This year is the 3rd biennial Next Generation Chocolatier Competition, with the theme "Salty Sweets." Founded in 2004 by Curtis Vreeland, the competition looks to identify and promote up-and-coming chocolatiers.
There is a two-stage judging process. Chocolatiers interested in competing submit an application and 20 are selected to pass through to the Judging round. This year, there were nearly twice as many applicants as spaces in the Judging round, and, for the first time, there were many, many more "Rising Star" applicants (defined as being under 30 or in business for less than five years) than established chocolatiers.
The 20 chocolatiers accepted into the Judging round - several of them members of TheChocolateLife, not that that had anything to do with the decision as several applicants who did not pass through to the Judging round are also members - (in alphabetical order by company name) are:
Alma Chocolate (Sarah Hart)
Big Tips Candy (Beth Kimmerle)
Bon Bon Bakery (Joanne Hansen)
Chocolatier Blue (Caroline Coats)
Chocolations (Maria Valente)
Choclatique (Ed Ongoron)
Chokola'j (Susan and Daniel Kennedy)
Cibelli Chocolates (Carol Lang)
CoCo-Luxe Confections (Stephanie Marcon)
Downey Chocolates (Tracey Downey)
Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier (Gail Ambrosius)
Happy Chocolates (Susie Norris)
Hawaii Chocolate (Melanie Boudar)
K Chocolat (Kristen Hard)
Norman Love Confections (John Cook - see note)
Posh Chocolat (Jason Willenbrock)
Sacred Chocolate (Steve Adler)
The Xocolate Bar (Malena Lopez-Maggi)
Valerie Confections (Valerie Gordon)
William Dean Chocolates (Bill Brown)
Note: John Cook works at Norman Love Confections. In addition to submitting pieces for judging, Mr Cook must also supply an affidavit signed by one of the owners stating that the work entered is entirely Mr Cook's and he received no assistance in creating the work. There is at least one other competitor in a similar situation working for a far less well know company. An affidavit will be required from all or their work will not be judged.
In many ways this is a very controversial list as there were several very well known chocolatiers that were not chosen for Judging. In large measure this is because of the presence of a large majority of applicants who fit the spirit of the title of the competition: Next Generation.