Paula Hannigan, pastry chef at the Cliff House Hotel, has won the 2019 Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship.
The competition was held on Wednesday 5th June in DIT Cathal Brugha Street. The objective of the Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship is to promote and advance the standards’ of pastry chefs on the island of Ireland. The competition is held every two years, and previous winners include Paula Stakelum in 2017 (Executive Head Pastry Chef at Ashford Caste), and Aoife Noonan in 2014 (formerly Pastry Chef at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud).
The theme for 2019 was An Irish Summer. Entrants were asked to design a plated restaurant dessert using at least one couverture from Valrhona’s Single Origin Grand Cru de Terroir range. A pre-dessert was also required; which needed to be vegan and made without the use of a mould.
Following written recipe submission, the seven other finalists chosen to compete on the day included Andrew Ryan of Ashford Castle, Camille Mazeron of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, and Gary Corrigan of Craft Restaurant. Each competitor had four hours to produce their vegan pre-dessert & plated dessert.
Valrhona Pastry Chef Javier Guillen headed up the judging panel, and was joined on the tasting panel by Clare Anne Taylor of Clare Anne Taylor, Bespoke Cakes & Confections, Cyril Borie of Chocolatier at L’Art Du Chocolat, David Geszler of Sodexo and Pawel Batko of Powerscourt Hotel.
The contestants’ kitchen skills were overseen by Luke Frost, Valrhona Pastry Chef Northern Europe.
The inspiration for Paula’s dessert came from Irish barley. Paula showcased the flavours of barley in three forms – toasted barley, malted barley and malt whiskey. She then used three different Valrhona chocolates to compliment the flavour. Paula also took inspiration from barley in how she garnished her dessert, using gold colours.
For her pre-dessert, Paula used gorse flowers and sea buckthorn berries, both of which can be found along the cliff at the Cliff House Hotel. She balanced these favours with coconut yoghurt and Valrhona passion fruit inspiration couverture.
Luke Frost, Valrhona Pastry Chef Northern Europe, commented: “The economy in Ireland is bouncing back and it’s an exciting time for the industry to seize. Companies are investing, new hotels are opening, DIT are relocating their great facilities and the network of pastry chefs are working to build skills, including our panel of judges who so generously gave up their time to support the next generation.”
As the 2019 winner, Paula will receive a three day training course in l’École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, Tain l’Hermitage, France; including meals, accommodation and flights, dinner in a Michelin Star Restaurant while there, and access to the UK & Ireland selection of Valrhona’s bi-annual international Chocolate Chef Competition (C³).