Since its debut, the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie has proved to be the most prestigious international event, a rendezvous par excellence for talents from all over the world where the pastry trends of today and tomorrow can be discovered. This time the competition has at least a couple of more reasons to arouse strong expectations: the changing of the guard at the top of the organization, with the consequent changes in its planning, that will be gradually more visible, and the terms and times of the event itself, with the consequent postponements of dates, which are certainly complicating the work of all the teams. The final is now scheduled for 24th and 25th September in Lyon, as part of the 20th edition of Sirha.
On the April issue of “Pasticceria Internazionale” we had already offered an update about the Coupe event but now, after having talked with Florent Suplisson, director of the Sirha gastronomic events, we are happy to share the latest news. We start with the following exclusive interview with Pierre Hermé, where he illustrates his strategic vision aimed at reaffirming the role of France, the effervescence of the international pastry scene and the new missions of this noble competition, which is undergoing an unprecedented transformation.
Hermé, what does CMP represent today and what are the challenges of your presidency?
The Coupe has existed for 30 years and was founded by Gabriel Paillasson. This is the reference competition in the sector, the mirror of a profession that is permanently evolving, an avant-garde competition, as desired by the founder. In this context, the will of my teamwork is to maintain and develop its reputation as the Northern Star for the pastry professionals around the world.
What were your first steps you took as president?
Since September 2019, I have acted a bit like a new premier who chooses the members of the ministerial team and I wanted a new international committee. Most of the members are new. We chose two vice presidents, Frédéric Cassel, former president of Relais Desserts and coach of the 2013 world champion French team, and Claire Heitzler, creative director of Laduréé’s sucrée production for many years, before becoming a consultant. Both of them have been entrusted with a mission: Claire is in charge of the transformation of the CMP into an eco-responsible competition, a theme which is very close to my heart, while Frédéric manages the proper functioning of the complex mechanism of the competition.
How did you choose the members of the international committee and how did you start reflecting on reforming the event?
The members of the international organizing committee had to respond to the new needs concerning the themes of well-being and eco-responsibility. First of all, I wanted to integrate women, who up to now were not represented at all, some former CMP champions, with practical experience of the competition, and some determined people, with the will and ability to work together, because I wanted a team that would operate in a permanent spirit of collaboration. I don’t want to be a president who decides everything, even if in some moments I have to be able to make the final decision on capital matters. Julien Alvarez, Quentin Bailly, Sébastien Bouillet, Christelle Brua, Alain Chartier, Patrick Chevallot, Claire Damon, Sophie De Bernardi, Jérôme De Oliveira, Laurent Le Daniel, Johanna Le Pape, Etienne Leroy, Christophe Michalak, Angelo Musa, Philippe Rigollot, Marc Rivière, Eric Vergne have been selected, while Patrick Roger is the honorary president. The international character of the next editions will also be underlined by the heterogeneous composition of the jury, which will welcome the presidents of the organizing Clubs from each country.
What are the biggest changes?
We have created some commissions to work on various issues: a CSR (corporate social responsibility) to improve environmental performance, a communication commission, one dedicated to the regulation and the last to the organization. These meet on the basis of a calendar of priorities, but I do not participate in all the meetings and I let the people to whom I have entrusted the delicate task of this transformation work. The major changes will not be fully visible in the next edition, but rather in 2023.
What differences will be noticed in September?
We have already made some changes concerning the plated desserts, which will be valued by a separate jury involving a restaurant pastry chef and a chef cuisinier for the first time, in order to work on true grand restaurant desserts. Then we eliminated colouring agents, titanium dioxide (E171) and iron oxides (E172). Then, on the basis of the new criteria and new values of the CMP, we focused also on waste elimination, drastically reducing the use of plastic, and to the careful selection of sponsors. It is necessary to move increasingly towards responsible behavior: for example, the main sponsor Valrhona has obtained the B CORP label, a certification issued by an international non-profit body, the B Lab, which has been awarded only to 100 companies in France and Italy and just over 3200 worldwide. This is to ensure that environmental and social performance is measured as solidly as economic results.
Are these reforms intended to indicate the future evolution of pastry?
I don’t know the future, but these are the increasingly emerging trends. Some come from people, as more and more of them express their interest in vegan and gluten-free issues, and today we have to take their expectations into account. The industry is also changing a lot and adopting eco-responsible practices: just look at the advertising, which has integrated these values. Even the artisan world, therefore, must be able to make a conscious and clear choice between intensive agriculture and organic and “reasoned” pratices. It is a fundamental movement of society, which has emerged gradually and today is very strong, and the companies which supply professional products to pastry chefs, bakers and restaurateurs must align themselves with this movement. For example, at Pierre Hermé Paris the elimination of titanium dioxide to obtain the clean label dates back to about 8 years ago.
Has the health crisis had a strong impact on the organization of the CMP?
Of course! It is enough to observe the shift in dates which, from January 2021, have passed to May and finally to September. The pandemic has slowed down and hampered the training of many teams. In addition, some qualifying selections were not held and we chose the teams based on the results of the last three editions, which did not favor the emergence of new ones. However, at the same time, what is happening has made changes in terms of environmental respect and responsible practices even more current and necessary.
In your opinion, does the adoption of the new healthy and eco-sustainable criteria threaten the very nature of pastry, linked to the notions of pleasure and taste?
