When flavours won’t give you the first place

With the best dessert, Italian Beligni got the second place at C3 Valrhona in New York, penalised by the jury for wasting an ingredient

06-11-2018

Yusuke Aoki and Ettore Beligni, respectively first and second place in the 2018 edition of C3 Valrhona, in New York. The competition is dedicated to chocolate in pastry making. Photos by Paolo Marchi

The end came with a surprise, on Monday 22nd October in New York. It was a surprise because ten years ago nobody would have noticed, but today you would, and so that bottle full of some ingredient, thrown into the bin during the finals of the C3 Valrhona competition, meant that Ettore Beligni lost the first place. In the past, waste went unnoticed, and the same happened when ingredients were not recuperated for later. What counted was what you served the jury, not the process until that moment. But times change and the technical jury sanctioned the Italian participant who consoled himself with the second place, worth 2,000 euros. Better than nothing, but the winner of the second place always suffers from getting as close as it gets to the gold medal.

The smiling winner: Yusuke Aoki walks quickly to the centre of the stage to get trophy and cheque 

The smiling winner: Yusuke Aoki walks quickly to the centre of the stage to get trophy and cheque 

The finals of the contest dedicated to chocolate and restaurant pastry-making was hosted by the 13th Starchefs congress in Brooklyn. Beligni and Japanese Yusuke Aoki, representing Indonesia given he’s working in Bali, stood out among the 8 finalists. Trivia fact: they were the first and last to serve their desserts. The juries were three: one made of chefs and pastry-chefs, a total of six, including Cristina Bowerman of Glass Hostaria in Rome, one made of journalists, three, whose judgements were completely different from the professionals’, something frequent, and three more. They had to judge the work of eight professionals, five of whom women.

The sad defeated participants. At the beginning of the day, everyone is happy to be in the finals. At the end, it’s only the place and only the first one that matters 

The sad defeated participants. At the beginning of the day, everyone is happy to be in the finals. At the end, it’s only the place and only the first one that matters 

The tasting slightly favoured Beligni over his colleague who won the trophy, and a cheque worth 5,000 euros, thanks to a more careful management of the ingredients. Fighting food waste is not just a catch phrase. Of course, you’ll always find those ready to follow the tide, but at these standards, seriousness is essential.

First a pre-dessert, then the real sweet. The order of serving had Italy first, then Dubai (Kanako Baba, Japanese), Spain (Libertad Santiago, with Venezuelan roots), Ireland (Paula Stakelum), Sweden (Weilo Wang, who arrived in Stockholm after Paris), United States (Mina Pizarro, born and raised in the Philippines. She spoke in Spanish, regardless of what president 

The Manhattan skyline interpreted by Ettore Beligni

The Manhattan skyline interpreted by Ettore Beligni

Donald Trump thinks, a representative of the endless faces of the United States), France (Cyril Gaidella) and Indonesia.

Interviewed at the end, Ettore Beligni said in his dessert he wanted to celebrate the origin of the chocolate he used, its DNA, and thus enhance its overall flavour – so nothing just made for the sake of anonymous beauty – and finally give a bright shape inspired by the New York skyline. I guess he referred to Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn.

In his presentation, Ettore said he considers Gaetano Trovato, from Arnolfo in Colle Val d’Elsa, as his mentor «because he made me understand the importance of quality and creative expression». A Tuscan from Sarteano near Siena, his first sweet memory was of an apple strudel tasted in Trentino Alto Adige. 

Behind the scenes of C3 Valrhona: the winners of the second and first place alone, for a few moments, with Ettore Beligni looking at the trophy he almost won 

Behind the scenes of C3 Valrhona: the winners of the second and first place alone, for a few moments, with Ettore Beligni looking at the trophy he almost won 

As for his hero, his point of reference is Milanese Gianluca Fusto «for his personality, his professionality and creative vein». A final note: he feels close to basil «because it grows in the summer, the best time of the year when depending on what you add it to, it can acquire a sweet and savoury nuance that I believe magnificent». Too bad for that gesture he could have avoided.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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