Ruth Hinks became the country's first-ever female UK Chocolate Master in a three-day competition held at London's Olympia last month, earning her entry into the World Chocolate Masters. She spoke with Janie Manzoori-Stamford
How does it feel to be named UK Chocolate Master? It's an honour. The comments I have received from the judges have been overwhelming. It's a wonderful feeling to have world-class chocolatiers and pastry chefs - professionals whom I hold in such high esteem - commenting on how much they enjoyed my creations.
What did the competition involve? Each element of the competition requires the successful execution of a fairly complex set of processes or recipe. If something unexpected happens - in my case, I turned up on day two to discover that my ingredients had frozen overnight - it is important to be able to quickly adapt and work around problems.
You're the first woman to achieve the title. Why do you think that is? I'm not sure. Worldwide, the calibre of women working in the industry is extremely high. Two of the judges for the UK finals were Hideko Kawa, head pastry chef at the Fat Duck, and Kirsten Tibballs, who runs the Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne. Both are incredibly successful in their own right.
As far as the UK is concerned, the Savoy's Allanah Doe has very recently been crowned as the Junior UK Chocolate Master, so watch this space.
Do you hope to see more women follow in your footsteps? At Cocoa Black we run a Chocolate & Pastry School near Edinburgh which offers chocolate making and baking classes. Demand has rocketed recently, so if my becoming UK Chocolate Master has inspired a few people to pick up a whisk and roll up their sleeves, then I am even happier.
How are preparations going for the World Chocolate Masters? Over the next couple of weeks I will be developing a training programme. This is likely to take 30 hours a week for 12 months, so it's a big step-up from the preparation for UK Chocolate Masters.