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13 Feb 2024

Meet the Salon Culinaire judges: Kelsie Hall

Meet the Salon Culinaire judges: Kelsie Hall

Kelsie Hall, Confectioner and Sugarcraft Specialist, will be judging the prestigious Sugarcraft category at International Salon Culinaire 2024. Here she shares her top competition tips and how it feels to be a judge for this year's event.

What are your top tips and tricks for competitors to prepare? 

Competition work can seem quite daunting if it’s your first time entering but be brave and have a go anyway! You may not achieve your desired goal first time out but you will get good, encouraging and constructive advice from the judges, which will help you understand where you might have gone wrong, how to put things right and praise you for what was good about your piece.

The first and probably the most important thing is to read the Schedule and Rules carefully, at least twice! You must stick to the instructions or else your work will not be judged; feedback will be given as to why a piece wasn’t judged. Judges know how much hard work goes into a competition piece and it is always disappointing to disqualify something.

If there is something in the Schedule you don’t understand or need clarification on, contact the Competition Secretary, he or she will be able to give you an answer.

Choose a class that fits your skill level (ie novice, open, masterclass). Don’t enter too many pieces, one good piece of work is better than two or three rushed ones. Plan well in advance and give yourself plenty of time to complete the work. Try not to attempt something new to you unless you have practiced well in advance. Take your time and work to the best of your ability. Ask for advice if you get stuck or something isn’t working for you.

Be unique and innovative, use your own designs. By all means use something as a guide but don’t copy. Also be aware of copyright legislation.

Use the correct products for what you want to produce. Sugarpaste, for example, will not set hard so is unlikely to be suitable for wired flowers, you should be using a flower paste.

Take time to pack your work properly and safely. Leave yourself plenty of time to set up your exhibit and make any repairs if necessary. Even if a small breakage has occurred, it’s not the end of the world! Judges will still be able to mark the work and recognise the skill needed to produce the piece. Take a small workbox with tools and spares in it in case you do have to repair anything.

Once you have decided on a piece, read the Schedule again! And remember that anything you use as staging for your exhibit (i.e. material, stands etc) must also fall within the allowable size constraints.

Good luck and enjoy the process!

How does it feel to be a judge for Salon Culinaire?

It is a great privilege to be part of such an august exhibition of culinary excellence, which in various incarnations has been running for over 100 years.

I’m honoured to have been invited to judge the Sugarcraft competition again this year and I will endeavour to bring to bear my experience gained over 50 years in the Industry, 30 of which has been in the role of judge in the bakery and sugarcraft fields.

I feel it is my role as a judge to pass on that knowledge and experience as a way of giving back to the industry that taught me so much.

It can be a little daunting to step onto the competition floor as you never know what you will be presented with, what new trends will be popular, what new techniques will be tried. In support of this, I do quite a bit of research and homework beforehand.

I am aware that my marks and comments will affect competitors in various ways, elation, disappointment and anything in between. I would like to think I am giving encouraging comments and constructive critique where appropriate, so that the competitor can understand their strengths and also how best to improve their work - just as I was encouraged to all those years ago when I was entering as a student.  

What will judges be looking for?

The judges will be looking for a high level of skill, finish and confidence from all competitors, whether it be in a static or live class.

A good understanding of the Schedule and Rules is very important. Has the competitor entered the competition at the correct skill level? Has sufficient thought gone into the planning, design and overall finish of the piece?

In a live class, is the competitor correctly dressed and presentable, do they have all necessary tools and/or ingredients with them, do they keep to time?

Are they professional in their work ethic?

In a static class the first thing a judge looks for is does the piece comply with the Schedule? So that could be topic, height, width, use of mediums etc. This could also include the use of staging materials. Everything used must fall within the specified schedule parameters. Anything outside of this rule will be deemed ‘Not to Schedule’ and not marked, although comments will be given to assist the competitor to understand what went wrong.

The next thing to consider is the ‘Wow’ factor. Does the piece stand out from the others, does it have visual appeal, are the dimensions pleasing, does the colouring work, is it a unique piece, is the skill level high?

The judge will then start to look at the piece in more detail, taking into account at which level the piece is entered into (ie novice, open, masterclass).

Design and construction is an important part of the work and this should be achieved with the Schedule in mind. The Rules may state that no artificial material may be used, so that would include artificial stamens in flowers (for instance).

Originality is always high on the agenda. It’s easy to copy someone else’s ideas but you have to remember that a judge may have seen a similar piece of work at another Exhibition, so yours may be unique to you but not necessarily to the judge. Similarly, the piece must not have been shown in another competition, the judges get around!

Various skills and techniques will score higher than one technique or skill.

There should be a clear understanding of mediums used throughout the piece.



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