On Sunday, seven of the country’s best pastry chefs are gathering at Humber College with the task of creating chocolate showpieces in hopes of scoring a spot on a team that will represent Canada in the annual World Chocolate Masters competition. We spoke with Philippe Vancayseele, director of Chocolate Academy Canada, and head judge of Sunday’s challenge, about his chocolate school, his awesome job title, and the perfect way to melt chocolate at home.—Karon Liu
How does one become a director of Chocolate Academy Canada?
I started working for Callebaut [a Belgian chocolate company that later merged with French company Cacao Berry to become Barry Callebaut, the world’s biggest chocolate producer] as the technical advisor 18 years ago. I was teaching and giving demonstrations to professionals around the world. Eight months ago, I got a job in Quebec to be the director [of the chocolate academy] and create new courses.
Wait, a school devoted to chocolate? What happens there?
The basic courses are more about technique than recipes. Things like how to crystalize chocolate, maintain its shape, mould bonbons. All this basic knowledge should be known before going to the advanced courses.
So what can we expect at the competition at Humber?
We have seven participants and only one will be selected for the team that will go to compete in Paris in October. Each person has to make a chocolate showpiece, a moulded bonbon, a cake, a dessert, and their version of a tarte au sucre on that day.
What’s the atmosphere like at the world competition? Is it like one big party?
Everybody is there to win so all the participants are really concentrated. You can feel the stress the day before the competition starts. Family members and buses full of people from bakeries and pastry shops from other countries come to give support. It’s really emotional.
What happens to these giant sculptures when it’s all over?
Sometimes, unfortunately, they’re put it the trash when something breaks. If you can move the showpieces, they’ll be on display somewhere, or sometimes the contestants will take them.
Any chocolate tips for those of us who won’t be competing any time soon?
Before you use the chocolate for decoration, you have to temper [melt] it, or what I call pre-crystallization. You take some chocolate drops and put them in a plastic bowl, and warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds. You take it out, and then put it back. Repeat this until the chocolate starts to melt slowly. At the end, you just have to make sure there are still little bits of chocolate in these melted parts. It’s what you need to make any kind of decoration whether it’s for a cake or in a piping bag.
The World Chocolate Masters’ Canadian selection competition is on Jan. 20 from 7:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. at Humber College (205 Humber College Blvd., at Hwy 27). The event is free and the public is encouraged to drop in.