10 minutes With: Andrew Blas

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th January 2017

Andrew Blas has worked as a pastry chef for some of the country’s most prestigious hotels including The Samling in the Lake District, Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and more recently the luxury Hotel Café Royal.

After initially training as a reserve for the team, Andy was asked to step in last August and took on the role of ice carver for the UK Pastry Team for Le Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie (World Pastry Cup). The Staff Canteen spoke to Andy about the competition and the team’s inventive theme ‘Marvel in London’.

Chris Zammit, pastry chef, UK Pastry Team, Camilleri Kitchen, Coupe du Monde, World Pastry Cup

Chris Zammit, UK Pastry Team

photography by GLS

After two years of qualifying rounds, the UK were one of 22 teams faced with a series of difficult challenges at the live final of Coupe du Monde at Sirha in Lyon.  Also in the team were: Chris Zammit (chocolate- Camilleri Kitchen), Florian Poirot (sugar - FP Macaroons) and Martin Chiffers (team president and judge).  The chefs had to create a diverse range of desserts in just ten hours, demonstrating their knowledge of the materials and working under intense pressure.

This included:
3 Valrhona chocolate desserts
3 frozen fruit desserts
15 identical desserts on plate
1 sculpture made of sugar
1 sculpture made of Valrhona chocolate
1 sculpture made of sculpted hydric ice

Imagine attempting such a brief in front of a live audience of screaming fans from around the world! Each of the UK Pastry Team’s creations took inspiration from a different part of the Marvel Universe. Chris Zammit's Valrhona chocolate desserts were based on The Orb – one of the six infinity gems in Guardians of the Galaxy. This was composed of layers of orange and mandarin coulis, a Valrhona Caraibe chocolate cremeux with a subtle flavour of Earl Grey, a Guanaja chocolate sponge, a crunchy almond base and Illanka chocolate mousse. It was finished with a Guanaja glaze.

>>> Related: Chris Zammit, Pastry Chef, Camilleri Kitchen

The frozen fruit dessert, they made to resemble Thor's hammer. When cut in half, it revealed an iconic London Underground logo and it was served on top of the London Underground sign. This dessert was composed of a streusel base, raspberry sponge, orange parfait, vanilla ice cream, raspberry coulis and a raspberry sorbet.

Thor, hammer, frozen fruit dessert, Ravifruit puree, UK Pastry Team, Coupe du Monde, World Pastry Cup

Thor's Hammer - frozen fruit dessert

UK Pastry Team
Photography by GLS

For their Plated Dessert, they created a Spiderman-inspired dish with a crisp base, layered with vanilla cream, butterscotch, hazelnut crumble, British apple compote, jelly and sponge. This was paired with an apple sorbet and decorated with drops of apple jelly. This was an homage to British apples at their best and most versatile.

Andy had to create the ice sculpture for the competition. The final piece - weighing in at a whopping 150kg- was a rather lifelike statue of Thor, wielding his famous hammer. Andy said he used an ergo-man doll during the competition to help him get the shape of the human form for the sculpture. After this, he had to make sure that all of the intricate details were right, chiselling in the features.

Andy said: "I could have carved Iron Man, that would have been very easy but Thor... that stance he has, the way his arm is up - it's so recognisable that it has to be right. The twist in his chest, his bicep, the forearm and then his fist, all had to be right."

>>> Related: Andy Blas, pastry chef and ice carver, UK Pastry team 2017

The completed sculpture then had to be lifted to a trolley, which Andy said was not easy on two feet rather than a solid base! The trolley was then wheeled out of the arena, through the crowds at Sirha and then had to be lifted over a foot gap to be transferred into a freezer.

"They really don't make it easy, they really want to see that you understand your medium and what you're doing. Because if you don't understand what you're doing, when you move that sculpture, it would break."

UK Pastry Team, Florian Poirot, Pastry chef, Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie, World Pastry Cup, best sugar prize

Best Sugar Prize

Florian Poirot for the UK Pastry Team
Photography by GLS

The UK team were determined to demonstrate as many complex techniques as they could in their final chocolate and sugar pieces. Florian Poirot was the UK’s sugar candidate. He who also owns his own bespoke macaroon business in York, FP Macaroons. Florian was awarded a special prize in the competition - "Best Sugar Work" for his model of the Human Torch.

Andy said: “What Florian did in particular was made sure that there wasn't just his style and his technique, but every technique that he could possibly think to put in there was in there.”

>>> Related: Florian Poirot, Senior Confectioner, Nestle

Andy told us that preparing for the competition was particularly difficult, it demanded almost all of their time! The team practiced with the ingredients and equipment that they knew they would be working with on the day - they even moved the kitchen around to try and replicate the environment they would be working in in France. Each chef also had a reserve, who had to do the same amount of training to ensure that they could step in if needed on the day.

Andy also told TSC about their Mentee Programme, where they teach young chefs who may hope to one day join the UK Pastry Team. The mentees were brought to France and each received their own team chefs jacket, with their names on, to wear with pride.

“This year we had five mentees and they worked just as hard as us - working on the weekends and on some of their nights off - and it shows them what we can do and how they can achieve it, what it takes. We say 'come and see what we do, come and work with us, this is the commitment we need from you but in return, we're going to give you this.' … They're the ones in the industry we need to be able to rely on to be able to pick up where we leave off."

Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie, World Pastry Cup, UK Pastry Team

UK Pastry Team - Supporters at

Coupe du Monde 
Photography by GLS

Andy stressed that the UK Pastry Team is a collective and he wanted to thank the 50 people behind them - reserves, mentees, supporters and families who helped them on their way to Lyon. The UK Pastry Team’s co-operation, passion and skill shone throughout the competition and all of the final pieces were a sight to behold. With the World Pastry Cup rules continuing to be developed, only the top five teams from this year’s final will be guaranteed a place in the next final in 2019.

This means that the UK Pastry Team will have to enter the European Pastry Cup competition in 2018, which will be held on June 10th, 2018 in Turin, Italy, in order to have a chance of making the final selection.

We wish them all the best of luck for next year!

By Jenna Lloyd

@canteenjenna

>>> Related: Team France win first place at Le Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2017

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th January 2017

10 minutes With: Andrew Blas