Spain has chosen its Chocolate Master. But this time, the jury really had a tough time proclaiming a winner. The opinions of the ten jury members meandered between two outclassing candidates, but it was Pepe Isla of Casa Isla in Granada who was eventually chosen over Abraham Balaguer. And it was Andrés Moreno who claimed the third spot on the Spanish Chocolate Masters podium.
Both Pepe Isla and Abraham Balaguer showed excellent chocolate skills and their creations had creativity and taste in abundance. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the individual competition awards were divided between them: Pepe was awarded best moulded praline and best chocolate showpiece, while Abraham earned the awards for best Cake of the Day and best Chocolate to Go concept. The Spanish qualifying rounds were a real neck and neck race. That’s why the jury also took other criteria (such as organisation, time management, order and cleanliness) into account that eventually tipped the scale in favour of Pepe Isla, but only minimally.
Pepe’s first words of gratitude went to Jordi Bordas and his team, who have guided him intensely for the past three months in order for Pepe to refine his creations and to perfect his technique. "Three months ago, I had no idea of what I was going to do with my life and now I’m on my way to Paris to compete with the best chocolatiers and pastry chefs in the world," Pepe says in retrospect.
Pepe also cites Ramon Morató as one of his role models: “I respect Ramon both as a professional chef and as a person for his tremendous humility." He is now eight months away from going head to head with the world’s greatest chocolate professionals during the world final in Paris. "I’m going to Paris to win. I wouldn’t have signed up for the Spanish preselection or competed as furiously as I have done today if I wasn’t 100% committed to this," the pastry chef concludes. He has always talked about participating but never did. Until this year, thanks to his partner Irene. It was she who gave the final push for Pepe to try his luck. And with result!