It’s not every day an email pops into your inbox inviting you to a week filled with desserts! And when that sentence ends with ‘in Mauritius’, then well that’s hardly even a question! If you were following my Instagram and Twitter feeds last week, you’ll know that I was whisked off to the Contance Belle Mare Plage hotel in Mauritius for what has to be, one of the most incredible food experiences I’ve ever had (and that’s saying a lot, ‘cos I eat a lot!). While my French is pretty rusty, I’m pretty sure that the Constance Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau means ‘festival of ridiculously delicious food’ 😉 Jokes aside, it’s a competition that brings Michelin-starred chefs from around the world to Mauritius where each chef is paired up with a local chef from the various Constance island hotels (Mauritius, Madagascar, Maldives and the Seychelles) and while they share ideas and prepare for a culinary showdown against each other, us journalists get to enjoy the food. Tough job, right?
Forced to use local Mauritian ingredients like palm heart, sea urchin and local fish, the teams presented what can only be described as inspiring creations. But no meal is complete without dessert and boy, were they good! Not to be outdone by the savoury chefs, the Constance Hotel pastry chefs battled it out over two days for the Pierre Herme Trophy. Yes, the macaron master himself was there!
Day 1 of the pastry challenge saw chefs whipping up a petit four plate inspired by Nespresso coffees. On day 2, they were tasked with creating 4 desserts; a plated dessert, a gateau (cake), 3 different filled chocolate pralines and a chocolate showpiece. While watching the plates come swooping out the kitchen to thunderous applause from the journalists was fun, I managed to sneak my way into where the real action was happening! Watching these experts whip, pipe and fold through the glass window that divided us was the best cooking show in the world!
Contending with the heat and humidity of Mauritius and all working in kitchens that weren’t their own, these were the masterpieces created by the Constance hotel pastry chefs: Warning: these images WILL make you hungry!
I loved the elegant, refined look of Aurélie Jugoo’s (Constance Belle Mare Plage) pastries – the eclair gave me pastry goals and the triangular ‘Bel Ombre’ was probably the best thing I tasted the entire day! Her chocolates were filled with praline, raspberry and manjari (a special Mauritian lime).
Priyantha Madagodage (Constance Moofushi Maldives) was clearly inspired by the fresh island flavours! His coriander-scented pineapple and passion mousse with it’s blonde chocolate shards got my camera very happy!
Paulina Kotowska of Constance Halaveli Maldives created a chocolate hazelnut bar that tasted like a giant ferrero rocher, followed by a moist raspberry cake drizzled with milk chocolate. Her showpiece was an upturned chocolate pot and white chocolate rolling pin that cleverly displaying her pralines.
Godfrey Lawler of Constance Lémuria Seychelles got many ‘Oooh’s’ and ‘Aaaah’s’ with his stunning Coconut, Lime and Papaya Cake.
While Tyrie Philoe from Constance Ephelia Seychelles simply calls her decadent chocolate creation ‘Brownies’, I prefer to call it ‘Life-Changing’!
So you want to know who the winner was? Of course you do! I had my eye on Stéphane Labastide from Constance Le Prince Maurice from day 1 and his incredible skill and attention to detail won him both the petit four challenge and the Pierre Herme Trophy proving that he’s the pastry king of Constance! These were his incredible creations:
The next Constance Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau takes place at Belle Mare Plage in March 2018 – you can experience the festival (and all the amazing dinners prepared by Michelin chefs) by simply being a guest at the hotel.