Paula Stakelum, executive head pastry chef of Ashford Castle, won the fifth Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship on Tuesday May 30 at DIT Cathal Brugha Street. Stakelum faced off stiff competition from top pastry chefs from across Ireland to claim the prestigious title.
The theme for the 2017 Championship was "Classics Revisited". Through written recipe submission and accompanying photographs, entrants were required to choose any classic dessert and reinvent the recipe using a contemporary approach.
Benoit Blin MCA, one of the top Pâtissiers in the UK and Chef Pâtissier at 2 Michelin Star Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, oversaw last Tuesday’s proceedings heading up the 2017 judging panel. He was joined on the tasting panel by four acclaimed Irish pastry chefs: Aoife Noonan (Executive Pastry Chef SMS Luna, 777 Dublin, The Butcher Grill & Super Miss Sue), Clare Fletcher (Formerly Pastry at The Ritz London & 2* Michelin Le Manoir aux Quat'Saison, now heading up pastry at The Firehouse Bakery), David Geszler (Head Pastry Chef at The Marker Hotel) and Ludovic Lantier (Executive Pastry Chef Fade Street Social, Rustic Stone & Taste at Rustic).
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Stakelum's winning dessert, titled “Guanaja Chocolate Bavarois”, was a reinvention of a classic French bavarois. The inspiration for the dessert came from her mornings spent exploring Ashford Castle’s 365-acre estate. She infused pine tips from the estate in rapeseed oil and then delicately used this pine oil to create the jelly and capsule element of her dessert, marrying them with Guanaja lactée. She also used foraged estate wood sorrel to balance the bitterness and complex aromas for which Valrhona’s Guanaja is famed.
The objective of the Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship is to promote and advance the standards of pastry chefs in Ireland. As the 2017 winner, Stakelum will receive a three day training course in l’École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, Tain l’Hermitage, France.