2024 May 29-30North America preselection
USA & Canada
In the upcoming North American National Selections, the theme of Play! will test the creativity and skill of WCM chefs. Witness how top chocolatiers from across North America play with flavors, textures, and designs in their chocolate creations. Who will emerge as the North American Chocolate Master and represent the region in the WCM 2025 world finals? Join us to uncover the champion!
Meet the contestants
Charlotte Wang, a Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo graduate, embarked on her journey as a chocolatier in a hotel before traversing various roles in Canadian pastry shops, restaurants, and hotels. Currently, she serves as a Pastry Sous-Chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Enigma, in Toronto. For Charlotte, PLAY! signifies a return to childhood, where video games fueled her imagination in a magical realm. Dreaming of participating in the Worlds Chocolate Master since pastry school, she aims to push creative boundaries, inspired by mentors like Chef Chris Kwok. Her secret weapon is simple—hard work. Charlotte aspires to learn from global chocolatiers and elevate her skills in the ever-evolving world of chocolate.
Francis Nguyen, Chef de Partie at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, traces his culinary roots to a family farm where coffee trees thrived. Childhood experiences crafting rich treats with his family sparked his culinary journey. After studying in France and Germany, he embraced the sweet and savory world of pastry, infusing creations with the essence of his family's farm. PLAY! to Francis recalls the joy of childhood games and serves as a creative haven. Participating to share the magic of cocoa and coffee, his secret weapons are patience and resilience, fundamental to his success. In the bustling world of pastry arts, Francis finds joy, innovation, and the meaning of life.
Matt LoCurto, a culinary artist, studied Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute in New York. In 2020, amidst the pandemic, he embraced a Pastry Apprenticeship at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, now serving as the Lead Baker. For Matt, PLAY! evokes the joyful antics of his cats, finding happiness in their playful moments. Participating in competitions, including the Greenbrier Pastry Apprenticeship, he views as a fun way to refine skills. His secret weapon lies in enhanced organizational skills developed during his apprenticeship. As the Lead Baker at The Greenbrier Resort, Matt continues to elevate his craft.
Joshua Cain, an Executive Pastry Chef with 28 years in the hospitality industry, hails from North Carolina. Armed with degrees in Culinary Technology and Baking and Pastry Arts, his journey spans AAA four and five-diamond resorts and city hotels. Notable roles include Senior Pastry Chef at JW Marriott Desert Ridge and Executive Pastry Chef at Orlando World Center, Caribe Royale, and Evermore Orlando Resort. A victor in the 2011 Sugar Art Casting Challenge and recipient of the 2012 Pastry Live Competitors Choice Award, Joshua views PLAY! as a sensory journey through the ages. Participating in WCM, he aims to maximize his chocolate expertise while ensuring an enjoyable and successful process. Joshua's secret weapons include speed, efficiency, and undisclosed tactics. As the Executive Pastry Chef in Clermont, FL, he continues to elevate the culinary experience.
Sumant Sharma, a culinary trailblazer, transitioned from a farming family to global luxury hotels. Educated in biology science and hotel management, he refined his skills at prestigious establishments like Raambagh Palace Taj in Jaipur, GHM in Sharjah, UAE, and Marriott, Taj, and Hyatt in India. Currently a Sous Chef at Musaafer Houston, Sumant innovates in fine dining, revitalizing Indian pastries with modern techniques. For him, PLAY! embodies constructive creativity, an essential aspect of crafting unique chocolate creations. Participating in WCM, Sumant aims to push his chocolate-making abilities to the max while ensuring a fun and learning experience. His secret weapon lies in a blend of creativity, innovation, and a deep understanding of taste, texture, aroma, flavors, and techniques, ensuring each creation resonates with authenticity and unparalleled flavor.
Ruchit Harneja, the Corporate Pastry Chef at Berg Hospitality Group in Houston, embarked on his culinary journey at The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, rising to Head Pastry Chef. Venturing to the United States in 2018, he established an inventive pastry program at Musaafer Houston. Now, as the Corporate Pastry Chef at Berg Hospitality, Ruchit oversees pastry programs for 12 restaurants, leading research and development. PLAY! in his culinary world symbolizes the constant interplay of flavors, textures, and surprises, pushing boundaries with unconventional ingredients. Participating in the World Chocolate Masters, Ruchit's secret weapon lies in the magical world of spices, crafting unique Ayurvedic blends that transform chocolate into aromatic marvels, narrating tales of history and heritage. As an Executive Pastry Chef, his innovative approach blends rich Indian traditions with avant-garde techniques.
