Awards: Tell us about your work in chocolate and cacao.
George: In 2007, I was one of several like-minded chocophiles who came together to form the Manhattan Chocolate Society. Our mission is chocolate education, starting with our own. We are passionate about learning everything about chocolate and helping others learn about it too – whether it is through our own focused tastings (over 75 formal, focused tastings, and dozens more informal tastings, so far), our educational booths at the 92Y Chocolate Fest, or individual tastings and consultations.
Awards: Can you tell us something about how you came to be judging chocolate, and what led you to the International Chocolate Awards?
George: The Manhattan Chocolate Society had invited Maricel Presilla to various tastings, and when she joined the International Chocolate Awards as the Americas partner, she recommended us as beta testers of the format and forms of the first competitions, and then as judges for the inaugural Americas competition. I had met Martin Christy and Alex Rast on a previous visit to London and we shared a lovely afternoon talking chocolate. Shortly after the inaugural Americas competition, I was invited to join the permanent Grand Jury.
Awards: What does it mean to you to be a member of the Grand Jury of the International Chocolate Awards?
George: Being on the Grand Jury of the International Chocolate Awards is an honor and a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility that I do not take lightly. The mission of the International Chocolate Awards is to recognize, elevate, and promote the best chocolate in the world, and I think the most useful aspect of the awards is the feedback we judges provide to the entrants. I take my work with the Awards very seriously and do all I can when I’m not judging to learn as much as I can about chocolate, so I can give the entrants the best evaluation and feedback possible. I am proud to be a member of this incredible panel of chocolate experts, and I appreciate especially the opportunity to taste and learn about the best chocolate and chocolate confections in the world.
Awards: Can you share a memory or anecdote from your time at the awards.
George: I have so many wonderful memories of my time with the Awards. Late night giggling sessions as we work to complete judging; meeting all the wonderful local judges, chocolate makers, and chocolatiers; the friendships we’ve all formed; the delicious local foods we’ve been able to enjoy; the sights we’ve seen; the chocolate we’ve been able to enjoy. . . . The 2018 World Finals ceremony was one of the best experiences of my life. It was held in the Palazzo Ximènes-Panciatichi in Florence, an incredibly beautiful venue. We had a delicious meal prepared by Chef Corrado Assenza, who included some aspect of cacao in every dish. La Sorbettiera, which makes the best gelato I’ve ever had, made a variety of sorbets using chocolate from some of our winners. Throughout the halls of the palazzo, entrants set up booths with samples of their chocolates. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers from around the world were present and everyone was laughing and chatting and making new friends and connections. Monica Meschini puts on a really great party and I am so happy to have been a part of it.
Awards: What are your particular interests as a judge, or the categories that interest you most when judging?
George: I love learning about chocolate and discovering new origins. My favorite categories to judge are the plain dark chocolate categories (large-scale and microbatch); inclusions and infusions (any form of chocolate, because it’s the inventiveness and creativity of the entrants that interests me). I love tasting new flavors and flavor combinations, and hearing the stories of how and why the chocolate makers and chocolatiers came up with those flavors and combinations.