By Xiaofei Xu, CNN
Paris (CNN) — Displayed in a room overlooking the Seine that was filled with the smell of warm butter and baked flour, an opéra pastry in the form of a diving platform perched in a shiny, blue pool was awarded the best pastry of Paris title on Tuesday.
A panel of seven judges – including pastry chefs, industry representatives and everyday Parisians and led by legendary French pastry chef Pierre Hermé – presided over the competition.
Fittingly named “The Diving Opéra,” the winner of this year’s Pastry Grand Prix was created by Michelin-starred pastry chef Raamin Samiyi. Tourists and Parisians have flocked to the gourmet doughnut store Momzi, which Samiyi opened in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris.
“Thank you so much! My heart is beating so fast right now,” Samiyi said with a shaking voice as Hermé called him on spearkerphone to inform him of the result.
Hermé, who has his own renowned pastry shop and heads up making desserts for French state banquets (including the one held for King Charles’ recent visit to France), expressed his amazement at the fact that Samiyi is himself a swimmer and diver.
“My coach is actually going to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics,” Samiyi responded.
The theme of this year’s Grand Prix was “sporting values” as the French capital gears up to host the Olympic and Paralympic games next summer.
How the Paris Pastry Grand Prix works
All pastry shops, bakeries, hotels and restaurants in Paris are eligible to participate in the competition. But each shop, chain or group can send only one candidate.
Among the other requirements, participants must use at least one ingredient either cultivated or produced in the French capital. The pastry submitted must also be conceptualized specifically for the Grand Prix and able to be produced and sold commercially in the participant’s shop.
The 12 pastries that entered the final round represented many of the world’s favorite French pastries, including opéra, Saint-Honoré, éclair and lemon tarte.
The competing cakes were graded on five factors – taste, technique, creativity, ingredient quality and aesthetic – with each worth five points.
The four-hour long tasting and grading session unfolded in a light-hearted atmosphere.
When the first cake was served – a lemon tarte with cheesecake filling called l’Olympia – two judges struggled for a while before writing down their notes.
“The first one is always difficult,” they laughed.
One pastry – in the form of a whistle, with coffee and chocolate filling – sparked the interest of Paris Deputy Mayor Nicolas Bonnet-Oulaldj, who was co-chair of the judging panel.
“Is it difficult to balance the taste of coffee and chocolate when put side-by-side in a cake?” Bonnet-Oulaldj asked the professionals at the table.
“It’s difficult, but it is really the basic of the basics for a pastry chef,” Hermé replied as others laughed.
For his win, Samiyi will receive 4,000 euros ($4,365) and win a seat on the judging panel of next year’s Grand Prix.
Whether Samiyi will put his winning diving platform opéra on sale in his store is up to him, the Paris mayor’s office told CNN.
For those with a sweet tooth visiting Paris this Christmas and next year, keep an eye out for a sweet diving pool — you don’t want to miss the best pastry in Paris.
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