Great French confectioners, pizza makers and pastry chefs are competing to determine which one makes the best Italian sweet.

Italian cuisine in France

For some years now, France has been witnessing an important repositioning of Italian cuisine. Italian food and wine have managed after years to move from an ethnic niche to everyday consumption (it is perfectly normal to prepare pasta in French homes), and then to shift consumption from the large-scale distribution’s historic products to small producers. This led to a growing increase in average receipts and quality concerning products from Italy.

For example, the success of Eataly Paris and the bestselling book in France On va déguster l’Italie are some very clear signs that the interest and research are gradually growing.

This seems therefore the right time for panettone, one of the world’s best-loved Italian sweets to receive its full endorsement in Paris. The Milanese bread-cake is in fact becoming increasingly popular in France (especially at Christmas, but not only: it is less seasonal than in Italy), but most of the marketed products are imported and obviously industrial. But things could change from now on, also thanks to an initiative that would not look out of place even on this side of the Alps: the French Panettone Championship.

Find out more about the French Panettone championship

French Panettone Championship: the categories

The aim of the Premier Championnat de France du Panettone is to increase the French confectioners’ technical know-how of the sweet preparation, leading them to inquire and find out more about this traditional yeast-leavened cake, and to make them ambassadors in foreign land. The competing panettone cakes must comply with the original recipe and meet specific requirements, starting with natural leavening. Like any self-respecting national championship, the competition winners will be able to participate in the World Panettone Championship. The French initiative falls indeed within the large international network that, for some years now, has been bringing together leavening experts from all over the world, who show off their great Italian bread-cakes and compete against each other.

Behind the project is the famous journalist François Régis Gaudry and his association – Gaudry & ses Ami(e)s – in collaboration with the Panettone World Cup, the city hall of the 9th arrondissement and the RAP grocery shop (a long-standing symbol of quality products in Paris). There are two different categories in the competition: Best Traditional Panettone and Best Creative Panettone.

Find out more about the French Panettone championship

French Panettone Championship: the participants

There are 16 finalists in all: 11 in the traditional category and 5 in the creative one. Professionals from all over the country will be competing on 16 October 2021 at the city hall of the 9th arrondissement. Among them there are 2 competitors from the École Internationale de Boulangerie: founder Thomas Teffri-Chambelland (author of a book on panettone), and one of the instructors, Quentin Berthonneau; then there is the pizza maker Emmanuel Barthelemy from Forqualquier in southern France. In the creative category there is Daisuké Fukuda, the Japanese pastry chef from Mitron Bakery; Mauro Colagreco from Menton that makes a delectable panettone with candied lemon zest; Alexandre Fleurot from Magny Vernoy, in eastern France, with his panettone glazed with yuzu, white chocolate, gianduja and raspberries; Damien Larderet’s from La Carioca bakery in Sète is decorated with melon, clementines, glazed apricots and almonds.

French Panettone Championship: the jury

A jury of professionals including, among others, Nicola Olivieri (Olivieri 1882), Massimo Ferrante (Pasticceria Ferrante, current World Champion), Marco Ferrari (chef at La Baita in Imperia), Johanna Le Pape (Championne du monde des Arts sucrés à tout juste et Chef pâtissière), Ludovic Van Rompu (winner of Le Meilleur Patissier 2018), François-Régis Gaudry (gastronomic journalist). It’s up to them to evaluate the participants and announce the winners, whilst it’s up to us to tell you all about it.

by Federico Silvio Bellanca