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Grand Jury profiles – World Final 2013

Cat Black

Guest Grand JurorFood 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

Martin Christy

Permanent memberSeventy% (United Kingdom)

Judging Director

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.

Sid Cross

Guest Grand JurorWine & Food Media (Canada)

Sid Cross writes for several publications and is a frequent wine and food judge, panellist and educator on both wine and food. He is the Honorary President globally for The International Wine & Food Society, a co-founder and advisor to The Chefs’ Table Society of British Columbia and a culinary judge at the Olympic Gold Medal Plates, the Canadian Culinary Championships as well as the Iron Chef competition at Whistler’s Cornucopia

Sid is the only Canadian to be inducted as a Membre d’Honneur of the L’Academie du vin de Bordeaux and also to be awarded The Gourmet of the Year by The Society of Bacchus America. He was instrumental in forming branches of existing wine and food societies in Vancouver including Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Australian Wine Appreciation Society and La Commanderie de Bordeaux.

Jennifer Earle

Guest Grand JurorChocolate Ecstasy Tours (United Kingdom)

Jennifer Earle was born in England but raised in Australia (on Dairy Milk, ‘Old Gold’, Cadbury’s hot chocolate, Milo and, on special occasions, Lindt Lindor). Returning to England in 2004, she was enthralled by London’s chocolate boutiques and in 2005 Jennifer launched Chocolate Ecstasy Tours to help introduce people to the wider world of chocolate.

Jennifer has worked as a Buyer and Food Developer for major retailers and continues to consult for small and large businesses.  She also delivers tastings to corporate and private groups.  She spends most of her ‘time off’ travelling to cocoa plantations, chocolate factories and touring chocolate shops around the world.  Jennifer has been featured on television and radio and in international newspapers discussing the chocolate industry and specific products.  She also writes restaurant and afternoon tea reviews for online magazines, as well as occasionally blogging on her other website: www.worldchocolateguide.com.

George Gensler

Permanent memberManhattan 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.

Nancy Gilchrist

Guest Grand JurorMaster of Wine (United Kingdom)

Aubrey Lindley

Guest Grand JurorCacao (United States)

Per Liss

Guest Grand JurorChokladakademien (Sweden)

Per Liss is a chocolate connoisseur who discovered real dark chocolate in the mid nineties. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden. Per is a regular visitor to London and Chocolate Week ever since 2003. He has been a member of the neutral non-profit organization Chokladakademien (The chocolate society “Swedish Chocolate Academy”) since 2002, currently in the position of board member and Acting Chairman.

Monica Meschini

Permanent memberChocolate/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.

Maricel Presilla

Permanent memberChef, 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.

Alex Rast

Permanent memberConsultant, 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.

Michaela Schupp

Permanent memberChocolats-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.

Eagranie Yuh

Guest Grand JurorThe Well-Tempered Chocolatier (Canada)

Eagranie Yuh is a writer, editor, and chocolate educator based in Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of the forthcoming Chocolate-Tasting Kit (Chronicle Books). You’ll find her work in Best Food Writing 2012, Edible VancouverThe Vancouver CourierTableMatters.com, and Flavours. Before becoming a professional writer, she was a chemist and a chocolatier. Learn more at thewelltemperedchocolatier.com.