Thibault Marchand and Erica Sangiorgi from the Kimpton Fitzroy hotel in London have been crowned winners of Channel 4's Bake Off: The Professionals.
Executive pastry chef and pastry chef, respectively, at InterContinental Hotels Group's five-AA-star, 334-bedroom hotel in Bloomsbury, the pair met working at Dominique Ansel's Bakery in London.
They beat off competition from finalists Nelson Barros and Evaldas Juska from South Place Hotel in London, and Sarah Frankland and Leyre Pedrazuela Otero from Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa in Bagshot, Surrey following 10 weeks of intense patisserie competition.
The teams were tasked with creating an afternoon tea in four hours and a wedding feast in just seven.
For the afternoon tea, the pair served up a truffle and mashed potato espuma with soft-boiled quail's egg, which judge Cherish Finden, creative development chef at Godiva, described as "one of the best savoury displays" she had ever seen.
Their sweet elements included a spiced apple crémeux with a salted caramel chocolate sponge, and a passionfruit, guava and coconut slice. Finden described it as "a marriage made in heaven"; while judge Benoit Blin, chef patissier at the two-Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, said it was "beautiful to eat" and "slick to look at".
Sangiorgi had never made a wedding cake before. While Finden said their triple-tiered lychee and raspberry Victoria sponge was "simple but elegant" and their mini pavlovas with mango confit won praise, their choux buns filled with hazelnut praline and blackcurrant confit stole the show. Blin described them as "absolutely stunning", showing "all the skills of the pastry chef" while Finden said they "nailed it" and liked every component. Both judges agreed it was "one of the best desserts" they had ever seen on the competition.
Team captain Merchand said: "It was an incredible moment, we were so proud of what we had achieved as a team, and I still can't believe that we won this competition. This was the hardest competition we have been in, so it was made it all the more special when we did win."
Daniel Healey, hotel manager at the Kimpton Fitzroy London, added: "We're so delighted for them, and have been closely following their progress from the beginning and are thrilled that their incredible talents have been recognised on the show."
Series producer Chloe Avery said: "Thibault and Erica have always had one of the strongest team dynamics - they are great friends and this has enabled them to thrive in this competition. Their afternoon tea combined adventurous flavours and flawless finishes. Their wedding feast was striking, romantic and one of their desserts in particular took the judges' breath away. Together they have undoubtedly raised the bar of the competition."
Chefs can apply to take part in the next series at channel4.com/takepart.