Pleasure and sweetness will remain central. The French say le salé pour se nourrir et le sucré pour le plaisir (salty to eat and sweet for pleasure) and I think that it will not change. Just look at the work of Frédéric Bau, with whom I collaborated with my brand, who has been working for a long time on the reasoned sweetness of a healthy and virtuous pastry, which allies technique and creativity while respecting taste and sensations. Furthermore, I have worked and continue to work on vegan pastry, but it is always necessary to approach these issues from the point of view of taste and pleasure, not of restriction.
What does the role of president of the CMP represent in your professional and human path?
When I accepted the presidency and met the committee for the first time, I clearly stated that my interest is in the pastry chef profession and I strongly wish to contribute to its evolution, albeit in the modesty of my role. If I can achieve this, I will be satisfied.
ON THE ITALIAN SIDE
Although the date of the Coupe has been postponed more than one time, the spirits of the Italian team do not stop roaring. Massimo Pica, Lorenzo Puca and Andrea Restuccia have been working in Cast Alimenti in Brescia for months in view of the world competition. “Let’s take the positive side of the situation – they comment – and try to make the most of the time we have “. Closed indefinitely in the bunker classroom away from prying eyes, the Italy team trains in search of perfection from the points of view of aesthetic, taste, technique and sculpture. “We are isolated as in the previous edition – Puca and Restuccia explain – with the only difference that this time we do not receive visitors from outside, because of sanitary restrictions”. And so, with an almost constant training that has lasted for 4 years now (Restuccia and Pica together with Mattia Cortinovis obtained the third place on the Coupe podium in 2019), the importance of experience stands out: “In the morning we get up at 6 and by 7 we are in Cast Alimenti school, where we stay every day until 22. This time we have given ourselves schedules to avoid working to the bitter end as in training for the other championship: we have given ourselves rules that help us to give our best. Every morning we work on taste, while in the afternoon we dedicate ourselves to sculpture: in this way we are able to advance in parallel and keep the entire situation under control “.
The training proceeds quickly and without hesitation: “In January we worked remotely on planning and it helped us a lot. Themes and subjects have been chosen and now we are working on colors and tastes, trying to get everything completed within the time limits”.
Although there are still some things to fix, it is certain that for the 2021 competition the Italian team will express a totally revisited stylistic attitude, more realistic and less inspired by fantasy. “Two people from the team – explains Alessandro Dalmasso, president of Club Italia and coach – are going to repeat the experience and have become aware of what it means to train for a competition. It is an advantage compared to the past, also for Pica who has been involved in the system for the first time. Among the boys there is great mutual respect and an excellent harmony: they are always positive and reactive in the face of every change that comes and this is fundamental “. The support of the group of official coaches (ie the winners of past editions, such as the world champions Francesco Boccia, Emmanuele Forcone and Fabrizio Donatone) is also essential: “If Covid has not helped us to facilitate face-to-face meetings – Dalmasso continues – it caused greater sharing, albeit virtual. The boys send us the videos of their tests, together we discuss the problems and everything happens in a very immediate way: if we have to find a positive side in all this disaster, with which we have been living for more than a year, this is it! ” .
And so, from mid-July, the team will stay in Cast until the departure for Lyon, refining every phase, every gesture, every recipe, every single and plural movement, to create the best harmony. A considerable commitment, both mentally and physically, which requires great concentration, great determination and great sacrifices, to which are added the constant requests and changes that come from the French organization.
THE LATEST NEWS
As we said before, Florent Suplisson, the general manager of the gastronomic events of Sirha, explained us the small and big news that await us in the two days of the Coupe du Monde in Lyon. “The improved health situation allows us to keep our decision to take risks and carry out the Sirha and the two world events, the Coupe du Monde and the Bocuse d’Or, as an action that is not only symbolic. The whole sector and the whole economy need it! “, he says. Admissions to the exhibition premises will be limited according to French rules, with constant updates on the website www.sirha.com, regarding the Green Pass and all specific requests. With the forecast to accommodate 2000 people in the stands (plus 300 seats in the VIP lounges), the competition arena remains the same, but set up in the opposite direction from previous editions, with the new team boxes arranged on two heights, for a more complete glance – even thinking about live streaming – and to better watch the work of the candidates. Moreover, the three members of each team will all operate in front of the public, so as not to have “dark spots”.
At the moment 20 competing countries are confirmed and they are asked to explore the theme “all art is imitation of nature”. Top Countries France, Japan, Italy; Europe Russia, Sweden, Switzerland; South America Argentina, Chile, Mexico; Africa Algeria, Egypt, Morocco; Asia China, Malaysia, Singapore; Middle East Kuweit (new for 2021); Wild Cards (countries selected as deserving to compete in the final) Brazil, South Korea, United Kingdom, Taiwan. “Although there may be some at risk, again due to the health situation”, Suplisson specifies.
The contest lasts 10 hours and each team has to make 4 chocolate desserts to share (using Pure Origin Valrhona chocolate), 4 frozen desserts, 10 restaurant plated desserts, 1 sugar art piece and 1 chocolate art piece. Considering the delicate phase, “the competition rules have been simplified, for example by removing the ice sculpture contest”, Supplisson adds. The same approach has been adopted for the awards ceremony, “everything will be simpler and, only for this edition, the 12 special prizes will not be awarded, leaving more space to the podium”, he concludes. And also our Press Award, traditionally awarded by our magazine,” is “frozen” at the moment, even if “Pasticceria Internazionale remains a special partner of the Coupe.
At this point all we have to do is wait for the pre-registrations to open, on the website www.sirha.com. And to keep on supporting our wonderful Italian team!
Special thanks to Sarah Scaparone and Domenico Biscardi