AT THE crack of dawn next Monday, an Australian team of six pastry chefs will travel to Lyon,France, to compete against chefs from 22 countries for the title of world pastry champion.
It is the first time in six years Australia has sent a team to the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie or Pastry World Cup, the most prestigious and demanding pastry competition in the world.
‘‘It’s like the Olympics of pastry,’’ said the coach of Team Pastry Australia, Dean Gibson,who competed in
the 1999 Pastry World Cup with Adriano Zumbo, perhaps Australia’s most widely-known pastry chef.
Except that, unlike Australia’s Olympic athletes, no one knows who you are.
‘‘In France, those guys are like rock stars,’’Gibson said. ‘‘Being in Australia keeps you humble . . . but I think a lot of people are going to be surprised [by us]. There’s a real underdog element.’’
Each team will have 10 hours to create a range of desserts: 12 identical plate desserts, three chocolate cakes, three ice-cream cakes and three showpieces. Time is precious and the competition so intense that the competitors will not stop to rest, eat or even go to the toilet,Gibson said.
‘‘There’s no room for error at this level,’’ he said. ‘‘Everything has to be perfect.’’
Although the showpieces are the most visually impressive – each stands more than a metre tall and takes
between four and seven hours to build – taste is paramount when it comes to scoring. The trick,Gibson said, is to remember that each judge will taste 33 desserts on the day and is not likely to take more than one or two spoonfuls of each.
‘‘That’s a lot of sugar,’’Gibson said.
‘‘So the way we design the desserts is not only packing in a lot of flavour but we minimise sugar and fat because . . .[they] coat your tongue and mask flavour.’’
Each showpiece – one made of chocolate, one of sugar and one carved from ice – is made entirely out
of the designated material.
Team captain and sugar competitor Andre Sandison, who will turn a kilogram of sugar into a soaring, glass-like structure over about eight hours, says the competition is a performance as well as a mind game.
‘‘It’s really a competition against yourself because it’s a creative process,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not a race where
the fastest person over the line wins.’’
The team has been working towards the event for more than two years and has trained between 12 to 14 hours a day, four days a week, in the final months of preparation.
‘‘When I first started, [it] used to take me two days to finish the one piece. I was there 12 hours to 16 hours a day,’’said ice competitor Barry Jones, whose finished carving weighs 200 kilograms.
‘‘Today, it took me four hours.’’