Lionel Clement, former chef chocolatier at Wynn Las Vegas, at the last U.S. competition.

'Magnificent Seven' to compete in World Chocolate Masters' U.S. finals

Seven of the country’s leading pastry chefs and chocolatiers have been selected to compete in the U.S. selections for the World Chocolate Masters -- one of the most elite competitions for chocolate craftsmen from all over the world.
The event, which is sponsored by Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, will take place Sept. 27-28 during the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas.

The competition is designed to offer chocolate artisans and pastry chefs a forum to showcase their skills in designing chocolate showpieces as well as creating chocolate pastries, pralines and desserts.
This year, each participant will be challenged to create a large chocolate showpiece that conveys this year’s theme -- “Cocoa, Quetzalcoatl’s Gift” -- using professional gourmet chocolate brands Callebaut, Cacao Barrys and Carma supplied by Barry Callebaut.
In addition to the showpiece, contestants must create a chocolate pastry, two types of pralines and a plated dessert. The winner of the competition will be named U.S. National Chocolate Master and go on to compete against chefs from approximately 20 other countries, including Belgium, France, Switzerland, China, Australia and Brazil, at the 2011 World Chocolate Masters in Paris.
This year’s competitors for the U.S. selections for the World Chocolate Masters include:
-- Sylvain Bortolini, assistant executive pastry chef at Bellagio Las Vegas. Prior to joining the Bellagio resort, Bortolini worked as a pastry chef at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort in Florida and the InterContinental Presidente hotel in Mexico City. In 2007, he won the Mexican Pastry Championship for his sugar work and chocolate sculpture. Bortolini also has served as pastry chef for two star Michelin-rated restaurants and gourmet chocolate shops in France. He studied at the Association Ouvriéres Des Compagnons Du Tour De France in Bordeaux, France.
-- Stephen Durfee, pastry chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif. Durfee’s professional experience includes working at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif.; the Wheatleigh Hotel in Lenox, Mass.; and the Alison on Dominick Street restaurant in New York. He placed third in the National Pastry Team Championships in 2007. In 1998, he received the James Beard Foundation award for outstanding pastry chef.

-- Naomi Gallego, executive pastry chef at the Fairmont Hotel in Pittsburgh. Gallego earned a degree in culinary arts management from St. Philips College in San Antonio, and also holds a master pastry diploma from the prestigious Konditormeisterschule in Cologne, Germany. Prior to joining the Fairmont Hotel in Pittsburgh, she held the position of executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas. She also has worked at Vidalia Restaurant and PS7’s Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Gallego has competed on two “Food Network Challenge” television programs and was named “Pastry Chef of the Year” by Washington, D.C.’s Modern Luxury magazine in 2007.
-- Jove Hubbard, executive pastry chef at the James Hotel in Chicago. Hubbard is responsible for the whimsical and creative desserts at David Burke’s Primehouse restaurant located in the hotel. He also has worked as an executive pastry chef at The Peabody hotels in Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn., and at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Hubbard studied baking and pastry at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and completed an internship at the French Pastry School in Chicago. In addition, he competed as a finalist on the “Food Network Challenge: Chocolate Masterpieces.”
-- Frederic Loraschi, chocolatier and owner of Chocolat Frederic Loraschi LLC in Hummelstown, Pa. Loraschi opened his own gourmet chocolate company near Harrisburg, Pa., five years ago, supplying handcrafted chocolate confections to restaurants, hotels, catering companies and other luxury venues across the country. Prior to that endeavour, he was executive pastry chef at the Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania and pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Boston and Dana Point, Calif. He studied at the Lycee Hotelier Quercy-Perigord in Souillac, France, and has been featured on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” television program.
-- Richard Ruskell, executive pastry chef at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel in California. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute in New York, Ruskell has been called “one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America” by Chocolatier magazine. Prior to joining the Montage Beverly Hills, he was a pastry chef at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach, Calif., and The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has taught at the New England Culinary Institute and has made numerous appearances on the Food Network. In fact, Ruskell is one win shy of holding the record for the most wins on the “Food Network Challenge” television series.
 -- Orlando Santos, pastry chef at The Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh. Santos graduated from Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Fla., and attended the French Pastry School in Chicago. Prior to joining The Duquesne Club, he served as executive pastry chef at Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market in Shelby Township, Mich. Santos has also held pastry positions at Cherokee Town & Country Club in Atlanta and the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel. In 2004, he won first place in the wedding cake category at the Southern Pastry Classic.
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