Yuridi Durantes has poured her creative spirit into delectable desserts. photo by Jeff Spry
Yuridi Durantes has poured her creative spirit into delectable desserts. photo by Jeff Spry

Budding pastry chef Yuridi Durantes hopes her sweet dreams will impress the judges at this year's Tour Du Chocolat competition on April 6 at the Tower Theatre in Bend.

Durantes works at Tacos El Comal inside the Space Age gas station convenience store in Sisters.

She and her team of cooks and pastry chefs will enter their chocolate showpiece in the Tour Du Chocolat and are excited to be among other creative foodies and chocolate magicians. The array of desserts will be judged on several merits and criteria including presentation, creativity and taste.

"I'll be entering with three of my fellow classmates from Cascade Culinary, the cooking program at COCC in Bend," said Durantes. "We're all really excited to go and represent my friend Elise Kukulka and her bakery, Fearless Baking, in Bend. She does a lot of private baking and catering and mostly focuses on cookies."

Durantes is currently pursuing an associate's degree in pastries and has immersed herself in the wonderful world of pies, cakes and cookies.

"This year the college just added the pastry program in their nice new building on campus," she said. "They have some great chefs with a wide variety of experience, knowledge and connections. This will be my first year competing, and I learned about the event through my teachers who encouraged us to enter."

The Fearless Baking gang is comprised of Durantes, Kukulka, Brooke McDonald and Rebecca Gerdes.

"For our entry we're doing a chocolate showpiece based on an abstract tea party, like a Mad Hatter or Alice in Wonderland thing," she said. "We'll have a teapot and teacups crafted in chocolate and an English headband with flowers. What usually goes on a centerpiece creation like this are truffles and we are decorating it with rolled truffles, molded truffles and Earl Grey sponge candy which is a New York confectionery consisting of coated chocolate and an airy candy filling.

"And we'll also have Fearless Baking's signature cut-out cookies dipped in ganache on the side. You can enter anything you want, anything comprised of edible chocolate in any form. You must be very creative and unique to stand out amid all the amazing chefs and bakers from all over Central Oregon, so the competition will be intense."

Durantes' sugary creations were tasted last year at the Sisters Hispanic Coalition's Cinco de Mayo celebration at FivePine Conference Center. Her contribution to the feast was a gigantic Tres Leches cake decorated with icing in colors of the Mexican flag.

She's always loved the arts, but felt her talents weren't strong enough to merit a career as an artist and instead turned to cooking to indulge her desires in cooking.

"It's a lot of work, but at the end of the day you get to see something created," she said. "The most rewarding part for me is seeing people's reactions to it and the sparkle they get in their eyes. Both kids and adults. That's the magic of the drive and the challenge."

Her competition team has been planning the design and execution for the past month, making lists and assembling supplies and ingredients. The entire process will take them nearly two weeks to finish.

Tour Du Chocolat takes place during the First Friday Art Walk on Friday, April 6. Tower Theatre doors open to the public at 6 p.m. Four chocolate samples and a drink (wine, beer, milk or water) are $5. All proceeds benefit the Tower Theatre Foundation.