Grand Jury profiles – Benelux Chocolatier Competition 2020-21

Veronique Anastasie

Guest Grand JurorPlanetgout (France)

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 She also writes about chocolate in Paris for

Gilles Brochard

Guest Grand JurorJournaliste (France)

Gilles Brochard, journaliste, responsable pédagogique dans une école de journalisme à Paris, a animé le Club des Buveurs de thé français pendant une dizaine d’année. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs essais et guides sur le thé​, le chocolat et la gastronomie​​ ​ dont Le Thé dans l’encrier, Petit traité du thé​, La Boite à thé, La Boite à chocolat, Cuisine d’Altitude​.

Par ailleurs, il a animé la première croisière du thé à bord du Club Med II, animé des ateliers sur le thé et la gastronomie chez Fauchon,​ des ateliers sur le thé et le chocolat,​ et lancé la Chartre européenne des buveurs de thé, tout en donnant des conférences-ateliers en Belgique ou en Italie. ​

Membre du Grand Jury des Awards of Chocolate, il​ est le co-fondateur de The Institute of Tea tasting avec Monica Meschini, avec qui il collabore depuis une vingtaine d’années. Son prochain livre s’intitule Un Thé chez les tigres, son journal dans les jardins de thé à Darjeeling et au Népal.


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.