Leading chocolatiers from around the world gathered together in the elegant surroundings of Fortnum and Mason’s, London, last night for the celebratory Academy of Chocolate Awards party – the UK’s chocolate equivalent of the Oscars.
Ever since it was founded in 2005, the Academy, in the words of its founder Sara Jayne-Staines,
“has sought to educate people about the difference between real chocolate and chocolate confectionary full of sugar”.
Sarah Jane Evans, Academy member and wine and food writer, confirms this:
“Our aim when we were founded was to talk about the fact that chocolate comes from the bean and to understand the process from bean to and to introduce the idea of fine chocolate. The fact that the Academy includes food writers such as myself and Marie-Pierre Moine as well as professional chocolatiers is very important as it offers an independent aspect. The ethos of the Academy is that everyone leaves their commercial interests at the door. We spread the words through these bi-annual awards, events and conferences. ”
Chantal Coady of Rococo, a fellow member, is convinced that the Academy has done much to spread the word re fine chocolate.
“It’s been very influential. Let me give you some examples: nowadays, there’s very little artificial vanillin used and people are aware that chocolate should contain cocoa butter rather than other fats. People are also becoming more aware of the ethics of cocoa-growing.”
Another valuable role of the Academy in Coady’s opinion is as a meeting place where
“chocolatiers can meet each other as part of the same group, talk together, be collegiate. Of course, there’s an element of competition in the chocolate world but as far as I’m concerned it just means that I have to try harder to make even better chocolate.”
The Awards are the result of a long and intensive judging process by a large panel of judges. Crucially, all entries are anonymous and those with a commercial interest are not allowed to judge in any category for which they’ve entered.