Chef Christophe Rull has pursued his passion for pastry since his teenage years, and now, it’s taken him to the top of the competition world.

Rull, who serves as a pastry instructor at the Stephane Treand Pastry School, head pastry chef of Sugar Geek Show, and a TV personality on Netflix’s “Bake Squad,” won the U.S. selection round of the Cacao Barry World Chocolate Masters, held Oct. 7-8 at the Chocolate Academy in Chicago. He’ll face the best pastry chefs from around the world next year in the World Chocolate Masters final.

The competition’s theme is #TMRW_TASTES_LOOKS_FEELS_LIKE_, which encourages the chefs to explore the divide between apocalyptic visions and the rise of a bright, new optimism. It asks participants how this duality impacts the way we live, create, connect and enjoy chocolate.

Competitors were tasked with creating the following:

  • #YOU: Mood board explaining the contestant’s vision of what #TMRW means to them
  • #DESIGN: Chocolate artwork with six different techniques using only 5 kg of chocolate
  • #TASTE: Fresh chocolate patisserie including three required ingredients: chocolate, fruit, and a locally-sourced ingredient
  • #SNACK: A chocolate snack that is 100% plant-based
  • #BONBON: A bonbon based on natural ingredients

For his creations, Rull took inspiration from the ocean. The health of the world’s oceans are under threat, and Rull says without the ocean, there is no humanity, and therefore, no cacao. His creations included:

#DESIGN: #Ocean

The ocean is loaded with plastic waste that becomes micro-plastic and is mixed up with the plankton. This plankton is being eaten by fish that ultimately end up on our plate. The manta robot is a machine that will clean the ocean, collect plastic and transform it into renewable energy. 

#TASTE: Reef Chocolate Raspberry Wild Fennel

The California coast is surrounded by reefs, and wild fennel grows everywhere all year long. Cacao Barry Alto el sol chocolate cremeux gives a rich dominant sourness and red fruits flavor, which is the perfect pairing with raspberry. The floral aspect of the wild fennel leaves a fresh palate toward the end of the degustation. Rull used locally sourced fennel and represented the ocean through a handmade reef plate in collaboration with local pottery artist Michael Totah.

#SNACK: Nicaragua Almond Mocha, Hazelnut Passion, Chocolate Waffle Cookies

This vegan, portable snack offers a quick boost to recharge energy, suitable for morning or afternoon. Rull is a big coffee drinker, and he loves hazelnut gianduja. He says he wanted to pair the perfect drink with these chocolate hazelnut cookies, bringing a hint of acidity with the passion fruit curd in the center.

#BONBON: Chocolate Citrus Pistachio Drift

Citrus grows all over California. The acidity from the Meyer Lemon marmalade and the floral scent from the Kaffir lime perfectly balance with the roasted and authentic flavor of the pistachio gianduja. In this bonbon, are three chocolate features: The Cacao Barry Zephyr white couverture showcases the vibrant colors inspired by the ocean’s kelp forest and the ripples of water drops. The Cacao Barry Lactee Superieure milk couverture enhances the roasted flavor of the gianduja. The Cacao Barry Extra Bitter Guayaquil dark couverture offers strong cacao flavor and bitterness. The driftwood platter represents the flow from the waves of the ocean.

Candy Industry recently spoke to Rull about his pastry career, his performance in the U.S. selection round, the finals, and what’s next for him.

CI: How did you get into pastry? 

CR: I have had the love for cooking since a young age, cooking mostly with my dad when I was still a teenager. At 15, I decided to start my culinary journey as an apprentice in France and went to school to get a kitchen and pastry degree. Once I graduated, I applied to both kitchen and pastry positions, and the first opportunity that was presented to me was in pastry. Since then, I have never stopped being passionate about pastries and the artistic side of it – it’s what I am most passionate about.

CI: Where did you get your training?

CR: I mostly trained in France under Michelin-star restaurants including Abbaye de St Croix in Salon De Provence, Marc Veyrat (3 Michelin stars) and École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in Yssingeaux, France. Additionally, I worked in Las Vegas for seven years at both the Aria and MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and they were both amazing learning opportunities. 

CI: How would you describe the Sugar Geek Show?

CR: Sugar Geek Show is an online learning platform that focuses not only on how to create delicious and beautiful cakes, pastries and chocolates, but also the science behind the recipes. Because it is an online platform, students can watch and learn from anywhere. All of our free recipes and videos are available on and on the blog

CI: How did you get involved in competing in the World Chocolate Masters? 

CR: A few years ago, I was competing in a Pastry Live chocolate showpiece championship for the second year in a row and finished in second place. At the end of the second competition, a really good friend of mine, Alicia Boada, who I call “my guardian angel,” approached me and told me: “Christophe, one day, you will need to compete by yourself; perhaps the World Chocolate Master could be a good fit for you.” And here I am, in the hall of an airport waiting for my plane to go to San Diego answering this question. Thank you, Alicia, for believing in me. 

CI: What were your initial thoughts on the theme #TMRW_TASTES_LOOKS_FEELS_LIKE_?

CR: I was excited and immediately thought, the ocean! This is simple and straightforward: Without the ocean, there is nothing. I will let you think about that…

CI: Why did you decide to highlight the ocean in your creations?

CR: I grew up close to the Mediterranean Sea and spent every opportunity that I had in the water or on the water. 

CI: How did the two days of the U.S. selection go? 

CR: Surprisingly, super smooth, I trained for two years and was ready to execute what I had prepared for. There are a few things that I could have done better as far as preparation and equipment go, but I will be better prepared for the final.

CI: How would you describe your performance?

CR: Passion. Everything I do stems from my passion for baking and cooking. 

CI: How did it feel to win the U.S. selection?

CR: Proud, really proud… Also, encouraging for the future as I want to teach everything I know after the final, and I am determined to make that happen.

CI: How are you feeling going into the final round?

CR: Same as everybody who still has their feet on the ground: motivated, hungry, uncertain, scared, excited, proud.

CI: How do you plan to prepare?

CR: I have committed to partner with Sugar Geek Show and release a 24-episode “tutorial.” Once this is achieved, I will focus 100 percent on the preparation of the final.

CI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CR: Once the World Chocolate Masters have passed, I would like to build a pastry school in San Diego and continue to educate people about pastry through online platforms like Sugar Geek Show. I would also like to focus some work on ocean preservation.