Lluc Crusellas holds the title of the world’s best chocolatier after winning the 2022 World Chocolate Masters (WCM) in Paris last October. He is the pastry chef at El Carme in Vic and the PaVic group, and has just published the book Xocolata. Postres d’autor al teu abast (Chocolate. Signature desserts at your fingertips).
You’re not the best chocolatier in Catalonia, Spain or Europe, but the world!
It’s been more than a month since I won the award and it still feels great; I hear people say I’m the best chocolatier in the world and I still can’t believe it. It’s a fantastic award. A dream come true. For me to be among the top five was already a win; Spain had never been among the top 10.
You did a great job under pressure.
It’s 22 hours of competition and six tests that you have to present in the minute you are told to (a large sculpture, a small sculpture, a dessert with 28 servings, a chocolate with 30 servings, a petit fours with 60 portions and a snack with 48 portions). Each test is like launching a product for sale, with its own design, recipe, packaging, presentation... And then the most important part: the preparation and staging. It’s very hard, there’s a lot of work. That’s why the most important thing and the key was to have everything very well prepared, 22 hours of work so that everything came out to the millimetre. But it’s been a while in the making, it’s been a two-year preparation. We started in January 2020 and we didn’t stop: a marathon in which I think perseverance, effort and attitude have brought us to the end result. Luckily, I have a very strong team of 22 people who have been the key. It’s impossible to achieve all this alone.
Your speech in Catalan caused a great uproar on social networks...
In the competition I represented Spain, but at the time of making the speech I expressed myself in my language, Catalan. It just came out of me. I think the most normal thing is to speak in one’s own language, and more so when the event is full of translators. I dedicated the award to my family and all the whole team I’ve had behind me; it didn’t make sense to speak to them in another language. I wasn’t trying to cause a controversy; I think people made too much of it. It’s all part of the social network game.
Have you received the recognition you deserve?
The truth is, I’m surprised. We got a lot of coverage in the media, more than I expected. Even so, there is still a lot of work to be done to spread the word about pastry and chocolate making.
Is it always the chefs who take centre stage in the culinary world?
Cuisine has already achieved worldwide recognition, but pastry-making hasn’t yet. Little by little we have to get to the heights reached by cuisine. We need to do more pedagogy in the world of chocolate. Cuisine is trendy, and pastry-making needs a boost. And this award will help me to make my world more well-known, so that people know where it comes from and where it’s headed.
You won with an impressive chocolate elephant, three metres high and 200 kilos in weight. What inspired it?
The elephant was conceived in one of the creative sessions where I wanted to create a common thread with all six tests. And this common thread was the simplicity of great things, and the animal that best defines this phrase, for me, is the elephant. My creation also has a natural half and a robotic half: I tried to represent the balance between nature and technology. I wanted to send a message of responsibility over climate change, the planet and waste. We don’t only make pastry that is pretty, we go further than that.
Are you creating art? Do you consider yourself an artist?
Totally. I feel very sorry that what I do isn’t considered art. In addition to art, it’s also edible, but it’s not given that merit.
A few days ago, the elephant returned to Vic.
I felt compelled to do it. I’ve got to where I am thanks to the people of my local region, who have encouraged me and who buy my products, which allowed me to enter the competition in the first place. I thought I had to show people here what I did in Paris; that’s why we’ve got the elephant on display in the shop in Vic, where people can visit it throughout the Christmas period. Then we’ll move it to the Barcelona Chocolate Museum. And in April we will exhibit it again in London.
While immersed in the competition, you still found the time to write a book.
Yes, while I was preparing the competition I was writing the book, another thousand hours I had to add to the day. It’s called Xocolata. Postres d’autor al teu abast (Chocolate. Signature desserts at your fingertips). I want to bring and introduce pastry-making to everyone. It was supposed to be published for Sant Jordi’s Day, but we took a gamble with the publisher to release it in November in case we were lucky in the competition, and it worked out well for us. Also, the second edition is now in print.
There’s an increasing tendency to eat industrial products...
We tend to eat more and more low-quality products to the detriment of craft and local products. We need to understand what we eat, what we put in our bodies. We need to promote and value traditional trades, as they’re in danger of extinction, and look at the labelling to find out the origin of the products. Not all chocolates have the same quality, and you need to know how to differentiate between them and we need to promote a culture of pastry-making.
You started making desserts somewhat by chance, in Can Jubany.
Neither of my parents are in the trade. I have a cousin who is a chef, and he was the one who introduced me to this world. I was 17 years old and into bike racing, but I wasn’t very clear about what I wanted to do with my future. One summer, this cousin asked me to go with him to work at Can Jubany. Nandu opened the doors for me, brought me into the dessert game. I liked it and started to study pastry-making. First, at the Espai Sucre dessert school and then at the Hofmann school. At the end of the course, I did an internship at Pastisseria Barcelona, where I worked for a while, until in 2017 I became the head of pastry-making at Carme Pastisseria in Vic, where I was allowed to make changes and modernise the products. In 2021, I was proclaimed the best chocolatier in Spain by winning the World Chocolate Masters Spain and, a year later, I won the World Chocolate Masters 2022.
Who are your references in the world of Catalan pastry-making?
As I said, there is still a lot of publicity to do in this world because there are great professionals who aren’t well known. Two of my references, who helped me a lot with the WCM project, are Enric Monzonis and Saray Ruiz. Ramon Morató and Josep Maria Ribé have also done a lot of research and have marked a great path in Catalan pastry and chocolate-making.
You recorded all the months of preparation. Will we see a documentary of the whole project?
We hope so. It’s all recorded, and right now it’s in the hands of a production company. I hope it will come out in 2023. It’s two years of my life and the effort we all made. It reflects the hard times we’ve been through and what it took to get here.