The Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship 2017

Paula Stakelum, Executive Head Pastry Chef at Ashford Castle, wins the Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship 2017

Paula Stakelum, executive head pastry chef of Ashford Castle, has won the fifth Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship 2017, held Tuesday 30th May in DIT Cathal Brugha Street. Paula faced off stiff competition from top pastry chefs from across Ireland to claim the prestigious title. The five other finalists competing on the day included Aideen Burke (Portmarnock Hotel), Alane Lima Santos (L'Art Du Chocolat), Andrius Zubernis (The Brewer's House), Karen Smith (China Sichuan) and María Mariano Garcia (Dromoland Castle). 

The theme for the 2017 Championship was ‘Classics Revisited’. Competitors were required to choose any Classic Dessert and reinvent the recipe avant-garde style, using a contemporary approach. Each competitor had four hours to produce a plated Restaurant Dessert which illustrated the Classic Revisited theme, using at least one chocolate from Valrhona’s iconic Guanaja range.

Benoit Blin MCA, one of the top Pâtissiers in the UK and Chef Pâtissier at 2 Michelin Star Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, headed up the 2017 judging panel. Benoit has become a familiar face on television screens for his role as judge on BBC2’s Bake Off: Crème De La Crème series. Benoit was joined on the judging panel by 4 acclaimed Irish pastry chefs: Aoife Noonan, Clare Fletcher, David Geszler and Ludovic Lantier. Both Aoife and Ludovic are previous winners of the Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship, in 2014 and 2009 respectively. 

"Guanaja Chocolate Bavarois"

Paula’s winning dessert, titled Guanaja Chocolate Bavarois, was a reinvention of a classic French Bavarois. She used all three Guanaja chocolates (Guanaja P125, Guanaja 70% and Guanaja Lactée 41%), along with foraged Wood Sorrel and Pine from the Ashford Estate, in her recipe.

The inspiration for Paula’s dessert comes from her mornings spent exploring Ashford Castle’s 365-acre estate, where she loves to forage for ingredients that are at their very best. Paula tries to capture the feelings and aromas of these moments, by using the ingredients she has picked straight out of the ground, within her desserts. 

Paula infused pine tips from the Estate in rapeseed oil, to capture their aroma, and then delicately used this pine oil to create the jelly and capsule element of her dessert, marrying them with Guanaja Lactée 41%. She also used foraged Estate Wood Sorrell, to balance the bitterness and complex aromas that Valrhona’s Guanaja chocolate is famed for, within her winning recipe.

This was Paula’s third time to enter the Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship; a wonderful advocate for pastry chefs in Ireland through her motivation to re-enter, push her own boundaries and continually challenge herself. The judges all felt Paula’s dessert showed the best technical ability and skill on the day and were impressed with her relaxed performance in the kitchen, due to her previous competition experience.

Congratulations Paula!

Winner's Video:

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