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 – Manhattan Chocolate Society (United States)
George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She spent her early years traveling the world with her siblings and parents, who also instilled in her a love of – and appreciation for – travel and chocolate. She continues to take every opportunity for travel that comes her way, from visiting friends and family to destination races and chocolate hunts. She has eaten chocolate on all seven continents and is working her way around them again.
George and a small group of like-minded friends formed the Manhattan Chocolate Society in 2007. The Manhattan Chocolate Society holds focused tastings, mostly of bean-to-bar chocolates, and has worked with several chocolate makers to refine their product.
Guest Grand Juror – Aerospace Engineer (United States)
For the last 25 years, Jim has been on a personal quest to discover what makes the best possible truffle with the best possible chocolate. With the help of friends and family, he has made and then given away more than ten thousand truffles in pursuit of his passion. He has also traveled extensively with the sole purpose of tasting chocolate from many parts of the world.
Jim lives in New Jersey and has been a business partner with Maricel Presilla on various chocolate confectionery ventures. When not making truffles, he is an aerospace engineer designing laser gyroscopes to navigate military aircraft and the deep water submersibles that recently explored the Titanic. www.JKChocolateTruffles.com
Guest Grand Juror – Manhattan Chocolate Society (United States)
Alexandra Leaf is a well-known culinary historian, cookbook author and culinary educator with a specialty in fine chocolate. She has written for Saveur, Gastronomica, Country Living, and The Philadelphia Daily News, and she has been featured on CNN and NPR and in “The New York Times,” “The Boston Globe,” “The New York Observer,” Vogue Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and a founding member of The Manhattan Chocolate Society. In 1996, she pioneered the teaching of culinary history at The New School University. Alexandra is the owner/founder of Chocolate Tours of NYC, Inc, a food tour company specializing in artisanally made chocolate and confectionary. She is the producer of the 92nd St Y’s annual Chocolate Fest and she teaches chocolate appreciation and pairing classes at The Institute of Culinary Education and Murray’s Cheese. The chocolate entry in the newly published Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets was shared between Maricel Presilla (pre-Columbian) and Alexandra (post-Columbian).
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.
Guest Grand Juror – Tomoé Saveur/ fine chocolate distributor , chocolate expert (Japan)