: | The French Pastry School


Team to Represent USA in 2012 World Pastry Competition
The French Pastry School |
September 12, 2011
American Pastry Excellence on display in National Championship

Chicago, Illinois (July 15, 2011) –After competing in the Phoenix, Arizona heat, Team Wressell took home the first prize at the 2011 Amoretti National Pastry Team Championship on Saturday, July 9th. The mostly Chicago-based team trained at The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College over the past year and will go on to represent the United States at the World Pastry Team Championship in 2012. The All-American team was led by Los Angeles Pastry Chef, Donald Wressell, and consisted of Chicago's own Scott Green, Joshua Johnson and, alternate, Della Gossett; they were supported by an elite set of sponsors and coaches that reinforced the team's European training. The team will make history by becoming the first group of all American-born pastry chefs to represent the United States at this world-renowned competition.

Team Captain, Donald Wressell, is a seasoned competitor in the pastry arena who has garnered national and international recognition throughout his nearly 30 years in the industry. "There is nothing more difficult than preparing for a competition—it's important to do because it keeps you sharp and focused on pastry. It forces you to get better; I never want to get relaxed or complacent in what I do. We chose to train at The French Pastry School because it has the resources we need to do this: state of the art kitchens and equipment, a central location and access to some of the greatest minds in pastry."

His teammates, all instructors at The French Pastry School, were chosen to be equally strong representatives of American pastry professionals. Prior to joining the staff, Chef Scott Green, graduated The French Pastry School's L'Art de la Pâtisserie program and continued to gain experience at esteemed culinary establishments throughout the US; Chef Joshua Johnson received his training at the Ritz Carlton Chicago under co-founder of The French Pastry School, Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., and fellow Chef Instructor En-Ming Hsu, World Pastry Champion; and, the team's alternate, Chef Della Gossett was the Executive Pastry Chef at the legendary restaurant, Charlie Trotter's, for ten years.

All of the chefs, born and raised in the United States, received European-style training throughout their careers in the industry before taking the next step into the realm of competitive pastry. "All the technique that every pastry chef around the world learns is shared and handed down from their mentors," explained Chef Josh, a mentor himself within the Master-Apprentice structure of The French Pastry School programs. "What we want to accomplish next year at the finals is to do our best to use those classic, European foundations in our quest for the first All American team success."

An impressive cross-section of US pastry talent was on display at the National Competition where teams were asked to produce an array of sweet creations inspired by this year's theme: "your favorite book." Team Wressell's muse was the children's book, The Rainforest Grew All Around, by Susan K. Mitchell and illustrated by Connie McLennan; the chefs reflected the book's rich images and dynamic story in their showpieces and in the bright flavors of their degustation. Chef Green, known for his stunning sugar showpieces and airbrushing talent, poured his energy into a snarling sugar leopard while Chef Johnson, whose specialty is in all things chocolate, constructed a fierce alligator piece by piece after having engineered its green chocolate scales to the millimeter.

Along with the showpieces, the chefs had to present three different types of chocolate bonbons, three different types of petits gâteaux, three identical entremets and bombes glacées, and 14 identical plated desserts. The work had to be managed between the three team members in a total of 13 hours over the two days. Chef Gossett, the team's alternate, cross-trained throughout the year to be able to jump in at any moment in case of an emergency. She also had an essential role in keeping the team operating at its best, "It's important to show a high level of respect for our profession," she explained, "participating in a competition like this takes talent, skill and integrity but you also need to organize efficiently and stay on a tight schedule."

The team insists that more than four people won on Saturday: their sponsors, coaches, trainers, assistants, colleagues, and anyone else who made themselves available to help in a pinch all have a claim in their title. One of the team's coaches, En-Ming Hsu, World Pastry Champion, put it this way, "It's when the little things come together that make a victory happen. Anyone walking into The French Pastry School could feel that everyone was supporting the chefs. The team appreciates everything no matter how small it seemed. Everyone involved sees how valuable they were."

The other coaches included a lineup of some of the most influential contemporary pastry chefs; among them were the co-founders of The French Pastry School, Chef Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F. and Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer who trained the team on their overall performance. They are no strangers to this level of competition—last year, they were both featured in the film Kings of Pastry, a documentary which followed Chef Pfeiffer's rigorous training for the prestigious title, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (M.O.F.). Chef En-Ming Hsu, World Pastry Champion and Chef Instructor at The French Pastry School, added to this by sharing her own competition experience as one of the coaches.

Chef Stéphane Leroux, M.O.F., also joined the training team. Famous throughout the pastry world for his chocolate showpieces, the French master gave guidance on the artistic aspects of the team's program. Chef David Wesmael, an M.O.F. Glacier, is the corporate chef for research and development at Groupe Holder in France and coached the team on their taste component. Chef Stéphane Glacier, M.O.F., a renowned French pastry chef and author of many pastry books trained the team on their work and organization. Throughout the year, they each took the trans-Atlantic flight to Chicago to contribute to the team and, while at The French Pastry School, taught courses to other professional pastry chefs from around the world.

Along with the guidance from these world-renowned masters, the team was also supported by a myriad of sponsors. After his success, Chef Josh felt propelled by a new sense of duty, "The sponsors shared so much with us; everyone had confidence in us and it felt great to win as a team. Now, it's our responsibility to show the same generosity with what we've learned and discovered over the course of this process with our sponsors, our city, our colleagues and, especially, our students. These competitions are so important because this is how the industry grows."

There won't be any resting on their laurels; in just a few weeks, the chefs will return to their grueling training schedule to prepare for next year's World Pastry Team Championship in Phoenix. There, they will be competing against other teams from around the world including Japan, the 2010 World Champions, as well as France, Belgium, Singapore, Denmark, Italy and other international talents. "They're up against the best in the world next year and will need to anticipate and exceed the level of work that will be done," Chef Hsu said, in pure coach spirit. Team Captain, Donald Wressell, added, "Our goal is to show the world that three American pastry chefs can compete at this international level."

2011 Amoretti National Pastry Team Championship at a Glance (in no particular order):

  • The teams are judged in 3 categories: Artistic, Taste and Work (organization, cleanliness, etc.)
  • The team drove the truck 3,700 miles in 30 hours over 2 days, both ways.
  • Team Wressell's kitchen was about 50 square feet. The size of an average kitchen is about 250 square feet. All of the work stations and much of the equipment was custom made by Chef Wressell and the honorary "fifth team member," "Armando."
  • The Chefs worked 7 days a week before and after classes. On the weekends, the chefs would train up to 14 hours a day. They officially started training in October.
  • The truck they hauled to Phoenix was 1,728 cubic feet; they used every single 216 square feet of space available.
  • Nothing broke on the way to Phoenix or on the way to the presentation table.
  • The chefs had to present multiple replicas of their products to show consistency: 19 identical chocolate candies; 14 plated desserts; 8 of each petits gâteaux; 3 of each entremet and bombe glacée; but only one each of the chocolate and sugar showpieces.