After taking part in the International Chocolate Awards British National Competition as a judge, I was of course delighted to be asked to attend the awards ceremony here in my home city of York.
Having tasted an inordinate amount of extremely fine chocolate, with numerous outstanding entries, I was extremely interested to find out who would be walking away with the bronze, silver and gold prizes for each category.
The evening was held at the Grand Hotel in York, which was the perfect venue for several reasons, as explained by the ever eloquent Sophie Jewett, owner of York Cocoa House and an instrumental figure behind the awards.
Whilst it may be famous for medieval walls and an imposing Minster, York also has a very good claim to the title of "original chocolate city".
Forget Birmingham and Cadburys, we were home to two of the largest chocolate companies of the 20th century, Rowntrees and Terrys. This chocolate heritage has continued to make it's mark on the city, as we now boast a number of independent chocolatiers, alongside the continuing production of Polo and KitKat at the Rowntrees site.
The Grand Hotel building actually used to be the headquarters of the of the North Eastern Railway Company. The development of the railway in cities such as York had a profound impact on chocolate production, as it allowed goods such as sugar and milk to be transported to the city in bulk. The finished products were then whisked back along the expansive railway network, which had York at it's heart.
After the opening speeches by Sophie, we moved swiftly on the the awards ceremony - a full list of the awards can be found here
Now I am by no means an expert, but I have a few top picks from across all the categories which I want to share. Please do remember though these are based on my personal opinion and taste!
Akesson’s - 75% Madagascar Trinitario Cacao & ‘Wild’ Voatsiperifery Pepper
Matthieu de Gottal Chocolatier - Cardenal Mendoza’s Bitter Mandarin
Chika Watanabe London – Salty Olive with Bergamot Ganache
Fifth Dimension chocolates – Yuzu & Pink Peppercorn
After the awards were handed out, it was then time for some mandatory chocolate tasting (it would be rude not to right?).
Alongside sampling many award winning entries, this part of the evening also provided the opportunity to speak to a number of the award winners about their products and ethos towards chocolate.
What struck me was the passion and dedication behind each bonbon, ganache, bar etc. The choice of flavour coming from a place of experimentation and understanding, the raw ingredients chosen for quality, provenance and sustainability. The spirit of collaboration between everyone was also evident and a testament to the integrity and tenacity of the fine chocolate industry.
Needless to say, I was impressed and extremely sated.