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2002 World Pastry Team Championship:
Team USA Captures the Gold Medal

by R.H. Duke

The 2002 international “Olympian” event was held before a world- wide audience at the Rio Hotel. This spectacular showing was greeted with thunderous applause as Team USA competed for, and won, the gold in a field of 12 three-team members of the world’s top pastry talents.

Team USA members included Las Vegas’ Jean-Claude Canestrier Executive Pastry Chef Paris Hotel, Jean-Philippe Maury Executive Pastry Chef Bellagio, and Laurent Branlard Pastry Chef, Ritz Carlton Hotel Buckhead Atlanta. Maury and Canestrier are previous nominees from among the “Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America” by Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design Magazine.

Each competing team was required to create a sugar piece (pastillage and sugar), a chocolate showpiece, three identical entrements (sweets), two identical frozen desserts, and seven plated desserts. This arduous, yet artistic, task encompassed 13 hours of creative labor, five hours during the first day, and eight hours during the second day. Team USA’s “circus” theme won the attention of the international jury led by Jacques Torres, formerly of New York’s Le Cirque, and owner of Jacques Torres Chocolate. And no small task as the judges had to adhere to a strict set of rules and 1,100 computations.

Spectators from around the world watched this grandeur with intense awe as a host announced each and every step of the chefs’ preparation process.  However, the excitement reached its’ highest crescendo at the awards ceremony as each team was introduced carrying the flag of their country with their national anthem resonating throughout the area - a true “Olympian” display.

A further highlight of the awards ceremony was the presentation of Pastry Chef of the Year award to multi-talented Stanton Ho, Executive Chef at the Las Vegas Hilton, the first Las Vegas recipient of this honor. As Las Vegas and Team USA (gold medal), France (silver medal), and Belgian (bronze medal) were all shining stars, the championship competition itself comprised the brilliance of an entire galaxy. Congratulations to all!

R.H. Duke is a former restaurateur and a Las Vegas restaurant critic who says “Fine Dining is one of Life’s Greatest Pleasures!”

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