Every two years the world gets a little sweeter. And this year, two pastry chefs from our small town, will be at the forefront of it, competing for an esteemed title. Rhonda Ashton, pastry chef at the Four Seasons, will be joining Oscar Ortega in competing for the ultimate sweet victory. Ortega, originally slated to coach the team since he is a past winner of the event, is now competing.
The “World Trophy of Pastry, Gelato, and Chocolate“ hosted by, FIPGC (the International Federation Of Pastry, Ice Cream, and Chocolate), is one of the most prestigious international events in this sector and takes place every two years in Milan, Italy. The championship attracts pastry chefs from all over the world that are hoping to earn the title of pastry world champion.
Only the first 16 teams enrolled have access to the championship, and this year, Ashton will be joining three other pastry chefs that make up team USA. Each team is comprised of three professionals and one individual who is the coach and captain of the team. Oscar Ortega, master chocolatier and owner of Atelier Ortega and Coco Love, is no rookie to this competition (last time he competed, he won!). The rest of the team is comprised by other experienced and acclaimed pastry chefs from around the country including: Chef Praveen Kumar from Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City and Chef Ramon Ramos, who is the coach, from Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando.
During the competition, the contestants face artistic and taste tests, evaluated by an international jury, composed of the coaches of each participating team. Each competition has a theme, with this year’s being, “National Art and Tradition.” Ashton and her team members have been keeping their ideas a secret, but have been creating and practicing weekly and will continue to do so up until the competition.
Ashton, despite her demanding and diligent practice and work schedule, spoke to us about her feelings on this experience and how she got to where she is today. Her journey as a pastry chef began when she was in high school in Australia. In the beginning, she wanted to be a chef, but, after eight days into a ten-day work experience at a local casino hotel, she was moved to the pastry kitchen.
“When I went to into the pasty kitchen everything came alive,” states Ashton.
Immediately after finishing high school, Ashton became a pastry chef apprentice for the next four years. The travel bug then hit , and she found herself in Northern Ireland, Canada, Dubai, Doha and eventually back to Whistler, Canada – where she started her career with the Four Seasons. After moving to the Four Seasons Resort Maui for ten years, Ashton came to Jackson with the Four Seasons and has been rocking the Jackson Hole pastry game ever since. “I have always been a person that likes to get better. You never stop learning in this trade and if you ever think you know everything you should hang your pastry coat up.” Ashton is drawn to the creativity and complexity that is pastry, making it a passion that she can consistently challenge herself with.
When asked about what she is looking forward to in this competition, Rhonda explained her excitement and desire to learn and grow through this experience. “I competed as an apprentice in previous pastry competitions and to be able to compete again as a pastry chef is an honor. I love competing because it makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do or think of. You are surrounded by the best in the world, learning from them and being pushed to your limits.”
When speaking to Ashton, she expressed how grateful and honored she is to be working alongside Oscar. “To be able to compete with and alongside Oscar is an honor. Its unique to get two competitors from one small town on such a big stage, and I love that we are able to do that!”
It is no question that Ashton has what it takes to excel and push her limits this October. Her grit and professional experience makes her and the rest of her team some tough competition. And despite the results, she looks forward to the experience and inspiration that will surround her. “Competing on an international stage is daunting, but it is also exciting and extremely motivating. Don’t be afraid to push yourself and never be afraid to fail.”
I highly recommend heading over to the Four Seasons to try out some of her mastery, or hitting Atelier Ortega or CocoLove for some mouth-watering chocolate. Make sure to also follow along their journey and root for our small town but globally-renowned pastry chefs.
Coverage of the competition will be shared on the Four Seasons’ Instagram and Facebook channels @FSJacksonhole and @pastryteamusa_official. Tune in October 18-22. For those visiting the area, be sure to stop by Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole and Atelier Ortega for a taste of sweet excellence.