Ruth Hinks

DirectorCocoa Black, Peebles (Edinburgh)

Ruth Hinks says she has a passion for "all things chocolate". She trained as a chef at a Cordon Bleu cookery school in South Africa and came to the UK six years ago. She set up her chocolate and patisserie school three years ago, creating a successful and diverse business.

With courses ranging from beginners’ chocolates to professional pastry chef, some 2,000 people have already been through the school’s doors. The French-style café has been open for a year, offering pastries, cupcakes, biscuits, gateaux and truffles. Hinks now employs 15 people and has just added online sales to her business.

She is proud that the business is growing at a time when many are afraid to diversify; the school is due to move to larger premises and the hunt is on for a new pastry chef. "I just love what I do, from creating in the kitchen to teaching in the school," she says. She particularly enjoys working with moulded chocolate and uses seasonal and local ingredients wherever possible. One of her favourite products is a cherry & dark chocolate gateau, featuring a vanilla panacotta filling, swirled through with cinnamon biscuits and dark chocolate, a Madagascan chocolate mousse and a ganache covering.

The judges were impressed by the "magic and inspiration" Hinks brings to everything she does, adding that the industry needs innovation from people who "push back the boundaries, both in terms of the offer they create and the products themselves."

Chris Bachmann

OwnerBachmanns, Thames Ditton

Bachmanns, started in 1989 by renowned pastry chef Ernst Bachmann, is now run by his son, Chris, who learned his trade from his father. "Dad is always available for consultation, so our heritage is still close at hand," he says.

The single shop has a brigade of seven in the kitchen and four front-of-house staff. Bachmanns’ core range is its Continental gateaux and pastries, but it also produces Danish, biscuits, savouries and speciality breads, as well as its beautiful handmade chocolates. "Everything we do is to the highest possible standards, whether it’s a £5 bag or a £150 box of chocolates," says Bachmann. He cites the chocolate truffle gateau as among the best examples of the firm’s emphasis on quality. He notes that a recent survey showed 85% of customers make a special journey to enjoy the bakery’s Continental specialities. "People appreciate our skill and the fact they can get things here that they cannot anywhere else," he says.

Lisa Boyles

Team LeaderCooplands, WheatleyDoncaster

Cooplands was established in 1932 and is still a family-run business. It produces savouries, breads, sandwiches, chocolate and confectionery items for its 86 shops, as well as providing a range of wholesale items. The firm employs 830 people and boasts an annual turnover of around £20m.

Lisa Boyles joined as a junior in the confectionery department in 1993. She credits her colleagues with helping train her. Now, she is one of a team of three who manage training. Her favourite part of the job is innovation and she says she finds inspiration all around her. "It’s good to get ideas from others, but even better to develop them and make them your own."

Boyles is particularly proud of the department’s eye-catching fudge-iced range including muffins and cupcake buns and her Christmas pudding buns, created with different gingers. "I hope the judges saw my creativity and versatility," she says. "And that, as a trainer, I am giving something back to the business."