Champion Confectioner Bernd Siefert
World-class creations from the Odenwald
Bernd Siefert, who won the title “World Champion Confectioner” in 1997, sweetens every moment. His advice about rosemary fruitcake, tonka truffles and spectacular wedding cakes is in great demand worldwide. His creations are works of art that are pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds. And he has plenty of new and creative ideas for chocolate, sugar, and other delicious ingredients.
Bernd Siefert has been known to return from bikers’ get-togethers in Frankfurt to his home in Michelstadt at 6 a.m. He was born in this picturesque town in the Odenwald district of southern Hesse, where he still lives here with his wife and three sons. "Here I have the peace and quiet I need to think about new creations and try them out," he says. At the moment he is using a homemade parchment piping bag to fill chocolate hemispheres with raspberry mousse. Later on, Siefert, a former World Champion Confectioner, will carefully tap the finished truffles out of the mold. The fascinating blue shimmer on the very dark chocolate surface of these truffles is due to a touch of Candurin® (see box).
Deep roots in the Odenwald
Siefert, a man with a firm handshake, was born in 1967, but his apron bears the insignia "Since 1793." This refers to his Café Siefert, which looks back on a tradition of more than 200 years, during which the confectioner’s craft was often handed down from father to son to grandson. This dedication to a profession is just as rare as the commitment to a single location. "I could be working in Dubai, Sydney or San Francisco," says Siefert, but he adds that he has deep roots in this region. His gaze travels around his bakery, in which a conching machine is rapidly stirring 30 liters of chocolate and keeping it at a precise temperature of 32°C. "I love that after breakfast, I just need to walk downstairs to get to work," he says. "However, now and then it does me good to get out into the world!"
“What I enjoy most is the challenge involved.“
This love of travel dates back to his childhood, when Bernd’s parents would take him along to trade fairs. His favorite exhibits were the spectacular sugary creations of master confectioners from Italy; he simply could not stop looking at them. His interest sparked at such a young age, "I always wanted to be a confectioner," he recalls, even though he intermittently aspired to be a pilot. As if by way of consolation, these days he operates a Pacojet — a professional high-speed milling machine that enables him to conjure up highly aromatic fillings and parfaits.
A world champion before the age of 30
In retrospect, it is fortunate that his school grades were not quite good enough to pursue a career in flying. After receiving a school leaving certificate after tenth grade, he began an apprenticeship with his father Wilhelm. "The other confectioners in town obviously didn’t want to train the son of a competitor," he explains. During his training, his parents sent him to France, where he later learned the fine art of "grande pâtisserie" from the country’s top-level confectioners (such as Fauchon, a touchstone of luxury food in France).
However, his experiences in France were more bitter than sweet on account of the language, the long working hours, and the extreme demands placed on apprentices. Nonetheless, Siefert went on learning and discovered his artistic flair. "Today I write poems, paint, and sculpt," he says. That is quite unusual for a confectioner who was born in a deeply rural region.
Candurin® has an outstanding safety profile; it is an innovative food coloring that can be used without hesitation
Siefert became a master confectioner at the age of 23 and then acquired the finishing touches at the school for master craftspeople in Alassio, Italy. "If I were to lose my sense of curiosity and stop wanting to learn anything new, I’d be as good as dead," he says. Only seven years later, before he turned 30, he won the title World Confectioner Champion. It was a hard act to follow. Siefert is reluctant to repeat his achievements, so he decided to put his pedagogical talent to work as well.
Together with his sister, he took over the ownership of his parents’ café with its rich tradition and renovated the half-timbered building in line with the requirements of a listed building. There he began to work as a coach and a consultant. In this phase of his work he was, and still is, supported by his sister Astrid. During this period he also met his future wife Isabel, who was named "Confectioner of the Year" in 2003.
50,000 truffles for Japan - handmade
Sugar confectionery creations are his passion — one that probably dates back to his childhood experiences. Of course these are the most difficult challenges of his craft. So many things can go wrong, and the creations are much too beautiful to actually eat. "What I enjoy most is the challenge involved," says Siefert as he points to a beach-themed still life with seashells. It is made completely of sugar, with Candurin® added to create a fine luster. Another typical challenge he faces is to deliver 50,000 handmade truffles to Japan for Valentine’s Day.
"When I’m developing one of these creations I’m often initially guided by a fruit aroma," says the champion confectioner to explain the journey from an idea to a product. Raspberry is his favorite flavor. To it he adds compatible ingredients such as fruits, nuts, butter, and chocolate. Siefert is well-traveled, and he knows about the national preferences when it comes to chocolate.
"Germans have obviously grown up for many decades with the harmonious taste of Nacional chocolate from Ecuador, whereas the French prefer chocolate with a more acid taste," he observes. His favorite chocolate is Porcelana, which is made from a not very plentiful but extremely "chocolatey" cocoa variety. But the processing is also important. "If you take an affordable type of chocolate, heat it, and stir it for a long time — the professional term is ‘conching’ — it will develop its full potential," he says.
Bernd Siefert regards himself first and foremost as an artist and only secondarily as a craftsman. Above all, he feels he is a curious individual who likes to share his knowledge. "My next project is a book about vegan baking — without butter or honey, for example," he says. That sounds a bit like dry zwieback crackers — but because the book is written by Siefert you can rest assured that it will be extraordinarily delicious as well.
Candurin®: Highlights for food
If chocolate has a seductive gleam or chewing gum shines invitingly, this is often thanks to Candurin® from EMD. Its mineral-based pigments fulfill international safety standards for food and medicine and create physical and optical effects that are similar to those of natural mother of pearl. The broad palette of colors, which range from magical red to blue, cool silver, and luxurious gold, not only decorate truffles, dragées, licorice, ice cream, and baked goods but are also used in the coatings of tablets to serve as a distinguishing feature. The combination of pigments — for example, on truffles and their packaging — makes it possible to create high-quality product concepts that promise pleasure at first glance.