The 2nd Annual StarChefs.com Pastry Competition at the 6th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress: Round 1
In a buzz of excitement, the first day of the 2nd Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition took over the ICC Main Stage on Sunday morning. Twenty competitors had one hour to wrap up their pre-dessert preparations for the first round challenge, all under the watchful eye of the floor judges (who included PreGel's Corporate Pastry Chef Fredric Monti, Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy Director Jerome Landrieu, and Pastry Chef Robert Truitt). Each chef chose to use this hour differently. Katie Rosenhouse of the David Burke Group baked off final elements for her sweet potato cake (and fried an eye-catching bird-nest garnish); cool and composed Dana Cree used the hour's entirety to practice plating her completed elements, artfully arranging clouds of lime meringue and raspberry powder.
Pastry Chef Jennifer Yee of SHO Shaun Hergatt - New york, NY competes in the StarChefs.com 2nd Annual Pastry Competition
For others, the hour wasn't long enough. Tension filled the room when Cecily Austin realized that the equipment necessary to use liquid nitrogen wasn't available—an element she was depending on to finish a key component in her pre-dessert, a tart Autumn Berry snow. But all 20 competitors managed to make it through the 60 minutes armed with a pre-dessert to present to the panel of prestigious judges. Although a few shaky hands wobbled (and several scoops of ice cream landed on the plates in a less-than-desired state), most of the competitors put up a variety of colorful and pristine plates for degustation judges Elizabeth Falkner, Stephane Treand, Michael Laskonis, Pierre Herme, and Ron Paprocki.
Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt announce the semi-finalists
Within the group, chefs took varied approaches to their pre-desserts. Some focused on savory flavors, like Ramon Perez's rich and creamy cucumber ice cream and coconut crémeux; others took a more traditional approach, like Austin, who managed to complete her dessert without the liquid nitrogen and present a tarte tatin-style banana corn cake. Several others created more modernist plates, like Jiho Kim’s blueberry-coated mascarpone with Grand Marnier fizzy streusel and Jennifer Yee's beautiful and bright strawberry consommé with ricotta sorbet and cilantro oil. But a common element on every plate was an ice cream or sorbet, thus fulfilling the competition’s requirement to use the Bravo Trittico 183 Ice Cream Machine. One of the most spectacular presentations came from Christina Kaelberer, who gently placed her sparkling rose-strawberry sorbet into pulled sugar goblets for a winning presentation.
Lime Meringue with Jasmine Tea Cuajada, Raspberry Powder, Raspberry Gel, and Lychee Sorbet by Pastry Chef Dana Cree of Kadeau - Bornholm, Denmark
Of course, the true goal in creating the pre-dessert was, as last year’s Pastry Competition winner Ron Paprocki put it, to create a modern day palate cleanser, something that smoothly balances the transition from savory to sweet. And although each chef worked hard to bring his or her best pre-dessert to fruition, only 11 finalists* continued onto Round 2 of the competition (and won the First Round prize, a Waring Commercial Spice Grinder).
Round 1 Finalists:
1. John Park: Kaffir Lime Yogurt with Asian Pears, Mango Pearls, Rice Puffs, White Chocolate Feuilletine, and Rau Ram-Lime Sorbet
2. Antonio Bachour: White Chocolate Crémeux with Lychee Granita, Grapefruit Gelée, Campari Meringue, and Greek Yogurt Sorbet
3. Jiho Kim: Blueberry-Vanilla Mascarpone “Rock” with Grand Marnier Fizzy Streusel, Coconut Sablé and Peach-Passion Sorbet
4. Chris Ford: Fromage Blanc “Mozzerella” with Pecan Meringue, Brown Sugar Syrup, Red Currant Gelée, and Squash Sherbet
5. Ramon Perez: Coconut Crémeux with Green Apple Gelée, Coriander and Cucumber Ice Cream
6. Manabu Inoue: Champagne Lime Ecume with Roasted Red Pepper Cream, Fresh Raspberries in a Sugar Glass, and Raspberry-Red Pepper Sorbet
7. Dana Cree: Lime Meringue with Jasmine Tea Cuajada, Raspberry Powder, Raspberry Gel, and Lychee Sorbet
8. Christina Kaelberer: Sangria: Jellied Spicy Red Fruits with Candied Citrus and Sparkling Rose-Strawberry Sorbet
9. Jennifer Yee: TriStar Strawberry Consommé with Red Bell Pepper Meringue, Cilantro Oil, and Ricotta Sorbet
10. Katie Rosenhouse: Sweet Potato Cake with Pecan Maple Caramel, Spiced Crumble, and Cranberry-Crème Fraîche Swirl Ice Cream
11. Cicely Austin: Banana Corn Cake with Autumn Berry Compote, Sweet Corn Ice Cream and Autumn Berry Snow
*Due to technical difficulties with the liquid nitrogen during the first round of competition, the judges awarded Cecily Austin a pass to the next round.