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The Remy Martin sommelier and patissier challenge: Five worthy winners

Imbibe

Imbibe

23 October 2019

Earlier this year, Rémy Martin sent out a challenge to the UK’s top pastry chefs and sommeliers, asking them to team up and create the ultimate dessert to be paired with Rémy Martin XO.

The #RemySprint competition – standing for Rémy Sommelier Pâtissier Rooted In Talent – was a chance for sommeliers and chefs to team up and celebrate their creativity by creating a perfect partnership of food and drink excellence. Initial entries were whittled down to a shortlist over the summer, and finally Rémy Martin was ready to find its winners.

The judges were assembled and the battle commenced with 12 teams constructing their creations in the two Michelin-starred kitchen of Claude Bosi in Kensington. The teams had 15 minutes to present their creations to the panel, which was judging them on concept, storytelling, appearance, creativity, brand knowledge, taste and 'wow factor’. It was a tough job. Standards were exceptionally high, so unfortunately a lot of really strong entries had to go home disappointed. In the end, our judges had their five winners – the best of the best. Here they are in all their glory...

The Connaught
The Connaught

THE CONNAUGHT

Romina Vasquez & Aurel Istrate

This multi-faceted offering from chef de partie Romina Vasquez and sommelier Aurel Istrate was described by the duo as a deconstruction of some of the key flavours that can be found in Rémy Martin XO. There was a dark chocolate ganache, malt mousse and coffee ice cream, plus a pecan-and-cocoa-nibs crumble and a sour-cherry gel infused with Rémy Martin XO. It was busy on the plate, but attractive, and our judges liked both the aesthetic and the concept. The pair suggested tasting two or three elements of the dessert at once with the cognac, which worked brilliantly, allowing for multiple explorations of flavour and texture. The sour cherry was an especially good match for the cognac. 'It was a 3D experience for the palate,’ said judge Jack Charlton, Rémy Martin brand ambassador. 'Sweet, salty and bitter – and it looked stunning.’

The Five Fields
The Five Fields

THE FIVE FIELDS

Loic Pellegry & Solene Bonhumeau

'We wanted to create an emotion – a link between the flavour and the experience,’ explained sommelier Solene Bonhumeau. Chef Loic Pellegry’s creation certainly managed that. Flavour-wise it was on safe territory for cognac matching, with hazelnut, chocolate, orange and coffee. But what made this entry stand out was the way these elements were put together, with different textures and temperatures all adding complexity and interest.

Bonhumeau’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the cognac shone through. ‘We wanted it to be a part of the dessert, not apart from it,’ she explained, suggesting serving the drink with large ice cubes to take down the alcohol and open up the flavours. ‘You get more citrus and dried fruit flavours that way.’‘When [Bonhumeau] spoke, you just wanted to listen,’ purred judge and chef Claude Bosi.

Sketch
Sketch

SKETCH

Marie Lau & Sarah Riddle

Sommelier Sarah Riddle and chef Marie Lau had a laser focus on the cognac throughout their impressive entry, even serving the dessert off a photograph of cognac vineyards in autumn. Riddle described their challenge as ‘to illuminate the sweet flavours at the end of the drink’. The dessert was extremely well put together: a dacquoise sponge made with hazelnuts, filled with caramel sauce and tuiles of parmesan, chocolate and sugar. It made for some subtle combinations of sweetness, spice, savoury and salty elements, and received top marks from most of the day’s judges. ‘I liked the approach,’ Bosi said. ‘They told us why they decided to do what they did – and the flavours combined well with the cognac.’

Mere
Mere

MERE

Enzo Housseau & Hugo Danjou 

There was no shortage of ambition in this entry, aiming to create a dish that captured the very terroir of the Cognac region itself. There was a circle of decorative grapefruit and hazelnut to represent the wider region of fine champagne, with the main dessert in the centre as the ‘Grande and Petite Champagne’ vineyards that are the heart of Rémy’s cognac. But this wasn’t just an interesting concept. Flavour-wise they really pulled it off, with the terroir represented by layers of gianduja feuilletine, hazelnut dacquoise, confit grapefruit and caramelised grapefruit mousse, topped with Earl Grey ice cream.

It was an impressive combination of flavours, textures and temperatures. ‘For me, the orange and the XO was the best pairing,’ said Bosi. ‘And their explanation felt natural, too.’‘It was very creative and original, using terroir to interpret the brand,’ agreed fellow judge Ana Almeida, marketing manager for Rémy Martin.

Verdigris
Verdigris

VERDIGRIS

Scott Goss & Jim Harrison

This Tonbridge restaurant is all about seasonality. As chef Scott Goss put it: ‘Mother nature is master of all.’ Indeed, he had been out at six o’clock that morning to pick elderflower for his fruit consommé. Poured over a sorbet of wild strawberries and tayberries, the dessert was completed with a side dish of white chocolate and a pea ganache. These are very different flavours from the usual cognac matching palate. ‘We want to showcase the subtle flavours in XO,’ said Harrison. ‘It’s not just a winter spirit – chocolate and orange flavours for winter. It can be poured throughout the year.’


Many thanks to Bibendum restaurant and Claude Bosi for hosting the competition.

The winners will be serving their successful creations – with Rémy Martin XO, of course – from now through to Christmas, after which the victorious teams will enjoy the ultimate Cognac trip in January as a reward. Follow @RemyMartinUK #RemyMartin #RemySprint

THE FINALISTS

  • The Connaught
  • The Dorchester
  • Dukes London
  • Elystan Street
  • The Five Fields
  • Le Gavroche
  • M Victoria
  • Mere
  • Rabble
  • Sketch
  • Verdigris
  • Wild Carrot

The Judges

  • Claude Bosi, chef, Claude Bosi at Bibendum
  • Chris Losh, former editor, Imbibe
  • Jack Charlton, brand ambassador, Rémy Martin
  • Ana Almeida, marketing manager, Rémy Martin
  • Yohann Pinol, ex-head sommelier, Wiltons

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