“Learn to taste, and be obsessed with it. I am the first to admit that my first thoughts are visual, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make products visually pleasing, but ultimately the success of a product lies in the taste.” As the lead chef for the Chocolate Academy™ Online, Chef Russ Thayer curates the curriculum and leads the team of chefs who contribute to its content. He specializes in modern confections based on traditional techniques, while also having a robust knowledge of pastry as a whole. Russ is also a classically trained savory chef. However, it is the technical accuracy and attention to detail in pastry and confections that fascinates him. Before joining the Barry-Callebaut group, he was the Pastry Chef at PreGel America. Prior to this he worked as a Pastry Chef for the Ritz-Carlton hotel group, and also held Pastry Chef positions in several prestigious private clubs. Russ is a graduate of both the Pastry Arts and the Culinary Arts programs at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Russ has won numerous gold medals in ACF-sponsored pastry competitions, and was a finalist in Cacao Barry’s L’Art du Chocolatier Challenge 2012. Chef Russ joined the Chocolate Academy™ Chicago team in 2014 to further his dedication to research and innovation. In 2018, Chef Russ relocated to Montreal, Canada to become the Lead Chef for the Chocolate Academy™ Online. His strong desire to work with the best pastry chefs in the industry continues to push him forward.