Grand Jury profiles – British 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.


Lynn Hill

Guest Grand JurorDirector of Clandestine Cake Club Ltd (United Kingdom)

Retired Yorkshirewoman Lynn Hill founded the Clandestine Cake Club in 2010, hosting its first gathering in a secret location in Leeds city centre. The club’s initial popularity led her to turn it into a ‘franchise’, encouraging others to host their own events under the Clandestine Cake Club banner. Takeup spread like wildfire and there are now over 200 affiliated clubs in the UK and abroad, with more registering every month. Lynn has been featured on The One Show, Lorraine, The Alan Titchmarsh Show and BBC Radio 4, as well as in The Times, Daily Mail, Grazia, Woman’s Own and the Huffington Post. She has appeared several times at The Cake and Bake Show. Lynn runs the club online via www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk and Twitter, connecting daily with members, bakers and fellow cake lovers.


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.


Yves Quemerais

Guest Grand JurorFrenchchefathome (United Kingdom)

French Chef Yves Quemerais is classically trained under acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse.   He creates dishes combing the traditional gourmet flavours of France with seasonal fresh Yorkshire produce.  Yves made his home in Yorkshire after falling in love with ‘God’s own county’ during holidays. He set up French Chef at Home to create authentic and bespoke French cuisine at people’s homes for special occasions, corporate events or just a luxury night in.

For further details visit www.frenchchefathome.com


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.