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Bellagio Las Vegas pastry chef wins U.S. National Chocolate Master title with his Aztec-inspired chocolate sculpture

September 29, 2010


High resolution image

Winning sculpture [6 MB]

World Chocolate Masters competition

  • Chef Sylvain Bortolini created winning towering chocolate sculpture during intense two-day competition at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas;
  • Bortolini to represent United States at the World Chocolate Masters competition in Paris in October 2011

Las Vegas, Sept. 29, 2010 – Barry Callebaut –the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products – today announced that Sylvain Bortolini, assistant executive pastry chef at Bellagio Las Vegas, won the U.S. finals of the World Chocolate Masters, a premier culinary competition for chocolate craftsmen from all over the world. 

Bortolini beat out five other pastry chefs and chocolatiers from some of the country’s leading hotels, restaurants and culinary institutions and was named U.S. National Chocolate Master 2010 following the two-day competition that was held Sept. 27 and 28, during the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas.

Runners-up included:

  • 2nd Place – Frederic Loraschi, chocolatier and owner of Chocolat Frederic Loraschi LLC in Hummelstown, Pa.
  • 3rd Place – Stephen Durfee, pastry chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif.

Bortolini and Loraschi were also recognized with special awards for “Best Chocolate Showpiece” and “Best Tasting,” respectively. 

As part of the competition, each participant created a large chocolate sculpture that conveyed the theme of this year’s competition – “Cocoa, Quetzalcoatl’s Gift” – using professional gourmet chocolate brands Callebaut, Cacao Barry, and Carma, as well as some inspiration from the ancient Aztec legend surrounding the origins of cocoa in South America. They also showcased their skills by creating a chocolate entremet, two types of pralines, and a plated dessert.

“Barry Callebaut organized this event to offer chocolate artisans and pastry chefs a forum to showcase their skills in designing chocolate showpieces and other chocolate desserts,” said Parveen Werner, marketing director for Barry Callebaut North America. “The competition required true craftsmanship to execute elaborate chocolate creations in limited time and bring to life the origin of cocoa through the history of the ancient Aztec civilization.” 

As part of the competition, a professional jury comprised of some of the nation’s most influential pastry chefs, including former U.S. national chocolate masters Lionel Clement and Vincent Pilon, judged each contestant on their overall technical skills, interpretation and execution of the theme demonstrated by their artistic showpiece, and the taste of their dipped pralines, moulded pralines, and chocolate entremet.

Bortolini’s interpretation of the theme “Cocoa Quetzalcoatl’s Gift,” started at the base of the sculpture with the shape of a metate and granite rolling pin – the ancient tools used to process the cocoa bean.  A winding set of stairs led to a giant cocoa pod, which was surrounded by an array of spears designed to protect the gift that was bestowed upon the Aztec people by the god Quetzalcoatl.   

Bortolini studied at the Association Ouvriéres Des Compagnons Du Tour De France in Bordeaux, France. Prior to joining the Bellagioresort, Bortolini worked as a pastry chef at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort in Florida and the InterContinental Presidente hotel in Mexico City. In 2007, he won the Mexican Pastry Championship for his sugar work and chocolate sculpture.  Bortolini has also served as pastry chef for two star Michelin-rated restaurants and gourmet chocolate shops in France. 

Bortolini will now represent the United States at the prestigious 2011 World Chocolate Masters competition in Paris, where he will compete against chefs from 17 other countries, including Belgium, France, Switzerland, China, Australia and Brazil, for the title of “World Chocolate Master 2011” and a share of the prize package valued at 100,000 € or approximately $130,000 USD.


Barry Callebaut:
With annual sales of about CHF 4.9 billion (approximately USD 4.3 billion)  for fiscal year 2008/09, Zurich-based Barry Callebaut is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate – from the cocoa bean to the finished product on the store shelf.  Barry Callebaut is present in 26 countries, operates about 40 production facilities and employs about 7,500 people.  The company serves the entire food industry, from food manufacturers to professional users of chocolate (such as chocolatiers, pastry chefs or bakers), to global retailers.  Barry Callebaut is the global leader in cocoa and chocolate innovations and provides a comprehensive range of services in the fields of product development, processing, training and marketing.
 The company is actively engaged in initiatives and projects that contribute to a more sustainable cocoa supply chain.


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