For full disclosure sake, we did enter this year and we did not win anything. However, we did not expect to win anything and my only desire was non-American feedback from people who don’t know me. (I only sent them my aesthetically imperfects as we don’t need feedback on looks and saw no reason to waste good product)
Devil in an Apron is a nonprofit organization, yes we do offer a few products, for cost, that demonstrate new concepts in chocolate and confection: fat based marshmallows, the use of UV-C instead of boiling to sterilize, using ultrasound to form emulsions and control crystalization, and generally deconstructing items as physio-chemical systems to rebuild them in new wasy. Some of these are novelties and some are technological advancements in the field.
Now that you know who I am, on to what is wrong with the Academy of Chocolate
Nepotism and Judgment
There was a recent post on the ethics of publishing reviews of your competition, which raised some interesting points. What about the ethics of reviewing yourself and your friends? Although it is claimed that entrants, who are academy members are not allowed to judge on their own products, the judging process is highly flawed. Secret ballot using a contained point system is ideal, using an open table system might be the worst possible. Guess which the Academy of Chocolate uses? It is very, very easy, even if unintentionally to drive the table when a product you know is up. Think, Ouija board, where an individual is capable of subverting an entire group through unspoken communication.
Even the most casual glance at the list of winners, special awards, and members reveals that judgment is not on the level.
The Academy of Chocolate is run by members of the Academy of Culinary Arts. The Academy of Chocolate, does not list sponsors, the Academy of Culinary Arts does. Yes, Amedei is listed right at the top. I’m sure that had no bearing on their winning of the Golden Bean eachand every year for a different product.
Oh yeah, let us not forget that William Curley uses Amedei and they even produce a special blend just for him.
Attitude of the Entrants
William Curley… assuming that your awards are legit, why do you keep entering the same products? Is this all you make? Is winning so important to you that you only submit previous winners? How boring would the Oscars be if the same winning movies were entered year after year? I’m not going to comment on the deservedness of the awards; just seeing the same products, year after year is hardly sportsmanlike.
Several judges wrote me directly with comments about my entry before the results were made official. Each gave high praise and then wanted to know if the product was available retail in the UK (must products be available for retail in the UK to be valid entires?). The really bizarre thing about this was that each judge contacted me well after the judging was supposed to be completed, and informed me that they had just had my product (“I tried your product yesterday/a few hours ago/earlier today”). How could it be that several judges liked the product enough to go out of their way to contact me about it without even placing a bronze? I would like to say that I really appreciated these judges contacting me directly and offering their feedback but, it seems like the quality of judges might be in question when so much variance occurs. Are they voting on quality or their personal taste? Why were these judges trying my product after judging was completed?
The final kicker, I have not received official feedback! Not even, “why did you throw all the products together into a bag without individually wrapping them for overseas shipment?” Nothing. This part pisses me off as I made it very clear to everyone I spoke to that I was only seeking feedback, you’d think they might have mentioned that they don’t provide feedback.
Ultimately, I feel that non-sponsoring, non-academy members merely pay for a bunch of friends to get together and enjoy lots of free chocolate. Am I bitter? Yeah, I thought I was buying expert feedback and instead I merely contributed to artificially boosting the delicate egos of William Curley and Amedei.