Works at: The Peninsula in Hong Kong
Qualifiers: best chocolate showpiece and Chocolate to Go concept
After graduating secondary school with a specialisation in
pastry and chocolate at V.T.I. Spijker, Marijn Coertjens
worked a few years as pastry chef at Patisserie
Manus and Kasteel Withof. In 2006 he earned a spot in the
kitchen of Pâtisserie Ducobu and came under the tutelage of the
chef he admired so much during his early career. Three years later
Coertjens’ relentless hunger for knowledge led him to pursue
numerous internships at some of the best pastry shops in Japan,
working together with inspiring chefs like Joris Van Hee, Yoshiaki
Kaneko, Shigeru Wakabayashi and Susumu Koyama.
Currently leading the chocolate team at The Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong, Coertjens’ curriculum vitae is interspersed with awards and acknowledgments. But he’s particularly proud of seeing his name added to the list of winners of the Prosper Montagné award for Best Belgian Chocolatier (2008) and winning bronze at the 2011 Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie as member of the Belgian team lead by Herman Van Dender.
It isn’t the first time we come across the name of Marijn Coertjens. He participated in the 2007 World Chocolate Masters final and coached Dutch chocolate chef Marike van Beurden during the 2013 World Chocolate Masters final. And this year he’s back, eager to crown himself 2015 World Chocolate Master.
In the words of Marijn Coertjens:
Where does my passion for chocolate stem from?
My passion for chocolate is something that grew over many years. I was still in school when I saw a report on the 2001 International Belgian Chocolate Award (the precursor of the World Chocolate Masters) and I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do with my career: become an elite chef like the 2 chefs that where standing out in that competition, i.e. Marc Ducobu and Jean-Philippe Darcis. At that time I had no idea that 'the road to go and arrive' would be a hard one, but the one thing I already had was determination. Shortly after this, I started working and trying different things with chocolate. The more I worked and studied chocolate, the more intriguing I found it to be and the more I could do with it. Today, my passion is based on respect for an ingredient with such an enormous heritage. Little food products have such an adventurous story to tell than the food of the gods itself. It’s out of respect for this that I work every day to keep this tradition alive, and to make sure the precious beans are used for an ultimate product and not go to waste.
Why do I participate in the World Chocolate Masters?
I participated in a lot of competitions during my career and this will be the last one I will do. The ultimate goal. There is only one reason why I’m here and that's to win the title. There's no other reason for me to participate.
How do I prepare for the World Chocolate Masters?
I think my entire career and my dedication to chocolate were a major part of the preparation. It has been years in the making and now the time has come for the final exam. I've spent three years dedicating my time to the 2015 World Chocolate Masters, during two of which I’ve been working on the ‘Inspiration from Nature’ theme. The theme suits me well, as the love for nature was passed on to me by my father. The interpretation of the theme was determined quite quickly, as I wanted to tell a story that belongs to us all. With this in mind I worked step by step on each product and treated them as one concept. When you treat a product like a concept, there are more things you can do with it and you have a clearer view of where you’re going with it. It has been three years of hard work and sacrifices, and one person helped me until the end of it. My girlfriend Christa played an important role, which she took on with all the determination she has in her. This is what makes my products and me shine even more today.
How do I plan on convincing the jury members?
Firstly, I plan on using the theme backwards: these three days are not about what inspired me, but how to inspire others. The jury members are all professionals that you can’t take for fools, so all my products are made to satisfy the basic needs: flavour, look and technique. But to really win them over, I worked on every product in such a way that I can tell a story about it. This way, every product has a personality and a character that reflects my own. Oh, and did I mention that I have some cool techniques up my sleeve to convince the few remaining doubters?
What do I hope to learn from this experience?
I’m here to execute everything I’ve learned about chocolate and professionalism during my career.