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The World Chocolate Masters 2011: James Petrie

James Petrie

James Petrie, UK judge and head of creative development at The Fat Duck Group, shares his thoughts on the competition.

This is your first time as a judge here – how are you finding it?:

The competition is fantastic but being a judge here is stressful. The competitors really know what they’re doing so you’ve got to be on the ball. As a restaurant chef, I thought a lot of the plated desserts were disappointing – many didn’t showcase the chocolate and a lot of the preparations were too sweet, which got in the way of those all important bitter and fruity chocolate flavours.

Would a restaurant chef stand a chance?:

They could definitely develop the skills required but the time needed to practise would be a big issue. Restaurant chefs work long hours and there aren’t many businesses that would be able to give staff time off to train. It’s a shame that most of the UK people here are from pastry shops and factories – I’m pretty much the only person here from the business.

Would you ever consider competing yourself?

My background is pastry and I was very interested when I came to the 2009 competition but I don’t have the time in my current role. I would consider putting one of my boys forward and being involved as a mentor – so watch this space.

How relevant is the competition to the UK restaurant industry?:

Very. It’s cutting edge stuff and a lot of these techniques can be utilised in restaurant dishes. It certainly deserves to have more awareness in the UK.

What do you think the jury would make of the chocolate preparations you offer at The Fat Duck?:

I hope they’d like it. We do a lot of work with aerated chocolate, which involves tempering it, putting it through a siphon, moulding it and then putting it in a vacuum. We tried to get some chocolatiers to help us but they said what we were proposing was impossible. Our preparations show a lot of technical know-how but there are lots of requirements and unwritten rules at the competition. They’d certainly get people thinking, though.

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