Chef Florian Poirot has been named as the overall winner of the third annual UK Pastry Open at the Restaurant Show, ahead of the final selection of the new Pastry Team UK.
Poirot, who is based in York and whose company FP Macaroons specialises in preparing macaroons for events such as weddings, won after taking part in the sugar category of the competition. He presented an "entremets" cake, and a sugar sculpture as part of the contest (below), which asked competitors to create designs on the theme of either a fairground or a fairy tale.
The chef won the overall prize out of six contestants in total (two of the original eight did not compete), with four taking part in the chocolate contest, and two in the sugar. This means he now goes through to the 2017 Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie to represent the UK, although he cannot take captaincy of the team as he does not have a British passport. The other members are yet to be announced.
Chris Zammit, pastry chef at the cakes, desserts, and pies baker Camilleri Kitchen, East Sussex, won both the best overall taste, and best overall chocolate awards, the other two awards available on the day, for his Disney's Aladdin-themed showpiece (below).
The judging panel included names such as UK team chairman Benoit Blin; pastry chef Stephane Glacier (Meilleur Ouvrier de France); Gordon Ramsay Group executive development chef James "Jocky" Petrie; chef Brian Turner; executive pastry chef at the Langham London, Cherish Finden; UK World Chocolate Master Ruth Hinks, and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Sara Jayne Stanes. Former Pastry Team UK members Barry Johnson from Rococo Chocolates, and Andrew Blas of the Hotel Café Royal, were also judging.
Alongside Poirot and Zammit, the other contestants were Dale DeSimone from the Grosvenor House hotel, John Costello from Nestlé, Chris Seddon from Coutts, and Joakim Prat of Maitre Choux.
Team president Martin Chiffers will now choose the remaining two team members, to be announced in due course. Chiffers will focus on the five runners up at the Pastry Open for his choice, although he is also able to look further afield if needed.
Commenting on his win, Poirot said: "It's an absolutely amazing feeling; a big achievement; I feel very proud. I wasn't expecting it at all, so the feeling is every better. I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to learn from the best. I'm looking forward to cracking on, brainstorming [for Lyon]; the earlier we start [practising] the better it will be. It's a dream to compete at Lyon. I want to compete with the best people and learn from the best too."
Last year, Team Pastry UK won 6th place in the Coupe du Monde in Lyon, the highest ever achieved by a UK team. This means the UK will automatically pass into the Coupe du Monde without having to spend time and money taking part in the usual European contest.
Today, Chiffers and Poirot were both confident that the team could achieve an even higher result in the 2017 contest.
Chiffers told The Caterer: "We're aiming for the podium [top three], and I think we can do it. We have a third more money this year, more time to practice, and can put all our money and energy into that final goal. This time we need a more scheduled approach to training, and we'll do our best."
Speaking of his selection process for the final two members of the team, he said: "I already have a little picture in my mind of who would be good; we need someone with commitment, who is dedicated. [Poirot] practised 10 times for this competition, and we need to practise 25-30 times for the actual competition, which I know he will do We need an ice carver, and there aren't that many people in the UK doing sugar work., but I have some ideas."
Poirot added: "It's exciting [to think about Lyon]. We're confident. I'm going to put in all the effort I can to try and achieve this; lots of hard work and practice, but I'm looking forward to it."