This ain’t no piece of cake.
Representing America in the world’s most prestigious pastry competition is our own Robert Nieto of Jackson Family Wines. As a member of the US Pastry Team, Nieto has spent more than a year training for what’s considered the Olympics of dessert-making, the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in Lyon.
Over several days, they’ll be challenged to create multiple chocolate dishes, three frozen fruit desserts, 15 identical plated desserts, and creative sculptures in sugar, ice and chocolate. Before the event, 14 of the teams, including the US, will train at prestigious pastry “laboratories” of France. The US will be at Syndicat des Patissiers from Jan. 15 until the competition on Jan. 22 and 23.
Nieto, a Texas native who worked his way up from line cook to head Pastry Chef of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery, in Yountville joined the K-J team in 2012. But it was his fierce competitive streak that led him to victory at several U.S. competitions before being invited to join the national pastry team.
“He’s the nicest guy in the world, and very competitive in nature. He loves goals and he’s just constantly coming up with new stuff,” said Jackson Family Wines’ Executive Chef Justin Wangler. “He pushes really hard in everything,” said Wangler, who noticed Nieto’s passion for triathalons, marathons and running and encouraged him to put that drive to use in cooking competitions. “He just jumped in full on,” said Wangler.
The US team is considered a serious contender to win the event, going into the competition as one of the seven countries who have had the highest scores in the last three competitions. They’ll head directly to the finals with South Korea, France, Japan, the UK, Singapore and Taiwan. The American team won bronze medals in 1995, 1999, 2005 and 2015, and a gold in 2001. The event has been dominated by Italy, France, Japan, Belgium for years, making for some serious rivalries among the countries.