What is the most important thing in pâtisserie? Participation. I’m talking about the things we need to be doing to grow both ourselves and the profession.
The adage, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it”, insinuates many people have the willingness to participate, but are held back by the various obstacles that present themselves.
Pastry is many things to many people, but at the root of it lies a passion and a desire to self-express through food.
Australian pastry chef and Team Pastry Australia chocolate competitor Justin Yu’s recent participation in Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2013 competition in Tokyo, Japan, was participation with a capital ‘P’! Supported by Sonia Siu, Le Cordon Bleu Sydney pâtisserie graduate and colleague of Justin, the pair’s commitment, preparation and hard work paid off with an awesome second place finish. Justin brought a fresh perspective to the competition, showcasing works that reflect his own style and attitude.
Fumihiko Fuse of Osaka, Japan, was awarded first place, after winning the national competition last year. His winning speech was humbling as he admitted the uncertainty of his professional capacity to represent Japan.
Justin quietly questioned his own capabilities, coming into this competition with sugar skills learnt only six months before. This highlights what can come from a willingness to challenge self-beliefs and risk the comfort of knowing oneself. Champions are both made and born.
Japan and six other nations literally put themselves through a culinary endurance test, each producing two showpieces from different media across two days, as well as entremets and bon bons. The Japan Confectionery Association, with a membership of 15,000 pastry chefs, invested a huge amount of time, money and resources into this event and the associated Japan Cake Show.
There were 3000 entries in the cake show, ranging from incredibly detailed decorated cakes to masterful sugar and chocolate showpieces. This is a true testament of the passion for pâtisserie in Japan and the tremendous network within Japan to facilitate participation.
Just getting to Japan from Australia is a mammoth task involving six crates: 250 pieces of equipment that need to be cleaned, sanitised, individually weighed, packed and itemised for shipment.
Sponsor, Cocoa Barry/Callebaut Australia, knows the lost value of production and distribution when shipments get sidetracked in customs. Just like the competition itself, attention to detail with logistics is just as critical. The facilities, ingredients and specialist equipment to train are provided from Justin’s employer, Continental Pâtisserie.
This incredible participation from sponsors and employers makes competing viable for Justin and provides Australia with a platform to develop and promote the pastry profession internationally.
Patissier Javier Mercado from Le Cordon Bleu London recently won a live sugar art competition in London, producing a sugar showpiece and two entremets in six hours. He has acknowledged he values these experiences, stating, “I have had my share of successes, and it’s now time for the next generations to step it up a notch.”
This attitude and respect for aspiring patissiers is what makes participation not only worthwhile, but possible.
Participation, on any level is valuable for the industry and each individual involved. Not every competitor can become a winner, but everyone can ‘win’, so to speak, by being involved. So find a way to participate in this great craft!