Guest Grand Juror – Food Writer (United Kingdom)
Cat Black is a food writer with a particular interest in the sweeter things in life. Having worked as a private caterer and baking tutor, she has written for a variety of publications, including The Spectator’s Scoff. She has had a regular baking column in Cakes & Sugarcraft Magazine since 2010, under the name Cookie Bellair. Cat has an all-consuming passion for all that is finest in the world of chocolate and is writer of the website www.chocolatecouverture.com She also writes about chocolate in Paris for girlsguidetoparis.com
Permanent member – Seventy% (United Kingdom)
Martin Christy is Founder and Editor of fine chocolate review website Seventy%. Martin is a leading voice in the fine chocolate industry, passionate about the promotion and preservation of fine chocolate and fine cacao and supporting those who produce them.
Having grown up eating traditional British ‘candy’ type confectionery products, Martin discovered real chocolate in the early 1990s, in line with his interest in finer, healthier food and its sources. A growing obsession with the origin and variety of fine chocolate led him to found Seventy% to raise awareness of the quality and sourcing of the chocolate we eat, and to help create a movement to rediscover chocolate as a complex, ancient, beneficial and spiritual food. Seventy% now features over 600 reviews of chocolate bars from around the world and hosts an international panel of reviewers.
Since founding Seventy% in 2001, Martin has travelled extensively, visiting cacao plantations and meeting with the world’s top cacao and chocolate producers. Martin also runs Seventy%’s ‘Slow Chocolate’ sensory taste workshops and tasting events and is a consultant to the fine chocolate and cacao growing industries worldwide.
Martin is Judging Director of the International Chocolate Awards, which he founded in the UK with Kate Johns of Chocolate Week. He is also Acting Chairman of the new fine cacao and chocolate industry association, Direct Cacao and is a member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative Tasting Panel and is a panel member of the Cocoa of Excellence competition.
Martin is also a freelance writer for UK magazines and web publications, and has contributed to several books about fine chocolate.
Permanent member – Master of Wine (United Kingdom)
While living in the United States, Nancy ran a wine bar close to the White House, later becoming wine columnist for The Boston Globe. On her return to England she ran Grants of St James’s School of Wine before leaving to work as a freelance wine educator and consultant.
She passed the Master of Wine exams in 1995, winning both the Rosemount and the Listel scholarships. Recently she became the 2012 UK Ambassador for Champagne and in addition to talks and tastings on Champagne and sparkling wines, she also lectures widely on food and wine, and the wines of South Africa. She runs Christie’s wine education courses and presents at Leith’s School of Food & Wine.
Permanent member – Chocolate/Tea Taster, Sommelier (Italy)
Monica Meschini was a born a curious gourmet. This led her to study a thesis on Indian cuisine in 1987 and become a member of the ‘Association Cordon Bleu’ and train as sommelier. In 1995 she was a founding member of the Chocolate Society. This inspired the birth of the world’s first chocolate-themed venue called “Hemingway” in Florence 1996. In 1999 she became President of Italian Tea Club, and in 2000, The TeaTeam, organising courses with experts Gilles Brochard and Jane Pettigrew. She wrote articles for Italian magazines on French and English tea, chocolate and confectionery.
Collaborating for 20 years with Eurochocolate at the Chocolat Salon and the Chocolate Show in Paris, Copenhagen, London and Tokyo. Her tastings have been attended by over 150,000 people. She collaborated in the guide of the Sweets of the Italian Touring Club, on the jury of Eurochocolate Award of Perugia and President of the jury at Eurochocolate Modica Award.
In 2012 she began as Co-Founder and Partner of the Italian / Mediterranean International Chocolate Awards and Co-Founder of International Institute of Chocolate Tasting. And in 2015 Co-Founder of The Tea Tasting Institute with Gilles Brochard.
Today she continues to collaborate with major international hotel chains for quality control and organising events and training and is tutor chef for The European Bachelor Course at Cordon Bleu School.
