I was excited when I heard that Belmont Shore, a local community in long beach, CA, was going to have their 6Th annual chocolate festival. The event hit me as a total surprise, since I've been living in Long Beach for over 10 years and never heard of it. The only reason I found out, was because a good friend and fellow local Long Beach resident, informed me of the event. I was all over it since, I'm a lover of all things chocolate. After hearing that there was a contest for homemade desserts, I figured what the heck. I also figured that participating in the contest would be a great networking opportunity for Splendid Creations, my business. The chocolate tasting contest, had 3 categories: best cake or pie, best cookies or brownies, and best drinks or confections. I think the hardest thing about entering a food related contest, is what to enter. But, one of the awesome things about being a pastry chef is the versatility with being able to create all types of baking and pastry dishes.
I run a small, yet optimistically growing cake and pastry company, splendid creations and my menu contains plenty of chocolate items. The most popular now being my double chocolate pecan pie (contest winner), triple chocolate mocha cake (or death by chocolate, as my friend calls it), brownies, cookies, and so forth. I knew I had to be smart about which item to enter. I didn't want something too popular and I didn't want something too eccentrically complex. My indecisiveness lead me to family and facebook for an opinion pole. My father chose the pie since it was his favorite and my facebook community, was split down the middle. I went with the pie, because it was a first for most.
On the day of the contest, I was pressed for time because the event was the same weekend as the Superbowl and so I was finishing up a Superbowl themed cake. the contest was at 2pm and I baked two pies early that morning. When I arrived at the contest, I had 5 mins to set up and plate. Mind you, when I registered for the contest the prior week, I wasn't told that I needed plates, napkins, forks, etc and since I had only packed my cutting knife, camera, and two pies, I had to run to the local store and pick of the items I needed. I also noticed that this contest was serious. Most of the contestants came with their "A" game. I saw some amazing and beautifully plated dishes. It seriously looked like something off of the food network. Pecan pie is hard to cut normally, so just think of the frustration I experienced, when I had 3 mins to plate. Disaster! I had the worst plated dish out of all the contestants and I decided at the moment that it was all over.
During the contest the 9 judges took their "sweet" times carefully sampling all of the chocolate entries (there were at least 30). I stood there looking at my disastrously plated entry and how the judges were sampling in and around my pie, avoiding it like the plague. My father stood there in support of my efforts, telling me to be patient and watch closely. At last, one of the judges took a sample. I instantly saw her face light up and saw her mouth form a encouraging "WOW." At that moment, she insisted that the other judges try the pie and they did. Now mind you, there were 30 or so entries and 9 judges and none of them took more than a small bite of each entry. Three judges ate the entire pie and one even went back for an encore. I was elated, because it put a glimmer of hope back in my spirit. My dad retorted "see they're hooked!" I could only laugh and agree with him. When the contest was over we had about an hour to kill for the judging. I couldn't get over how awful my entry looked. I know they enjoyed the pie, but was taste enough to win? When I won the "cake and pie" category of the contest, my father said something profound, "Taste beats presentation every time." I guess he was right.