Choosing the UK Finalist for the World Chocolate Masters 2025

World Chocolate Masters 2024 – Keylink WP

Playful Patisserie and Competitive Chocolate:
World Chocolate Masters Selection UK & Ireland 2024

We were honoured to be invited to the UK Chocolate Academy™ in Banbury on 30 May to witness the final of the World Chocolate Masters pre-selection for the UK and Ireland. Four incredibly talented pastry chefs battled for the chance to represent the UK at the World Chocolate Masters in 2025, creating a series of breathtaking and mouthwatering chocolate show pieces, all under the watchful eye of the esteemed judges. 

by Lyndsey Hall

05 June 2024

The World Chocolate Masters is the world’s leading competition dedicated to the creativity and technical skills of artisans and chefs with chocolate. It was a privilege to be invited to attend the UK’s selection event and experience the talent and skill on display from all four finalists. With five stages to complete and one central theme, this year the competition was fierce. To find out what groundbreaking chocolate creations were presented and which of the fantastic four took the title of World Finalist, keep reading… 

An Invitation to ‘Play!’

The theme for WCM ‘24/25 is ‘Play!’, and the four contestants each interpreted this in a truly unique and refreshing way. According to the judges, this year’s theme involves playing with ingredients, textures and flavours to create a wonderful sensory experience. They encouraged the contestants to craft intensely indulgent chocolate delights that trigger all the senses, using bold, exciting flavours and thrilling textures to add a new dimension to their creations. 

The competition was divided into five stages, each with its own set of expectations. Level one was named ‘You!’, and entailed a three-minute presentation where contestants explained their creative journey, how they had interpreted the theme, their inspiration, their key concept, the ingredients they’d chosen, and what made their creations unique. 

Level two, ‘Share the Fun’, involved designing a playful and delicious after-dinner chocolate delight that can be shared with six guests around a table. The judges suggested it should be festive and playful—made to enjoy in good company—and be an ideal gift to replace the bottle of wine you’d bring to a party. Most importantly, the contestants should go beyond the traditional chocolate dessert to be cut at the table and create a unique experience that is eye-catching and Instagrammable or Tiktokable! 

The third level was titled ‘Whimsical Bonbon’ and asked the contestants to create a game-changing bonbon that showed their craft through visuals, flavours and textures. The bonbons should be delicious and guilt-free; all natural with no artificial ingredients. Not only should it reflect the theme of ‘Play!’ by being fun, exciting and playful, but it must contain a minimum of two textures (not including the chocolate shell) and an explosion of fabulous flavours. 

Level four, ‘Playbox’, involved creating a showstopping display made entirely from chocolate, cocoa, cocoa-derived products or edible colourants. Contestants were invited to ‘Play!’ with the boundaries of their imagination to craft an artistic chocolate display that tells the story of their ‘Whimsical Bonbon’. And they really took this suggestion and ran with it! 

The final level of the competition, ‘Pastry Play!’, required the contestants to make a deliciously fresh chocolate patisserie from scratch, one that would be made, finished and presented on the same day it was sold in a shop. To create their playful patisserie, they were asked to use two mandatory ingredients: chocolate + a local ingredient, and the pastry must contain a minimum of three textures, not including decorations. These patisseries were to be presented as small, individual pastries, and the contestants all created visually stunning and flavourful patisseries that wowed the judges! 

A World of Pure Imagination

The four finalists competing for the honour of representing the UK at the World Chocolate Masters 2025 were Ian Mark, Xun Yao, Graham Mairs and Kevin Ng.  

For ‘Share the Fun’, the after-dinner desserts created by the chefs included Bamboo by Xun Yao, a playful centrepiece combining the soft bitterness of matcha and the subtle sweetness of apples with the strong fruitiness of Cacao Barry Tanzanie dark chocolate. Taste Your Luck! By Kevin Ng used a carnival-inspired aesthetic to bring together the milky notes of Cacao Barry Alunga milk chocolate and the woody notes of Fleur de Cao dark chocolate with a dash of vanilla and caramel. Ian Mark’s Exploded Rubix combined fun textures with the sweetness of mango and the acidity of lime, all married with the smooth richness of Alunga milk chocolate. DIVIDE + CONKER by Graham Mairs used chestnut and Sycamore honey encased in Cacao Barry Inaya dark chocolate to evoke childhood memories. 