Permanent member – Chef, Restaurateur, Author (United States)
Dr. Maricel E. Presilla is a culinary historian, author and chef specializing in the cuisines of Latin America and Spain. She holds a Ph.D. in medieval Spanish history from New York University where she also received formal training in cultural anthropology. Dr. Presilla has done considerable research on agriculture, with special emphasis on tropical crops, cacao and vanilla agriculture, and chocolate production. She is the president of Gran Cacao, a Latin American food marketing company specializing in chocolate research and marketing, chocolate and cacao education programs and heirloom cacao bean trade.
Dr. Presilla is the author of the seminal The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes (Ten Speed Press, revised 2nd edition 2009), three books on Latin American food and culture, and the award-winning Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, a comprehensive Latin American cookbook for WW. Norton published in 2012. Presilla is a food columnist for The Miami Herald with a column entitled ‘Cocina’ and a contributing editor for Saveur magazine. Feature stories about Presilla have appeared in The New York Times, The Daily News, The Miami Herald, The Washington Times. Food Arts, Food & Wine, Gourmet magazine, Latina, Country Home, Jamie Magazine, and The New Jersey Monthly. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio Food Arts awarded her a Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance in the culinary arts.
Dr. Presilla is the owner and chef of Zafra and Cucharamama, two highly acclaimed Latin American restaurants in Hoboken, NJ. She is the first Latin American woman to have been invited as a guest chef to the White House. Two years ago, she opened Ultramarinos, a food store and cooking atelier in Hoboken, NJ specializing in Spanish and Latin American foods and ingredients such as cacao and chocolate.
Permanent member – Consultant, Reviewer (United Kingdom)
Scoring Systems Development Advisor
Alex Rast has always passionately loved chocolate, but his serious interest began in 1990. Frustrated with the quality then available at retail, he conducted a series of experiments to make chocolate, systematically working out formulae and techniques. Eventual success convinced him that, while excellent, the finished chocolate simply did not justify the effort required on a non-commercial scale, and refocussed his efforts on exploring and tasting artisanally produced plain and milk chocolate. Some early consultations for various chocolate companies broadened his contacts, and, in 2003, he started collaborating with Seventy% in reviewing chocolate. His collaboration with Seventy% continues to this day, and he also consults on an occasional basis for chocolate manufacturers.
His full-time occupation involves architecture and design of neural hardware systems at the University of Manchester. He is a research associate in Prof. Steve Furber’s SpiNNaker group doing advanced research into neural network chips. Recently, using this work as a background, he has begun to explore neural models for chocolate taste perception, a project he is doing in partnership with Seventy%. The goal is to generate a systematic, human-sensory-based system for mapping and describing chocolate flavour from bean to bar.
Permanent member – chocolats-de-luxe.de GmbH (Germany)
Michaela Schupp is based in Hannover, Germany. After studying hotel management in Heidelberg, she has pursued a successful career as a Supply Chain Director, working for amongst others PepsiCo Restaurants International, Accor Hotellerie Deutschland, Compass Group Deutschland and HGK eG Hannover.
In 2005 Michaela decided to turn her passion into a business by founding www.chocolats-de-luxe.de, an online fine chocolate boutique that stocks products from over 50 chocolate makers from 17 countries. In 2012, the business picked up a coveted award from Der Feinschmecker magazine.
In May 2014 Michaela organized the International Chocolate Awards for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, expanding the Awards to more countries. Her chocolate indulgence brought her to initiate the first chocolate-gourmet-festival in Hannover in September 2014.
Permanent member – Taster (United States)
Pam Williams founded Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in 2003 to deliver high quality educational opportunities both online and face-to-face to students all over the world. Now celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Ecole Chocolat offers a range of chocolate making programmes suitable for both beginners and those with experience who want to improve their knowledge and skills. Programmes include the Professional Chocolatier Programme, Chocolate Making from the Bean, Quality Assurance & Keeping Limits for Chocolatiers and Master Chocolatier and Chocolate Programmes. In Jan 2011, Pam received the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s Recognition of Excellence in Service to the Industry.
In 2006 Pam created http://chocomap.com to celebrate the fine chocolate industry. Later in Spring 2011, she launched a free mobile app, Find Chocolate, using the chocomap global directory of over 2500 chocolate shops. The app has been a success with over 12000 downloads to date.