The 2nd Annual StarChefs.com Pastry Competition at the 6th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress: Round 3
The tension was high at the start of the third and final day of the 2nd Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition, as the three remaining competitors pulled out all the stops to try and win the grand prize. As Emcee Keegan Gerhard explained, “Day three is all about your experience, what you know and whether you can bring it to the kitchen that day.” And the competitors were really put to the test in this round—each chef had to create an à la minute dessert using Carpigiani´s Soft Serve Machine, along with a Chocolate Trio: a stunning 8-inch by-8-inch chocolate centerpiece, an 8-inch chocolate entrement, and 10 bonbons, using Cacao Barry chocolates.
Namelaka, Pumpkin Seed Streusel, Lemon Gelée, Muscovado Gelée, PreGel Krocco Peanut Arabeschi, and Lemon Ash Soft Serve by Pastry Chef Ramon Perez of Comme Ça - Los Angeles
With the additional requirements, the three remaining chefs were allotted more preparation time than the previous two days—a whopping three and a half hours. But these talented chefs hardly seemed to need the time. Early on Antonio Bachour worked on his chocolate centerpiece, having finished the majority of his prep work on his Gianduja mousse and mango-jelly entrement and tropical fruit bonbons during Monday's preparation time. Ramon Perez finished off his olive oil-Thai basil bonbons and worked on a swirled chocolate garnish for his entrement (a stunning bombe of praline mousse and coffee crémeux). And Chris Ford completed his lavender-caramel chocolates and garnished a glitzy glazed entrement with a hazelnut crunch dacquiose. While two of the final competitors—Perez and Ford—had the added advantage of having competed in last year´s competition, all three admitted they each had their own weaknesses and flaws, suggesting it was anyone’s game.
Winner Ramon Perez carefully prepares his olive oil-Thai basil bonbons
And while the added components made the competition harder, it also made judging more difficult. Executive Pastry Chef Consultant Johnny Iuzzini consulted with Elizabeth Falkner and David Burke, while Pierre Hermé and François Payard picked apart the bonbons and chocolate work. Jeffrey Steingarten noted the regular appearance of gellans and gums in the desserts (as well as the use of a microwaved cake by many competitors in Round 2), pondering whether pastry chefs have begun to fall back on these techniques.
But at the end of the day, there could be only one winner. PreGel´s Jillian Hillard was on hand to award their $5,000 check, an invitation to teach a 5-Star Pastry Series Seminar at their North Carolina Professional Training Center, and a warm round of applause to the winner of the 2nd Annual International Pastry Competition, Ramon Perez. Perez also walked away with a $5,000 voucher for Bravo equipment, a 3-day VIP pass to the Cacao Barry Training Center, a Baxter Hybrid Convection Oven, and $2,000 of Waring Commercial products, along with a spot at the judge's table for next year's StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition.
Winner Ramon Perez with (part of) the grand prize, a $5,000 check courtesy of PreGel
Chef Ramon Perez of Comme Ça – Los Angeles, CA and Las Vegas, NV
À la Minute: Namelaka, Pumpkin Seed Streusel, Lemon Gelée, Muscovado Gelée, PreGel Krocco Peanut Arabeschi, and Lemon Ash Soft Serve
Bonbons: Thai Basil-Olive Oil Bonbons
Entremet: Sacher Sponge with Praline Mousse and Coffee Crémeux
By Katherine Sacks and Joanne Liu