Since 2008, Valrhona has organized the 'Chocolate Chef Competition' otherwise known as the C3. The C3 competition, which happens every two years, was created to recognize and celebrate the hardworking professional pastry chefs. Being Valrhona, the focus is on chocolate, however chefs must incorporate many elements of the trade if they plan on taking home the first-place prize.
The C3 competition gathers a community of Pastry Chefs driven by a desire to showcase the quality and creativity of their work. The competition also provides attendees the opportunity to discuss trends, techniques, and current market developments with other like-minded individuals. Being the biggest international restaurant dessert competition, Valrhona was able to bring life back to a once neglected specialty. The six candidates for the North America Qualifications were selected out of written applicants and the winner is set to represent North America on March 5, 2020 in the International C3 Competition in Singapore.
On Monday, October 28th, 2019, Valrhona Inc. held the North American Final of its Chocolate Chef Competition. After months of preparation, Chef Kevin Clemenceau of andSons Chocolatiers in Beverly Hills won the North American Final. Chef Jim Hutchison of Winvian Farm in Litchfield Hills, Connecticut took home the Press Prize.
We were fortunate enough to talk to First Place winner Kevin Clemenceau, and Press Prize winner, Chef Jim Hutchison, following the competition to get a bit more insight about their experience at C3 this year.
JIM HUTCHISON - PRESS PRIZE WINNER
Q1: First of all, congratulations on your performance at the C3 competition. We know you’ve taken part in competitions in the past, how did this compare?
A1: Thank you! Participating in C3 was by far the best experience I've had in a competition. Valrhona had everything on their part very well organized and thought out, I really appreciated that. It was certainly very professional and because of this all the competitors were able to do well, they were tough competition!
Q2: What kinds of preparation went into the event? How did you decide what you wanted to create for the plated dessert recipe? Was this something you have developed before or specifically for the competition?
A2: I was informed in July I had been selected to participate in this year's C3. I immediately began my planning and preparations. I had those three months to get everything down. Some of the flavors were something I've done in various applications in the past, they are some of my favorites. Overall I wanted to present a representation of my experience and my philosophy in pastry and I feel very proud and confident I was able to do that. I had a great time.
#ValrhonaC3 | "LYM (Love You More)" petits fours by Chef Jim Hutchison (@jimwhutchison) of @winvianfarm, made with coconut BAHIBÉ 46% whipped ganache, Szechuan peppercorn financier, and a passion fruit gel center. Photo from @valrhonausa
Chef Hutchison's petits fours were inspired by a combination of his favorite flavors in one bite.
Q3: With your success at C3 this year, what do you have planned for the future?
A3: Thanks again, I feel it was a great success. I'm always looking forward to the future and what it may bring. I enjoy the work that goes into building something and working for results. After being in this industry for as many years as I have been, I still see myself as a student. There are so many ways to continue to learn and grow in this craft. I greatly appreciate the competition my fellow candidates gave me and the critique and feedback the judges gave to me. I hope I'm able to give back to the industry what it has given me.
KEVIN CLEMENCEAU - FIRST PLACE
Q1: We’d like to congratulate you again on your first-place finish in the C3 competition! We cannot wait to follow you into next year as you represent North America! How extensive was your preparations for the regional competition?
A1: Thanks a lot for the warm words, and the support. Preparation has brought a lot of different feelings and emotions during my practice repetitions. Through doubt, stress, anxiety, then confidence and impatience...
So that was pretty intense and interesting, I feel like I have learned a lot about my own psychology. The way that I approached this kind of event to make sure that I am going to be ready has evolved and improved over time.
Q2: You won first place at the AUI Pastry Cup in 2017, how has the C3 Competition challenged you compared to the AUI Cup? What do you expect the theme to be like for the Final International Competition?
A2: An athlete’s mentality and approach never focus on what is in the past or what they have won in the past, but they try to aim for performance and goal and look towards the future and I do the same!
I never thought about that win 2 years ago at the AUI pastry cup and stayed naturally focused on what was to come even though my friends and family used that 2017 win as a reference.
So basically, I had two different approaches, I prepared way better for C3 Valrhona than AUI pastry cup. However, I’ve grown as well since my AUI pastry cup experience, so it’s hard to compare both.
To properly answer the question, at this point in my career I felt the need to try and challenge myself more than I ever have, and C3 Valrhona brought me the opportunity to do so. The challenge was bigger, and I took it very personally to show what I was able to do. It has been one of the most challenging times of my life, and a lot of change that has happened at the same time.
What do I expect for the worldwide final? Woahh, I have many ideas, and I am truly hopping that I’ll be wrong about them ahah.
I think pastry is in a curve, about to evolve again and again, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we will have more restrictions about gluten-free, vegan... or even working on some very specific chocolate from Valrhona, like the fruit’s inspiration Valrhona chocolates. Who knows ahah!? But I am sure that will be challenging and a lot of fun once again!
#ValrhonaC3 | "Neyba" plated dessert by Chef Kevin Clemenceau (@kevin.clemenceau) of @and.sons Chocolatiers, made with vanilla-tonka crème Anglaise, cocoa streusel, BAHIBÉ 46% crèmeux, BAHIBÉ 46% Bavaroise mousse, BAHIBÉ 46% miror glaze, yuzu sauce, BAHIBÉ 46% chocolate decor, Rocher glaze, and hazelnut/cocoa nibs nougatine. Photo from @valrhonausa
Q3: What’s your biggest takeaway from competing in pastry competitions? What do you have planned in the future?
A3: Definitely the checks ahah! I am kidding here.
For me the personal growth and the opportunity to meet the juries, press, and organizations behind those events... I truly learned a lot about myself lately, and part of it is due to the uncomfortable situations that have made me grow.
The future is far, but I have a lot to do about my current present and focusing a lot on the small steps that will get me on the right direction. I do currently have a lot of projects and features to participate in so future is looking awesome.
Q4: Can you offer any advice for young pastry chefs who want to compete in pastry competitions in the future?
- Make sure practice training will be uncomfortable
- Don’t have any lack of preparation.
These are two pieces of advice that I have personally received by mentors, friends and famous chefs. Their sentences will always be part of my preparation.
Thank you to both chefs for taking the time to answer some of our questions, we wish them both great success in the future! Be sure to follow Kevin Clemenceau as he prepares for the International C3 Competition. To learn more about the Chocolate Chef Competition and Valrhona visit this link here.