Representing Poland: Lukasz Aniol
Works at: Tortownia.pl
Won: best chocolate showpiece, best Chocolate to Go concept
After finishing his studies at a professional catering school in Ruda Śląska, the young Lukasz Aniol set out to hone his pastry skills at his uncle’s restaurant in Knurów. Four years later the chef broadened his knowledge about yeast dough and first discovered French pastries in a café in Mikołow followed by a restaurant in Katowice before moving abroad to Guernsey, an island in the English Channel. There he took the position of pastry chef at a local restaurant and really got the hang of French pastries. But after working an additional year in a small hotel in the UK, Lukasz Aniol moved back to Warsaw, where he currently works at Tortownia.pl under the tutelage of Bożena Sikoń, the undisputed Polish pastry master.
Lukasz Aniol is a very young, but incredibly passionate pastry chef, with a culinary drive bordering on workaholism. Proof of that is the fact that he’s juggling his full-time day job at Tortownia.pl and late-night preparations for the World Chocolate Masters final with the organisation of a gastronomic championship in his heimat Silesia.
Representing Russia: Andrey Kanakin
Andrey Kanakin is a graduate of professional lyceum #344 in Moscow. He participated in several professional competitions, and his laurels include second place in the 2014 Moscow Craftsman Pastry Chef competition and a second place in the national qualifying round for the 2013 World Chocolate Masters.
Andrey considers his participation in the 2015 World Chocolate Masters as a good chance to assess his professional skills in comparison with the other contestants. His personal goal is to compete for the prize-winning places. Andrey’s long-term goal is to develop his own chocolate boutique concept.
Representing Spain: Pepe Isla
Works at: Casa Isla
Won: best chocolate showpiece and best moulded praline
Pepe Isla represents the fourth generation of a family that is wholeheartedly dedicated to pastry. Since childhood, Pepe has been playing and experimenting between the bags of flour in Casa Isla, the family pastry house, developing new recipes, introducing novelty flavours and presenting the world with unusual pastry textures.
His curiosity for all things culinary and his eagerness to learn, lead him to receive training from renowned professionals such as Paco Torreblanca, Ramón Morató, Angelo Corvitto and Jordi Bordas. Today, Pepe is still hell-bent on improving his skills. And he’s determined to take the crown at the 2015 World Chocolate Masters final.
Representing Switzerland: Geraldine Müller-Maras
Works at: Maison Cailler
Won: best moulded praline
Swiss-Australian Geraldine Müller-Maras is no newcomer to the world of chocolate. Her wanderlust spirit as a professional culinary globetrotter has taken her all over the globe: she worked as commis pastry chef at Mosimann's in London, was hired by the Jardin des Sens in Montpellier (France) and the MS Hanseatic, the only 5-star expedition ship in the entire world, has taken her to see every bit of sea stretching from the Caribbean to the Antarctic. Then, after a stopover in France, she spent eight years seeking new challenges as a pastry chef in Australia.
In 2012, Geraldine Müller-Maras and her colleagues were awarded with the 'Gourmand World Cookbook Award' in the 'Best in the World' competition for 'SOMTUM: a Meeting of Flavours, Tastes and Cultures'. In the same year, she returned to her Swiss roots and took up the position of Atelier du Chocolat director at Maison Cailler.
Representing Turkey: Serdar Çakır
Works at: Çikolata Ustası, Hilton Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul
Won: best moulded praline
Serdar Çakır discovered his love for cooking at a very young age, trailing behind his parents while they were at work in their restaurant. He started off his career at the Ceylan Hotel in Istanbul, but has been working as chocolate chef at the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel for the past two years. Çakır’s open-minded approach towards chocolate and pastry is what really sets him apart from his colleagues. His main driving force to compete in the 2015 World Chocolate Masters was to measure his strength with the world’s best chocolatiers and pastry chefs, and to be discovered by renowned master chefs.
Çakır’s long-term goal is to continue building up experience until his 30th birthday, after which he wants to open up his own pastry shop.
Representing the UK and Ireland: Alistair Birt
Works at: William Curley
Won: best chocolate showpiece, best Cake of the Day and best Chocolate to Go concept
Whilst studying at university, Alistair Birt fell in love with all things sweet and chocolate. Under the tutelage of pastry expert Yolande Stanley Birt travelled across the UK and America visiting top industry names, which cumulated in him representing the UK in pastry at the 2009 edition of Worldskills in Canada. Birt is currently responsible for all production at William Curley, which includes chocolates, patisserie, baked goods, plated desserts and much more.
Birt has competed in many competitions, including the 2013 UK qualifying round for the World Chocolate Masters where he came in second and won the awards for Best Showpiece and Best Entremet. He also visited China on a British council tour, demonstrating and lecturing on the benefits of skilled labour and has been a guest lecturer at Westminster Kingsway College several times. In 2013, Birt received the coveted Acorn Award, which acknowledges people under 30 who have made a significant contribution in their field.