August 28, 2008
Pastry+Italian = my idea of Heaven
I feel like a giddy schoolgirl lately, or a groupie of the highest order. That's because I have spent the last few days in the company of only some of THE most important pastry chefs in the WORLD. Yep. That's me looking like I just won the Mega Bucks at a Las Vegas casino. And that's me with the Italian team looking frightened by the honor, the enormity, the sheer brilliance of these pastry professionals.
me with italian team members Fabrizio Galla, Rossano Vinciarelli and Roberto Rinaldini
me with Master pastry chef and judge Ewald Notter (I promise I didn't pay him)
They are here in Nashville for the 2008 World Pastry Team Championship taking place Sunday Aug. 31st and Monday Sept. 1st at Gaylord Opryland Convention Center. Who knew? Did YOU? Because I didn't. And when I found out I nearly fainted with the promise of watching two days of fierce pastry competition: an event of artistry and showmanship, of unbelievable chocolate and sugar showpieces--more art than food-- that, if you haven't seen them before, will blow your mind. Here is just a preview (keep in mind this is ALL chocolate and sugar):
I've had the pleasure of watching the Italian team practice for several days at the Nashville State Culinary School kitchen where they have been guests of some very nice folks, using their kitchen to practice all day everyday for a week. They shipped 5 containers of their own equipment and indredients from Italy and were met by 2 coaches and one team captain. This is just to give you an idea of the greatness of this upcoming event that we in Nashville have the honor of hosting.
What I've seen so far has been amazing. The skill, the precision, the concentration and focus of these gentlemen (who also happen to be some of the nicest chefs I've ever met), has been inspiring to say the least. Not one of them is pretentious or snobby at all. And do they ever have reason to be! In Italy these guys are well-known pastry chefs in a country that takes its culinary professionals very seriously, each of them boasting numerous awards and accolades.
Each team from ten different countries will be requred to complete all of the following elements:
1 sugar showpiece
1 chocolate showpiece
1 pastillage tray
3 different types of chocolate bonbons
3 identical enremets
3 different petits gateaux
3 entremets glacé
14 identical plated desserts
The judging is based on three categories: degustation (taste), 40% of the score; artistic (showpieces), 30% ; and work (hygiene, efficiency, waste)30%. The judges are some of the finest pastry chefs and former pastry champions from all over the world. (I had the pleasure of meeting one while volunteering at the World Pastty Forum, taking place all week leading up to the event with classes for professionals and demonstrations by master pastry chefs from all over the world).
The competition Sunday and Monday is going to be fierce, the skill and beauty awe-inspiring, and hopefully I will report on the *taste* of some of these works of art. I will at least get to see all of the masterpieces from a very close vantage point. In addition to driving the Italian team around town and serving as unofficial personal translator, I have managed to secure a spot as a server during both days of the competition--one of the most coveted spots by volunteers. Our job will be to take each entry by hand (and very carefully) to the judges (except for that huge sculpture which the team carries of course). I will be on my best behaviour, and needless to say, I will be rooting for the Italians. So stay tuned...Forza Italia!