I'd first of all like to say a huge thank you for all the support and interest in my trip as part of the Scottish Culinary Team to Luxembourg in November for the Culinary World Cup! It is hugely appreciated!The class I entered was the Chocolate Showpiece category, and what I had to prepare and set up was a showpiece (obviously made of chocolate but I could also use cocoa butter, colours, cocoa powder and modelling chocolate plus internal supports) of between 60cm and 150cm tall, and with a base no wider than 80cm (but could extend wider than this further up). Well over a year ago, I decided on a sorcery theme since this would enable me to incorporate some very structured smooth shiny elements, some rustic free form creations, a bit of metallics, coloured flowers, autumn leaves, visually striking contrasts and sprayed textured areas. It would often be in the wee small hours I'd think of something I wanted to add or suddenly decide on a particular technique I wanted to use.....pen and paper were always at the ready!
During the year, I made some parts of the showpiece to make sure the overall sizing was going to work, that it would balance correctly, the proportions were suitable, and to reassure myself that it was definitely the direction I wanted to take with it. I find that I always have a fair amount of chocolate left over from various things that has become sub-quality from being tempered too often or has been affected by humidity, so showpiece practice it is a perfect way to utilise this!
During the months before hand, I practiced chocolate flowers, made sure my chocolate polishing technique was up to scratch, experimented with various Easter egg and sphere moulds that would make the initial shape of the body of the owl, plus played around a bit with where I wanted the supportive wires to be so I knew that it would be secure on the day! I also braved making some more delicate items in the hope that if I packed them well, they'd travel fine - this included the toadstools and the leaves.
The leaves were collected in early November from an afternoon walk, and once I got back to the kitchen, I brushed them with 3 layers of tempered chocolate, carefully separated the chocolate from the leaf once set, and then I airbrushed the leaves with colour. I only used a few on the showpiece, but had to make more than 3 tray loads to make sure I had enough good non-broken ones that coloured nicely to use! The toadstools (again, I made several times the amount I would eventually require!) were made using water bomb balloons, the tips dipped in chocolate, left to set, coloured with airbrushed cocoa butter colours. The stalks were each crafted by hand using white chocolate putty.
The spell book was made by casting chocolate in a rectangular cardboard box lined with thin corrugated card to from the indents for the pages. The outer book covers were rectangles of chocolate, polished with gold metallics, and inscribed with the freehand writing. I sculpted the Celtic motifs for the book, and also the magic wand.
Leading up to the event, I got going with making the final main structure, cauldron, bases, owl and bark.
The cauldron was cast in a plastic goldfish bowl(!), and once removed, flames sculpted around it, the main structure was made by handmaking a scroll frame with paper, casting in chocolate, scraping off all the sharp edges using a peeler, and rounding off with using chocolate putty to give it that lovely smooth appearance. The polishing is quite a technique to master, using cocoa butter, colours and cloths chilled in iced water!
Bark involves making a cocoa butter and cocoa powder paste which is pipeable. The main structure is covered in cling film, and the paste piped on to it, left to set, painted in firstly milk chocolate, then 3 layers of colours. The warmth of the hands is used to rub off some of the colour to give the layered rustic look. Eventually the bark can be taken off the cling film and stuck on to the main structure!
I spent around a day cutting out and hand marking all the individual feathers for the owl, and as more were applied I could see the owl gradually come to life! (so to speak!).
As for the bases, the white and black circles one took a long laborious day to make, using little slices of plastic pipe to cast in black and white chocolate over and over again until full, before joining them all together to make a large disc, and encasing this in an outer rim of white....not a job I'll be repeating for some time I can assure you! One of the other bases was polished in gold and airbrushed with ivy leaves and the other frozen for 20 minutes before being airbrushed, so it had a raised, mossy texture. The sticks for underneath the cauldron was bark paste piped in to lengths of insulating tubing for pipes, and scratched with a wire brush for texture once set.
Once carefully packed, off the parts of the showpiece went in a van to Luxembourg (expertly driven by 2 chefs), and I flew over, was reunited with the showpiece and could start work on the more delicate parts.
We were thankful to the Luxemburger Wort Newspaper for the use of their canteen kitchen for all our preparations. The main part of my showpiece work was from 3pm on the 23rd all the way through to 4.30am on the 24th, then it was a battle with pitch darkness and pouring rain to get it to the exhibition centre by 5am!
I was grateful to Beth and Erin, other members of the team, to assist in setting the showpiece up...too many boxes and fragile items to cope with! And not forgetting Neil Thomson and Hazel who were the lucky ones who had to navigate and drive!
Overall a long process, but one I enjoyed immensely! To win a bronze medal was more than I could wish for at such a prestigious international event.....to be honest I was over the moon just to get it set up on the display table without any wobbles or breakages!
I hope you like the pictures of some of the process!