Gilles Renusson, President of the Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A., congratulates winners of the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie and offers his accounts of the prestigious competition.
Congratulations to Team France for once more winning the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie which was held in Lyon, France this past January. You dazzled all the visitors with your artistry and creativity and you impressed the judges with your flawless execution of a well-rehearsed participation. To team Japan and Italy who finished second and third, we also take our hats off. You deserve your place on the podium. You took risks and displayed superior craftsmanship and harmony as you labored intensely for ten straight hours to serve the desserts and build your displays.
Winners: Team France (center), Second Place: Team Japan (left) and Third Place: Team Italy (right)
To team U.S.A., who finished fourth, I say well done! To Valrhona, and Gabriel Paillasson, who created this competition 24 years ago, I say thank you! On April 21st, 2012, Team USA 2013 was selected during the try-out competition at the Secchia Institute of Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Eight months of intense training followed for captain Andy Chlebana, Christophe Feyt, and Stephen Durfee under the watchful eyes of their coach, Ewald Notter, assisted by Randy Finch, Derek Maxfield, and Luba Petrash for the ice carving, Patrice Caillot for the frozen ice cream dessert, Sylvain Leroy, and Derek Poirier for the entremet chocolate and the plated dessert, and professors Nikolaos Antonakis and Robin Van Rooyen, both artistic coaches (and also professors of fine arts at Grand Rapids Community College). We met once a month in the pastry shops of the same Secchia Institute of Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. The coaches and advisors had, together, already guided the 2011 team and were united to push the team to the podium.
Precious time slipped away as the team members identified their theme. When Andy, Christophe, and Stephen were confident they were pulling in the same direction, Roy Pell swung into full gear and demonstrated why he earned the nickname of “Enforcer.” Roy was a member of Team U.S.A. 2009 at the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in Lyon where he earned the trophy for best ice carving, and the 2004 ACF Pastry Chef who won gold and silver medals in the Pastry Team Competition at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt. Roy passionately assisted Chef Ewald Notter, shared his experience, motivation and energy and pushed the team to implement the suggestions the coaches and advisors were sharing with the team members.
The design of the displays was laborious and required many adjustments as we witnessed chocolate centerpieces crashing and sugar displays imploding during the practice sessions in September, October, November, and still in December. Many times we had to go back to the drawing board and consult with colleagues and engineers to achieve the right balance between sturdiness and aesthetic.
Chef Ewald Notter had to fly in a hurry two weeks before the team travelled to France to monitor the last modifications on the chocolate centerpieces. Tension was high. I frankly had more worries than I could have expected at this stage of the preparation. The last few weeks were very stressful as we had not tested the centerpieces on their final bases. Will the stands hold and not twist? Will the chocolate propeller hold? How will the fluctuating temperatures of the competition hall affect our displays? Will the artistic centerpieces make it to the buffet in one piece?
Will the judge understand this complicated abstract theme? Will the cake be ready to temper and be served in the best conditions? Will Christophe be able to assemble his ice cream dessert in perfectly centered rings? Will he be able to transport his fragile ice carving from the designated carving station to the frozen display windows 150 yards away? Will the centerpiece stands and special tools and molds built by our engineers Dan Dangremond, Harry Sharffenberg and Charlie Gambino make the difference?
Will our crates shipped by Albert Uster, imported a week before the competition, arrive on time and intact? Will the customs officials clear all our equipment? Will our equipment stored over the last two years in France still be in working order? Will the borrowed material coming from three different locations arrive on time and in good condition?
Will everyone be perfectly healthy and rested on the day of the competition?
So many worries and so little within our control! Will we have enough money to cover all our expenses? Will we have enough help in Lyon to welcome the team, to transport everyone, to translate for them, to guide them, to assist them?
Under such circumstances Ewald Notter and I were honored to have led this team to Lyon and are proud of everyone’s performance: Andy Chlebana, Christophe Feyt, Stephen Durfee, Roy Pell, and our apprentices, Brook, Karly, and Maureen.
As a colleague said upon our return in the U.S.A., “How far did we have to run before the race started?” We have been very conscious to give any qualified pastry chef a chance to be a member of this national team and we had to deal with the great distances and logistical difficulties of taking time away from work every month for a few days.
Funding the team selection and its training and participation in Lyon was a constant worry. Yes, this is an undisguised call for sponsors to support Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A. in our goal of bringing the Coupe du Monde to the United States.
The sacrifices made by the team members, coaches, advisors, apprentices, and their families are not forgotten. I hope their dedication will someday bring everyone rewards beyond the honor of having been chosen to represent our country in the most prestigious pastry competition in the world.
This was my sixth participation, first as a team captain in 1991, then as team coach and manager until 1997, and also recently since 2010. With team U.S.A I have experienced all places from seventh to second and frankly hope that this next Coupe du Monde will put an end to our relentless pursuit of the title.
The try-out for team U.S.A. for the 2015 Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie will be held late summer or early fall. Follow us at www.pastryteamusa.com for constant updates as we prepare for this exciting competition.
I look forward to seeing all the colleagues, sponsors, and new friends I made over the course of this past selection and training season and wish everyone the success they all deserve.
President Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A.
Gilles Renusson is the President of Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A. and a Professor, Pastry Chef at Secchia Institute of Culinary Education, Grand Rapids Community College.