Life ever so sweet for Japan's chocolatiers
BY MITSUKO NAGASAWA STAFF WRITER
Yoshiaki Uezaki with his creation in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture. Uezaki will represent Japan at the World Chocolate Masters 2011 competition in Paris in October. (Gen Hashimoto)
Japanese chocolatier Yoshiaki Uezaki smiled as he presented his all-chocolate Valentine's Day creation. Amid curled red ribbons, pillars, foundations and flourishes, a winking white rabbit held a heart--but who would the bunny give it to?
Uezaki, 36, will represent Japan in the World Chocolate Masters 2011, a culinary competition devoted to the art of chocolate set for Paris in October.
Each entrant will present a "piece montee," a decorative confectionary centerpiece. These beautiful sugar sculptures have held down pride of place at formal banquets since the 19th century.
Experts say that they can gauge confectioners' skill with chocolate, a material that requires delicate temperature control, from the shiny texture of their creations.
Their works must also present a story to viewers. For example, Uezaki wants viewers to wonder who the rabbit is going to give the chocolate heart to.
The competition for World Chocolate Masters is held every other year.
Japan is already a big presence at the competition. Japanese teams won the last two competitions in 2007 and 2009, becoming the leader of a rising force of Asian confectioners pitted against European rivals with a much longer history in the field.
Uezaki works for Patisserie Kosai as chief confectioner in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture.
He recalled a man who brought in an empty ring box and asked him to create a ring of candy to put in the box. He said he wanted to give it to his girlfriend.
Another customer, a woman, asked Uezaki to make the chocolate in her place before Valentine's Day, saying that it shouldn't be too elaborate.
"The best part of my job is that I can, through confectionery, be involved in my customers' important events," he said.
Uezaki said competitions help him polish his skills, enabling him to meet all sorts of unusual requests from customers.