The new UK Pastry Team has been announced ahead of the next Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie in Lyon in 2017.
Andrew Blas, executive pastry chef at the hotel Café Royal, is captain, and will be focusing on the ice sculpture; Chris Zammit, pastry chef at the cakes, desserts, and pies baker Camilleri Kitchen, East Sussex, is the chocolate candidate; and Florian Poirot, chef-owner of York-based company FP Macaroons, is the sugar candidate.
The three team members were announced last night at the Berkeley hotel in London, by team president and pâtissier Martin Chiffers, and chairman Benoit Blin, executive pastry chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.
Blas was in the previous UK Pastry team, which came sixth in the most recent World Cup in Lyon, in January this year. Poirot was first announced as part of the team in early October, after he automatically joined following his overall win at the UK Pastry Open at this year's Restaurant Show, in which he created a sugar sculpture on the theme of a fairground.
Zammit was also hotly tipped to join the team after winning best overall chocolate and best overall taste at the UK Pastry Open.
In contrast to last year, the three main team members will also be joined by three supporting stars, all of whom also competed in the UK Pastry Open. Handpicked by Chiffers, the trio comprises Joakim Prat, pastry chef at Maitre Choux; Dale DeSimone, executive pastry chef at Grosvenor House hotel; and Chris Seddon from Coutts.
They will shadow the candidates at each stage, supporting the team, and learning the skills of chocolate, ice and sugar apiece. This is intended to help spread the load of competing, allow the chefs to bounce more ideas off each other, and also means that the UK team is able to further its major aim of passing on the skills of pâtisserie to new generations of pastry chefs.
This extension of the team also marks a concerted effort by the UK Pastry Club to push harder for a higher result at Lyon 2017, after the team achieved the highest ever ranking in 2015. The 2017 team will face a more regimented training schedule, including 35 weekend sessions, and signed contracts for each stage of the preparation process.
The team's achievement of sixth place in 2015 means that the UK does not have to compete in the usual European contest, which will save time and around £5,000 in spending money, allowing them to plough the effort and extra funds into improving the kitchen, kit and materials.
Martin Chiffers, who is taking over the presidency of the team for the third time, commented: "Having someone to work with them and follow them is a great support to the team, and also allows the others to learn and potentially become the future team. It's very important to pass on the skills, develop together and bring new techniques."
He added: "This year we're so much more focused, so much more committed."
Blas, who had kept his re-initiation to the team a secret ahead of the announcement, said he had been nervous in accepting the captaincy, but was pleased that he would be able to take his hard-earned training in ice sculpting into the next contest.
He told The Caterer: "The first thing that came into my mind was, I won't have to move that 500kg of ice around by myself! But then there's also scope for that person to be a second pair of eyes, at the level that you want, and that is really important. Ice sculpting is a forgotten art. So if we save money on that expensive training, and spend it more on the kitchen, so that we can walk into that competition feeling focused, that's great."
Speaking of the time commitment the contest demands, he added: "If you don't want to fit something like this in, then you won't. But if you want to, then you will. And everyone in this team now, does."
Zammit, the chocolate candidate, has taken part in over 35 pâtisserie competitions around the world, but this will be his first time at the Coupe du Monde.
He told The Caterer: "I really want it, so I'm automatically excited for all the training. It's a great support to have [previous team member] Andrew here, and I'm really happy that there are more than three of us too, as it will be good to guide each other and the more heads we put together, the better result we'll get. Competing on this national scale is crazy; it will be a new challenge."
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