Elle Coco is an experienced chocolate judge at the British Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards. She recently moved to Wellington from London travelling the long route starting in Mexico, before covering off all of Central America and the western countries of South America. She visited cacao plantations, met growers and tasted chocolate along the way. In London, Elle ran chocolate making workshops and classes for British chocolatiers, department stores and global companies, including William Curley Patissier, Harrods and PWC. In addition to running workshops, Elle has worked with new and established chocolate makers, including Damson Chocolate (UK), Tri Island Chocolate (Grenada, Caribbean) and Stamba Chocolatier (Georgia, Caucasus). Elle has hosted education and tasting sessions at London’s ‘The Chocolate Show’ and ‘The Grenada Chocolate Festival’ in the in the Caribbean. Elle will be supported by an independent judging panel of food experts. In 2018 the only chocolatiers in the judging panel will be those without products in the competition.
Returning for his second year as a judge, Luke Owen Smith is the owner of 'The Chocolate Bar' - New Zealand’s premier retailer of bean-to-bar and craft chocolate. As well selling some of the best chocolate in the world, Luke runs regular tasting sessions and workshops to help spread the word of the bean-to-bar movement. He has extensive knowledge of the New Zealand chocolate scene and the international craft chocolate scene, and is looking forward to putting his skills to the test on judging day.
Ganesh has worked in USA and New Zealand as a pastry chef and is currently working at LSG Sky Chef’s as a Head Pastry Chef. He is a member of New Zealand High Performance Squad. He has won numerous awards at Culinary competitions locally and internationally.
After nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry, Vicki Ravlich-Horan started Nourish Magazine with the goal of creating a truly local food magazine that encouraged people to learn more about their food, be inspired by fresh seasonal produce and to enjoy cooking. With editions in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Nourish is the most read food magazine in the Waikato and BOP. Between each edition the Nourish team now offer clients great design, marketing and event management and have recently enjoyed working with wonderful local companies like NZ Winter Truffles and Peplers. Vicki, a proud Waikato gal, started and is still heavily involved in Waikato Food Inc, a not for profit member organisation championing food producers and eateries in the Waikato.
A self confessed chocolate lover Helen Jackson is pretty happy with her judging role. Helen can be found at www.foodlovers.co.nz, her award winning website that has been helping people with recipe solutions for the past 18 years. Early birds can hear Helen on the Radio Live Home and Garden show from 6-8am every Saturday morning. Helen is a keen travel and regularly hosts food tours to gourmet destinations.
Long time broadcaster Trudi Nelson is the voice of TV3 and More FM New Zealand. A passionate foodie, Trudi launched Fresh in 2004. In 2016 she founded Saturday Fresh on Radio Live. With husband, Mark Nelson, Trudi also owns The Fresh Factory, a studio and event space in Auckland’s Eden Terrace. Trudi is a Past President of Food Writers NZ. She was a judge for the inaugural 2017 competition and is looking forward to being part of the action again in 2018.
One of the judging panel in the inaugural awards, Sam Mannering loves good food and cooking with beautiful, fresh ingredients. He is a food columnist for Sunday Magazine and chef and co-owner of Homestead and Company in Auckland. His first cookbook, A Year’s Worth: Recipes from Dunsandel Store, focusses on the seasonality of food. His latest book, Food Worth Making, is an eclectic collection of recipes from home and abroad. Sam is a talented actor and a graduate of London’s Central School of Speech of Drama, with a Masters in Film Acting. In 2016 he appeared in the series Hillary on TV One. He’s passionate about New Zealand food and a member of Food Writers NZ.