the results.

What struck me most about the controversy surrounding the judging process is something I learned talking to judges in another competition where the (to me) obvious winners did not win. The judges said that, simply on taste and talent alone, I was right. However, there were many rules stipulated in the competition that needed to be adhered to. The person who won may not have done the best work, but they made the fewest mistakes and garnered the fewest penalty points. One team in this WPTC was penalized, if I remember correctly, for bringing too many completed products. They were allowed to compete as denying their use would have put them under an extreme handicap (this decision was announced publicly). Another team brought too much equipment. If Team Belgium was penalized for using sugar to glue their pastillage, in violation of a known rule, then the lost points associated with that penalty were a contributing factor in their second place finish. Knowing and following the rules is therefore a key element in competing successfully.

While many elements of the judging are subjective, the weighting of taste as the most important factor is key. In the end, who really cares what it looks like if it tastes like s**t? (That's salt for those of you thinking otherwise.) From the reactions on judges' faces, a lot of pieces just didn't make the grade on taste. Consistently good work consistently is the hallmark of a winning team; not spectacular work in one area and average in another.

The first inkling I had that things were not going to go as expected was when it was announced that South Korea won for best sugar showpiece. The second was that the US won for degustation. At that point I knew that unless the US blew it bad on some aspect of their work, they'd win overall.

What Skwerl's excellent picture of S. Korea's piece does not convey is the tangible physical presence of the sugar and its resemblance to jade. The dragon looked as if it had been carved from stone. I heard that several top sugar people were muttering about how the work could have been done. It was that spectacular. Also, the central element of the Japanese piece looked like blown glass and I know of several top glassblowers (I am an art school grad from an institute with a top glass program) who would have killed to be able to do in glass what the Japanese achieved with sugar. Also, the sugar "marbles" in the Japanese piece had top sugar people muttering about how the effect was achieved.

While the technical bar for sugar has been raised, more importantly, it has been moved. The single most important aspect of the South Korean's victory (and Japan's courageous entry) is that the visual language of sugar showpieces has unalterably been changed. Up until now, the visual vocabulary of sugar has been dominated by Western European conventions -- very formal, with limited forms and techniques that were evolutionary not truly innovative. What S. Korea did (I believe) was tap into the rich cultural iconography of their culture in the design of their piece, a decision that was aided by the choice of theme "Earth, Wind, Fire, Water." The ambiguity of the theme (as compared, for example, with the Nationals' theme last year of "Broadway") led to some teams taking chances and S. Korea was rewarded for the risks they took exploring new forms. In future, non-Western cultures will have an advantage unless teams from Western countries can tap into something more emotionally powerful and much less formal.

My only disappointment in this regard was the timidity of the Australian team - Aboriginal culture is rich with symbolism and color that could have been mined. Their choice of reef themes was not bad, but was not as well executed as others. Belgium's pastillage was phenomenal, but its contribution to the overall score relative to the amount of work involved was low, and the effort might better have been placed elsewhere. (Easy for me to say as I was not a competitior.)

:Clay

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

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The scores of the competition are up on the pastrychampionship.com website . . .

and of course, the US, France and Belgium were neck in neck in terms of scores, but I was surprised at the Final Total score, the US beat 2nd place Belgium by 29.5 points, and Belgium between thrid place France by about 11 points . . . thats quite a margin compared to the scores of past competitions . . .

In retrospect to the competition last year, I think that the US has viable competition with the rest of the European countries, after seeing what came out of last years national competition.

I still think EVERYONE did a great job though . . . :)

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OK, here's my first instalment of photos - the plated desserts. We were standing right in front of the French Judge, Olivier Bajard, MOF, so these are fresh from the competitor's kitchens. I'll post them in the order they were presented to the judges. Since the judges aren't told which country's dessert they are tasting, I can accurately attribute only a few of the items. Could somebody please help me out with the ones I'm missing or got wrong?

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Team 6 - South Korea

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Team 7 - France

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Team 8 - USA

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Team 9 - Australia

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Team 10 - Singapore

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Team 11 - Switzerland

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Team 12 - Belgium

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Team 1 - Poland

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Team 2 - Germany

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Team 3 - Japan

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Team 4 - Netherlands

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Team 5 - Taiwan

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Team 4 was from the Netherlands and Team 5 was Taiwan. The French team had a small hole in their plate and put some dry ice in it just as it was being plated (to generate the steam)...

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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.

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

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I ditto that Ted. Boy do I wish I had some of/any of those items for work!

I can't really tell how the theme played into these items Chocophile.........I'd love to know what each item was though-that might help. Do you know what was what?

It's interesting the range of styles shown. I believe I see a mint leave, thats unusual in a world competition isn't it????????? From that to the Belguims plating.......wow! I think the best part of the US's plating was the plate itself, I think our design was weak compared to others. Seems to me the next thing/step is the contestants making their own plates out of edible material. This contest seems like theres just too much leaning on the purchased glassware....in my humble opinion. Yes, I love it and wish I owned all of it, but if you take the glass out of your judging I think these are less spectacular then past contests. No?

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I would have loved to know what each item was, but just had to guess by looking. The judges had detailed diagrams with all the components spelled out, so they could tell what everything was supposed to be and if anything was missing.

It seemed that the Japanese dessert had a missing component, but I couldn't tell for sure. It was basically a blob of white stuff (looked like cottage cheese) on top of a peach soup.

