Grand Jury profiles – Belgian National Competition 2015

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.

Monica Meschini

Permanent memberChocolate/Tea Taster, Wine 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.

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.

Nicole Regout

Guest Grand JurorLe cercle du cacao SPRL (Belgium)

After 20 years in the chocolate field, I would like to share with professionals in the chocolate business as well as with consumers my experience as an expert in cacao beans.
During the last ten years, I actively did “DIRECT CACAO” defending the traditional varieties and buying directly from farmers who grew on soil which allows traceability of each origin (cépage): from Latin America, Africa and Indonesia.

My goal is to safe the biodiversity of cocoa beans and to defend the values ​​of authenticity, fairness, beauty, pureness and extraordinary flavor.

The experience I gain as Founder and Administrateur Délegué in Marcolini Group, motivated me to start this new company to promote the development of the movement “beans to bar” which started ten years ago, at Marcolini’s.

At the present, I buy cocoa beans directly from selected producers for several companies working “beans to bar”.

I carry out field studies, buy and track beans from growers to the chocolate production facilities.

I give conferences for professionals, students and consumers on fine cocoa beans and its future and “Grands Crus de Propriété”

Peggy Van Lierde

Guest Grand JurorChoco Story Brussels (Belgium)

Since 2007 ; Peggy Van Lierde has been the head of the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate in Brussels, today known as “Choco-Story Brussels”.

Born in 1980; Peggy Van Lierde has been involved in the world of chocolate since her earliest childhood. She is the fourth generation of a family of chocolatiers; her grandfather, Pierre Draps, and his two brothers (Joseph and François) founded the famous chocolate brand, Godiva.

Peggy’s parents also created their own brand of chocolate, “Les Délices de Mélanie” which was later sold at Corné Toison d’Or. It was after this that Peggy’s mother, Jo Draps, had the idea to open the first museum of chocolate in Belgium in the heart of the capital, on the Grand Place in Brussels.

Educated in journalism, Peggy Van Lierde previously worked in this function for seven years for RTL, a Belgian news station, before taking the reins at the head of the museum in May 2007.

The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate re-located in 2004 to an historic 17th Century building just a stone’s throw away from the Grand Place on Rue de la Tête d’Or. The museum’s display changes each year as the museum regularly exhibits temporary collections or takes part in both Belgian and international competitions or events. Each year, the museum welcomes a greater number of tourists and locals. In 2014, the museum had 79,000 visitors.

In 2014, the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate was re-christened “Choco-Story Brussels” following a collaboration with the Van Belle family, owners of the Museum of Chocolate in Bruges, which opened in 2004. The ultimate objective of this collaboration is a further change of location to Rue de l’Etuve, on the horizon for the summer 2016. The larger building will provide a more modern and open space for the museum.

Peggy Van Lierde has not completely abandoned her passion for journalism: alongside the museum she also regularly works for Radio Contact and Radio Antipode, two Belgian radio stations.

Anxious to create relations with others just as passionate about chocolate as her, Peggy Van Lierde created « The Belgian Chocolate Way », a non-profit organisation, in 2012 with the help of several other chocolate enthusiasts. The aim of the organisation is to promote Belgian chocolate. The organisation is also a part of the wider European organisation, “Chocolate Way”.

In 2015, Peggy Van Lierde co-organised the first International Chocolate Awards competition in Belgium, which took place at the Hilton Hotel Grand Place.

PeggyVan Lierde married Nicolas Delannoy in 2007 and the couple have two children: Mathys, born in 2009, and Margaux, born in 2011.


Patrick Vanbeggelaer

Guest Grand JurorChocogaterie (Belgium)

Depuis plus de 5 ans maintenant, j’ai découvert le monde du chocolat. j’ai créé un blog pour partager cette passion. mon chemin m’a mené à travailler de plus en plus étroitement avec les chocolatiers et les musées. j’ai également suivit une formation de dégustation de chocolat pour découvrir encore des choses dans ce monde du chocolat. pour partager cette passion, retrouvez moi sur

Alice Voisin

Guest Grand JurorBelgian Chocolate Awards, Route du Chocolat (Belgium)

Background : Anthropologue de formation, Alice Voisin a travaillé dans la coopération au développement au Ghana, au Burundi, en Bolivie. C’est en 2012, à Paris et à Londres, au cours d’un stage à l’export pour un artisan chocolatier belge qu’elle découvre l’univers du bean-to-bar. Partagée entre son amour des bonnes tables, sa fibre humanitaire et son goût du voyage, elle trouve dans le chocolat bean-to-bar la parfaite synthèse de ses contradictions.

Formation : Elle suit rapidement son intuition dans la dégustation de chocolat. Pour se donner les moyens de ses ambitions, elle se forme au CIRAD à Montpellier en « Analyse sensorielle des chocolats et cacao ». Son envie de s’imprégner au mieux du monde de la dégustation la mène à prendre des cours d’œnologie.

Expérience : En décrochant des contrats ponctuels chez différents chocolatiers, elle développe une connaissance des marques, des produits et de la clientèle.

Réalisation : Elle donne ses premières conférences au Salon du Chocolat de Bruxelles 2015. Le succès  de ses conférences la conforte dans son projet professionnel : promouvoir et vendre les chocolats bean-to-bar en Belgique francophone.