Chocolate Showpieces: The Pinnacle of Food Art

What is a show piece? What makes pastry chefs and professionals strive to perfect these creative structures that flout gravity. I often ask myself why show pieces? They are impossible to sell due to the high labour content, they often don’t last long due to the fragile nature of the ingredients, and they take hours sometimes weeks of painstaking work to form.

Chocolate Showpiece by Paul KennedyNew Chocolate Showpiece by Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School Paul KennedyI do know why the increasingly popular constructions are made. What better way to showcase your skills on a grand scale. You must be able to create a showpiece to enter most international competitions. We as professionals are now often judged as a tradespeople by the strength of our show piece making skills. The top of their game Stephane Treand, Stephane Leroux, Frank Haasnoot and Stephane Klein are closely monitored by professionals around the world for the next trend or fashion in show pieces.

Show pieces are usually created by one of three mediums, chocolate, sugar and pastillage very few pastry chefs specialize in all three areas. The main one we lack skill and expertise in Australia is sugar but we certainly shine through with chocolate with Australia hosting some of the best in the world arguably Paul Kennedy is one of the leaders in Australia.

Chocolate Showpiece

Chocolate Showpiece from World Chocolate Masters

Paul was a finalist at the World Chocolate Masters in Paris and is Executive Pastry Chef at Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School. ‘Styles are constantly being re-invented with a new twist’ explains Paul. ‘Like fashion and everything in food, the styles of show pieces changes rapidly.’

The first step in starting the journey on a new show piece is understanding the medium you are working with for example the ability to temper chocolate. Next is the design, to start with it is easier to copy a simple show piece you have seen and liked. Draw the piece in pencil first ensuring the design flows and is not too static so the piece looks like it is moving. Cardboard is an easy medium to use to create your structure for chocolate. A lot of professionals will make a mock up of the show piece in cardboard before creating it with expensive ingredients. With our climate in Australia any type of sugar structure will deteriorate quickly, chocolate with the correct temperature controls can last for years.

One of the most important points when creating a show piece is to keep the piece clean and neat. Also try to emulate air and lightness by creating negative space in the piece so it is not too heavy. If you are recreating a life like item make it as close as possible to the natural equivalent. For example a flower should reflect a native flower but on a larger scale. Your structure should be solid to support all your decorations on the piece, but once the show piece is finished your structure should be almost invisible and just supporting your decorations.

Frank Haasnoot Chocolate Showpiece

Frank Haasnoot Chocolate Showpiece from 2011 World Chocolate Master

Chocolate show pieces date back over 70 years in history which started out as piped chocolate filigree assembled into three dimensional centre pieces followed by carved sculptures from a solid block of chocolate.  Then we moved onto modelling chocolate figures, modelling chocolate created from glucose and chocolate. With the invention of chocolate cool spray chocolate show pieces improved in leaps and bounds. Chocolate cool spray is compressed cold air in a aerosol that will instantly set chocolate, which means you no longer have to stand there holding a piece in place waiting for the chocolate to set. We now see incredible architecturally designed pieces that are getting more sophisticated each year.

Savour has just launched the newest chocolate showpiece creation for students to create in class. The western themed showpiece featuring various skulls, intricate flowers and life-like barbed wired.

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