As the Lead Chocolatier and Co-owner of Cotard Chocolatier, this talented chef is preparing for the World Chocolate Masters in North America. Her love for chocolate drives her to create stunning sculptures and exquisite flavors. Her meticulous attention to detail and skilled hands showcase her devotion to her craft. Participating in this competition allows her to push her creative boundaries and display her extensive knowledge. With experience as a Chocolatier and Chef at Cotard Chocolatier, as well as being a teacher at Chocolat Du Monde, she is well-prepared for the World Chocolate Masters. Her exceptional skills and expertise have already been proven by achieving 1st place in the Fiesta Farinex competition.
Jeremy Monsel, a 30-year-old visionary chocolatier, harbored a passion for the craft from a young age. A dreamer and creative, he embarked on a trajectory that led him to the Worlds Chocolate Master finals. For six years, he honed his skills alongside Christophe Morel, evolving into the Lead Chocolatier at Christophe Morel Chocolatier in Montreal, Canada. Describing himself as someone who plays with textures and explores new technology, Jeremy thrives on challenges, drawing strength from curiosity and a thirst for learning. His accolades include a 2nd place in the WCM National Selections 2021, Trophee Bruno Le Derff (2016), and Cabosse d'or (2015).
After working in kitchens since the age of 15, Joel made the switch to pastry and chocolate after attending culinary school. This ignited his love for chocolate, inspiring an exploration of innovative flavors and techniques. As the Senior Pastry Chef at Hotel X in Toronto, Joel sees PLAY! as pushing boundaries and creating multisensory experiences, unlocking forgotten memories. His participation in competitions aims to share his unique style globally, sparking conversations about the meaning of chocolate. Joel's secret weapon lies in his team, support, and accumulated knowledge. With experience at Snakes and Lattes, Succulent Chocolates, and Hotel X, Joel's culinary journey thrives on continual growth and storytelling through his creations.
Meet the jury
John Kraus, the owner of Patisserie 46 in South Minneapolis, hails from Paducah, Kentucky. His culinary journey took a turn in London, where a simple croissant stole his heart. After training in England, he worked at Nashville’s The Wild Boar and became the executive pastry chef at Magnolia Restaurant. A decade of teaching at the French Pastry School in Chicago followed, where he met co-founders Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sebastien Canonne. In 2010, John opened Patisserie 46, earning acclaim. His perspective on PLAY! is a dream of carefree moments. As a World Chocolate Masters judge, he expects whimsy and prioritizes the critical aspect of flavor pleasure in the contestants' creations.
Yvan Chevalier, the accomplished 23-year-old chocolatier from Bain-de-Bretagne, pursued a BEP pastry at Louis-Guilloux high school in Rennes. After an internship at Laurent Le Daniel, he continued training in Nantes, working at Vincent Guerlais's renowned chocolate factory. Rising swiftly, Yvan became the Chief Chocolatier at Vincent Guerlais, winning the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2018. With roots in Breton fars, Yvan opened La Boutique - Yvan Chevalier in Rennes in August 2021, sharing his specialties and upholding Breton roots. As the owner, Yvan emphasizes innovation, research, and respecting raw materials. He plays with the theme "PLAY!" and expects World Chocolate Masters contestants to showcase quality work and creativity on a global scale.
Michel Ernots, born in Liege, Belgium, shifted from physical therapy to become a renowned pastry chef. Best Apprentice of Belgium in 2012, he earned pastry and bakery degrees from IFAPME. Joining Compagnon du Devoir, he achieved the prestigious Compagnon title, worked in Alsace and Reunion Island. Recruited by Dimitri Fayard in 2015, he honed skills at The Peninsula Hotel. A move to Las Vegas led to an executive position at Aria Patisserie. Winning Meilleur Artisan de Belgique in 2018, Ernots, now co-founder of The Pastry Academy, aims to inspire and mentor. As a World Chocolate Masters judge, he seeks creativity, craftsmanship, and professionalism from contestants, emphasizing global representation.
Olivier Tribut, an accomplished pastry expert and teacher at Quebec's Capitale hotel school, holds diplomas in pastry, cooking, and education. Representing Canada at the 2013 World Chocolate Master final and crowned Pastry Chef of the Year in 2021, he brings a wealth of experience from Michelin-starred establishments. The PLAY! theme, to him, is a vast playground for culinary innovation and creativity in chocolate. As a judge, he anticipates contestants to surprise and impress. During the World Chocolate Master, he'll focus on their approach, product handling, integration of local elements, use of technology, and introduction of new concepts.
Catherine O’Donnell, a multifaceted figure in the culinary world, wears many hats: Mother, Grandmother, Pastry Chef, Educator, and World Chef Pastry Jury. From humble beginnings at Oliver’s Bakery to owning Willow Cakes and Pastries, her journey reflects a tapestry of experiences. As a Baking and Pastry Arts Professor at Niagara College, she nurtures budding talents, drawing from her rich expertise. PLAY! embodies freedom and creativity for Catherine, urging contestants to push boundaries and innovate. She seeks a natural flow, modern techniques, and attention to detail from contestants, eager to witness their unique visions unfold.
29-30 May 2024