The four contestants also produced a delectable assortment of ‘Whimsical Bonbons’, including Xun Yao’s Mushroom Fun, which balanced toasted sesame seeds and a hint of lemon olive oil with the intensity of Cacao Barry Tanzanie dark chocolate. Take a Ride! By Kevin Ng continued the carnival theme of his dessert, taking inspiration from both the British and Singaporean culinary scenes for a banana caramel and toffee bonbon encased in Cacao Barry Alunga milk chocolate and Fleur de Cao dark chocolate. CATCH -A- BREEZE by Graham Mairs explored the idea of dimensions through its use of textures, pairing green almonds and Sycamore honey with the smoothness of Cacao Barry Zéphyr white chocolate. And Ian Mark’s Connect 4 bonbons brought all the joy of the classic game, with their combination of caramelised pumpkin seeds, balsamic ganache and the smoothness of Callebaut W2 white chocolate, the zestiness of Cacao Barry Wholefruit Evocao and the balancing caramel notes of Cacao Barry Ghana.  

For the ‘Playbox’ round, Kevin Ng created a fantastical fairground scene, complete with ferris wheel, hot air balloon and the silhouettes of adults and children enjoying the merriment. Xun Yao’s showpiece featured a stunning cherry blossom tree surrounded by her Mushroom Fun bonbons. Ian Mark’s display included a chocolate orangutan playing Connect 4 with his red and yellow bonbons, accompanied by a friendly toucan and iguana. And Graham Mairs’ design was inspired by the classic game of Snakes and Ladders, with a life size rabbit entangled by serpents. 

In the final round, ‘Pastry Play’, the four hopefuls crafted a selection of delicate and tempting pastries. EVANESCENCE by Graham Mairs brought together rare snow strawberries, the sweetness of Sycamore sugar and the acidity of Cacao Barry Wholefruit Evocao. Ian Mark’s Orange blended blood oranges with the freshness of mint, all balanced out by the sweet chestnut and caramel notes of Cacao Barry Ghana milk chocolate. Zen Garden by Xun Yao presented an intricate combination of ingredients and playful textures, marrying saffron, strawberries and yoghurt with Cacao Barry Fleur de Cao dark chocolate and Zéphyr white chocolate. And Kevin Ng’s Grab Your Ticket! Paired a sweet and mellow ganache with fresh lemon paste and the bitterness of Cacao Barry Alto el Sol. 

Each of the contestants nailed the brief for every round, presenting a series of visually stunning and delicious creations with surprising flavour and texture combinations. But, unfortunately, there could only be one winner… 

Crowning a Chocolate Master

The World Chocolate Masters were created to celebrate and acknowledge the world’s most skilled and talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs. Taking place every 2-3 years, the competition began back in 2005 when Belgian pâtissier Pol Deschepper took the grand prize. The UK & Ireland are yet to take the crown, but 2025 could be our year as the incredibly inventive and imaginative… Ian Mark is our World Finalist! 

The jury, which consisted of John Costello, Kathryn Cuthbertson MVO and David Hamilton, and was presided over by Marc Demarquette, praised Mark for his use of characterful yet subtle chocolates, his strong sense of balance when it came to flavour pairings, and his original interpretation of the theme ‘Play!’. Highlights definitely included Mark’s intricately detailed chocolate orangutan and the perfect replica of a Connect 4 game, complete with rack and bonbon game pieces. 

Ian Mark is no stranger to competition, having been a finalist in both the 2017 and 2022 UK Chocolate Masters, as well as being a member of the winning team on the 2017 series of Bake Off: Creme de la Creme. Mark’s career as a pastry chef has seen him compete at both national and international levels, representing the RAF, Combined Services Culinary Arts Team (CSCAT) and England over the last eighteen years. Among his many gold medals and distinctions was the honour of crafting the RAF 100 official cake in 2018. 

We wish Ian Mark the best of luck for the final stage of the World Chocolate Masters 2025, from all of us here at Keylink! We can’t wait to see what incredible chocolate delights he creates next. 

If you’re feeling inspired by the wonderful creations of the 2024 contestants, you can find a whole host of recipes from past Chocolate Masters on the World Chocolate Masters website. 

To follow the competition and find out more about the contestants competing to be crowned World Chocolate Master 2025, you can follow the WCM official Instagram account.

Lyndsey Hall

Lyndsey is a marketing executive, writer and lover of books and chocolate from Sheffield.

Her favourite chocolate is Cacao Barry Lactee Superieure.