Press release: The All-American Pastry Team Earns the Coveted Prize for Best Dégustation | The French Pastry School

Press release: The All-American Pastry Team Earns the Coveted Prize for Best Dégustation

The All-American Pastry Team Earns the Coveted Prize for Best Dégustation
The French Pastry School |
July 23, 2012
Team USA Wins Silver Medal at World Pastry Championship

Chicago, Illinois (July 23, 2012) — During two days of competition at the World Pastry Team Championships in Las Vegas, the stars aligned for Team USA as they won best dégustation and second place overall in the challenge inspired by astrology and horoscopes.  The All-American team of National Pastry Champions consisted of Team Captain, Chef Donald Wressell, and The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago’s own, Chefs Scott Green, Joshua Johnson and, alternate, Della Gossett.  After two years of preparation, including the qualifying National Pastry Team Championship in 2011, Team USA relished the level of international competition with top pastry chefs from five other countries and proudly represented the United States and the sponsors who supported them in a close match with First Place Overall winners, Team Japan, and Third Place winners, Team Netherlands.


The other competitors heralded from China, Mexico, and South Korea where they had to undergo intense training and competition in order to be selected to represent their country’s best in pastry.  The selection process for the World Pastry Championship began in 2010 when the event organizers culled pastry professionals from around the globe with impressive pedigrees and experience in competition.  Much like the Olympics, each country held a qualifying round of National Pastry Team Championships to ensure that their best pastry chefs would be sent to compete on the international level.

Team USA’s Captain, Chef Donald Wressell, is a seasoned pastry chef who has garnered national and international recognition throughout his nearly 30 years in the industry.  Prior to joining the staff of The French Pastry School, his teammates had varied experiences that led them to this undertaking: 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, the team’s alternate, Chef Della Gossett was the Executive Pastry Chef at the legendary restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, for ten years.  Together in 2011, this collective of chefs made history by winning the National Pastry Team Championships and thus earning the honor to become the first all American-born team to represent the United States in the World Pastry Championships.

Almost immediately after winning that title, the chefs began training for the event that would have them competing on an international stage.  As in the National Championship, the chefs played to their individual strengths while working as a team and with coaches to create a cohesive presentation.  Chef Stéphane Glacier, M.O.F. consulted on workmanship and sugar technique while Chef Stéphane Leroux, M.O.F. gave special attention to artistry and chocolate work.  With their input, Chef Johnson and Green went through dozens of versions of their respective chocolate and sugar showpieces while simultaneously working on tasting items with Chef Wressell.  Throughout the process, team alternate, Chef Gossett cross-trained on all aspects of the competition and assisted in planning the logistics so everything would run smoothly for her teammates.

The team held the vast majority of their training at The French Pastry School while still teaching courses and volunteering their time for events.  The team’s sponsors, friends, family, and colleagues were involved throughout every step of the process and all the chefs acknowledged the importance of their support.  This kind of preparation was not only crucial to the success of the team but also a great challenge for them personally as chef instructors.  “Competition forces you to be a better pastry chef,” Chef Green explained.  “Everything has to improve: you have to be faster, more precise, more creative.  Becoming better chefs means we can become better teachers.”

With the high level of competitors, the panel of renowned pastry chef judges evened the playing field by evaluating the overall performance of the individual teams based 40% on degustation, 30% on work ethic and hygiene, and 30% on artistry and technical merit.  Each team had to produce one chocolate showpiece, one sugar showpiece, fourteen identical plated desserts, three identical entremets, three identical entremets glace, three different types of petits gâteaux, three different types of chocolate bonbons, and one sugar and chocolate amenity presentation piece on which to display the bonbons, all inspired by astrology and horoscopes.

Taking their cue from the Chinese Zodiac, Team USA chose the sign of the Rooster, symbolizing confidence and motivation, as inspiration for their chocolate and sugar showpieces.  Using blown sugar claws, wattles, and comb; cast-sugar body; and pastillage feathers airbrushed black, white, and gold, Chef Scott Green portrayed a rooster spoiling for a fight.  Chef Joshua Johnson’s chocolate showpiece flapped its wings, flaunting motley feathers which had been expertly cut, shaped, and arrayed.  Each showpiece weighed between thirty and forty pounds and had to be moved from their workstations to a display table before the final judging took place.

Their muse also shone through during the tasting portion in which Chefs Wressell, Green, and Johnson presented several composed desserts to the panel of elite pastry chefs from around the world.  Aiming to use flavors that spoke of the seasons and to incorporate uniquely American products, the three chefs put forward a tasting that earned them the Judges’ Prize for Best Dégustation.  Chef Josh created three chocolate bonbons including a layered confection with raspberry, vanilla, and hazelnut; and a molded cassis marshmallow with pear pâtes de fruits in a thin, milk chocolate shell.  One of the chocolate bonbons contained coffee caramel, chocolate nougatine, and hickory-coriander praline, a flavor profile which was closely echoed in their chocolate petit gâteau.  The other petits gâteaux reflected bright, summertime flavors: one with strawberry and pistachio; the other with tropical fruits complemented by vanilla mousse and mango-yuzu spheres.  A semi-cylindrical entremet combined several flavors and textures: tangerine compote, chocolate cremeaux, vanilla mousse, with a hazelnut sponge and crumble.  Banana ice cream, mulberry sorbet, and vanilla parfait combined to make an impressive entremet glacé with hints of hazelnut.  Team USA’s plated dessert combined the traditional flavors of Parisian apples with crème fraîche mousse and made it unique with the introduction of yuzu gelée, verbena, and black bamboo salt.  Almost every dessert was decorated with fresh herbs and micro-greens: from coriander and basil to black mint and lemon verbena.

Over a dozen judges contemplated and tasted the work as the competitors presented each completed product.  Throughout the two-day competition which took place over thirteen total hours, spectators from all around the world were cheering on their country’s representatives.  The audience, made up mostly of pastry professionals and students, were treated to an excellent show in which they were able to witness the latest in pastry techniques and aesthetics.

“It was a really positive experience to be able to see all the competitors working on that high level,” Chef Josh reflected after returning to Chicago.  “Competitions push concepts, trends, and individuals and that moves the pastry industry forward.  It also inspires young professionals to reach for that level and to challenge themselves no matter where they are.”

With the silver medal, Team USA accomplished one of their goals to prove that North American pastry chefs can compete at this level of international excellence.  Over the past two years of preparation, Chefs Gossett, Green, and Johnson have challenged themselves and broadened their base of knowledge and experience so that, upon returning to The French Pastry School, they can serve as better mentors, teachers, and inspiration to their students of the full-time programs, L’Art de la Pâtisserie and L’Art du Gâteau.

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