Germany's was a disaster. It was so top heavy that they could barely carry it out without it falling over. In fact, one of them did fall over just as it was being set before a judge. The problem was the bottom tuile tube that the ice cream and what seemed to be an apple fritter was ballanced on was completely hollow with nothing in it. It was funny to watch the French judge remove the top items and react in surprise at the empty bottom.

I think Belgium lost points for relying too much on the glassware. Their items seemed to lack difficulty and structure.

I would have loved to taste Taiwan's dish since the main component was a carefully constructed banana tarte tatin.

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About the theme...I have to say that I loved the theme of "the four elements" this year. From the point of view of an artist, it was a much easier theme to work with than we've seen in the past. I don't know what I would do with a theme of Vegas or Broadway shows but earth, wind, fire and water...I was dreaming up my own sugar showpiece design before I even got to the competition. Very cool. Very inspiring.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I just turned on the tv and the food network is airing

the World Pastry Cup from France. It's on at 9 pm

today (Saturday) and repeated at 1 am and 3 pm tomorrow. I think it's last year's

competition but it doesn't say on the TV schedule.

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I popped in and caught it by chance. Interesting to see all the extra stuff with the US and Canadian teams practicing and the little clip they did of Rudi's show and his team practice as well. Cool stuff.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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Neil you rock! Thanks so much for the pics . . . you got good stuff!

Hey just FYI, theyre still processing my papework . . . I hope I start soon, Im getting really tired of staying home . . . :( Its getting reeeeeealy boring . . hehe

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Awesome photos, Neil! Thanks! Yours turned out great! And thank you for the company in Vegas! Hopefully we'll do dinner again soon! Pam :biggrin:

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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Neil you rock! Thanks so much for the pics . . . you got good stuff!

Hey just FYI, theyre still processing my paperwork . . . I hope I start soon, Im getting really tired of staying home . . . :( Its getting reeeeeealy boring . . hehe

I hope you don't mind if I explain a little bit more of what you are referring to here in your post, but lepatissier recently finished a 6 week externship in our pastry kitchen at Bellagio and is in the middle of the application process for a job on the banquet crew. Gone in for your drug test yet? :wink: The wheels of corporate America grind slowly...

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Hahaha . . youre too funny Neil . . yeah I went in for the drug test, two weeks ago! Damn, I hope they didnt forget about me . . . hehehe . . I cant wait to get back in the kitchen . . . Im having withdrawls . . . hahaha . .

Yep, the wheels of corporate America are grinding back in the stone age . . . :)

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Hey Neil!

Hahaha, just after I posted my last message . . . I got the call!!! Yeaaahhhhh! No more staying at home . . .hehehe, so exciting . . . .

Congratulations! Do you know when you start yet or your hours? Time to go shopping for a bigger spatula! :biggrin:

Sorry to get off topic here, but it'll be great to have another eGullet junky in the kitchen. :smile:

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More, more, MORE photos! Here are the frozen entremets. Sorry for the crappy quality of some of the images. I had to shoot without a flash to avoid getting glare off of the glass front of the display case, so it's hard to hold the camera steady for the longer exposure (and with the crowds jostling for their turn to look).

Oh, and the final detailed score breakdowns have been posted here.

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Australia

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Belgium

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France

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Germany

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Japan

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Poland

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Singapore

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South Korea

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Switzerland

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Taiwan

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USA

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Oh my god...........

Words can't thank-you enough Neil for taking the time to share these photos! They're priceless, this is the best photo review I've seen of any competition.

Anyone know what they've done to acheive their looks with the French frozen entrement and the Swiss teams?

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It sounds like there are mostly professionals here, but even an "amateur pastry enthusiast" like me is fascinated by this! Could someone offer a little glossary? "Petits gateaux" I can get, even with my feeble French, but I wish I knew what I was looking at for some of the other categories. The entremets look mostly chocolate-y, but the frozen entremets don't, and maybe flavor has nothing to do with it?

Fabulous photos! Thanks, Fern

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Actually, for most of this stuff your guess is as good as mine as to what's in it. I had to work during the time when the entremets and minis were tasted by the judges, so I didn't see the insides, but even seeing the tasting of the plated desserts I couldn't be sure of what I was looking at. The judges are given diagrams detailing all the components of each item, but spectators get no inside info.

Actually, that was one of the things I thought the organizers could do a little better. Why not give everyone access to the diagrams and descriptions? I wouldn't even mind getting them after the competition is complete. $150 is not a small amount of money to pay for a ticket, but seating is way away from the kitchens on a flat floor, so you can't really see anything of what the chefs are doing. There are a couple big video screens showing feeds from several cameras roaming the kitchens, but often what we were seeing was not what the comentators were talking about and the camera men had no clue what was important to film. Really it was almost pointless to be there in person. I would much rather pay $25 for photos of all the cakes and showpieces with descriptions, even if they are digital and not printed. The Pastry Art and Design issue that comes out covering the contest is fine, but doesn't include full photos of everything. Usually there are only partial views of several of the showpieces and there are no pictures and/or descriptions of many of the other items.

Thankfully, the cakes and gateaux were available for viewing up close in cases after the judging, and the video screens were a step in the right direction, but the loss of the bleacher seating was a huge step backward.

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I would love to know everything about these luscious-looking items but I don't even know the meaning of entremet, for example. I would like to understand the definitions, or standards, for these categories. Even plated desserts and petits gateaux, which seem rather self-evident--I'm wondering what specifically characterizes one versus the other, as I can imagine there must be things that would be "crossovers" to some degree. Can someone offer guidance?

Thanks, Fern

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