Virtually everyone is shocked to learn that the United States has its very own pastry team. They are even more surprised – and then fascinated – to learn that there is a prestigious pastry competition held in Lyon, France where pastry chefs compete against the very best pastry chefs in the world.
“Despite the Pastry World Cup’s prominence in the culinary world, virtually no major news outlet covered the Pastry World Cup,” wrote Katherine Zhong, a reporter for The Chronicle. Even self-professed “foodies” have no idea about the competition.
So, what exactly is the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie?
Organized every two years within the framework of the SIHRA – the international catering, hotel trade
and food fair – Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie or the World Pastry Cup draws attention to the marvelous diversity of pastry, chocolate, sugar and ice cream artistry.
Considered the best of the international pastry events, the “Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie” offers
teams of 20 competing countries a uniquely spectacular and visible platform to express their
culinary finesse. It is one of the rare pastry competitions where precision teamwork is an essential
ingredient for victory.
The event was started by Chef Gabrielle Paillasson, who in 1973 opened up his own pastry shop in the Lyon area. In addition, Chef Paillasson was named Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) in 1972 for pastry and in 1976 for ice cream. To date, he is the only professional in his field to have been awarded the MOF distinction by the age of 29.
In 2019, Chef Paillasson stepped down as President of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie. Chef Pierre Hermé was named as the new President of the competition. Paillasson has now assumed the title of Founder/Honorary President.
Before a country can send a team to Lyon, it first must hold a team selection and then compete in their respective continental selection.
According to the official rules and regulations, the contest takes place over a two-year period and involves three stages.
Stage One: A regional competition. The Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie calls these the “DNA of the contest” and they represent the “key stage in the candidates’ path to the Final.” The organization requires each candidate to be “working for a shop, hotel, restaurant, [or a] school.” They must also have at least five years of professional experience.
Each country holds a competition to find the best pastry chef, chocolatier, and ice cream maker. In addition, these chefs must also be skilled in one or more artistic talents: ice carving, chocolate sculpting, and sugar work. Three candidates are chosen and typically one to two alternate pastry chefs.
Once each country has chosen its team, the winners then must compete in a continental selection in order to qualify for the finals. Depending on what region they are in, countries must compete in their respective continental event. There are five selections: Africa Selection, Americas Selection, Asia Selection, Europe Selection, and Middle East Selection.
This fall, the remaining continental selections will be held – the African Pastry Cup, Asian Pastry Cup, and the Middle East Pastry Cup.
The top three placing countries in each continental selection are then invited to compete in the Grand Finale in France. The International Organizing Committee (I.O.C.) may also extend wildcard placements to other countries.
The I.O.C. is made up of a panel of distinguished pastry chefs and renowned individuals in the pastry profession. Chef Pierre Hermé is the President of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie Club and the President of the contest. Vice-Presidents are Chef Claire Heitzler and Chef Frédéric Cassel. In addition, there are 18 pastry chefs that make up the I.O.C. committee.
In past years, the country that took first place in the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie could not compete in the next competition. However, that rule has now been eliminated. In addition, because Italy (1st place), Japan (2nd place), and France (3rd place) secured a place on the podium in 2021, they are automatically given a spot and do not have to compete in their respective continental selections.
The competition, which is held in conjunction with Sirha Lyon, the leading professional trade show for companies in the food service, catering, and hospitality industry, takes place over two days during the trade show. Each team has 10 hours to complete desserts in four categories, as well as three centerpieces.
Every country’s entries have to center around a specific theme, chosen in advance by the organizing committee. The theme for 2023 is climate change.
Team USA, along with the other 19 countries, will have to present the following desserts:
- A whole chocolate cake/dessert to share (including a mock dessert)
- Frozen dessert (including a mock dessert)
- Frozen lollipops (including 10 mock lollipops)
- Restaurant-style dessert
Accompanying these desserts are three centerpieces or artistic creations:
- Sugar artistic creation
- Chocolate artistic creation & sculpted Valhrona chocolate block
- Sculpted water ice creation (Ice Carving)
In the past, each dessert was required to be integrated into one of the three centerpieces, now only the frozen dessert must be incorporated into the artistic ice creation or ice carving.
Each team’s creations must be completed within a designated timeframe and moved from their workstation onto a display table. Failure to do will result in points being deducted from the team’s total score.
Coming up in Part Two – are the presidents & judges, contest schedule, and marking criteria.