Our Academy chefs

Welcome to the Montreal CHOCOLATE ACADEMY center!

We are located in Montreal since 2014. We were before at St-Hyacinthe where the Barry Callebaut plant is still based.

Since we opened our doors, we empower chocolate artisans, pastry chefs, confectioners and bakers with solutions to improve their skills in chocolate and master new techniques and trends.

Our expert chefs provide technical support and deliver inspirational recipes, digital resources, engaging demonstrations, and creative collaborative sessions.

Chef Russ Thayer

As the Lead Digital Chef for the Chocolate Academy Centers in North America, Chef Russ Thayer curates the curriculum and works alongside 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. Russ has been published in many industry publications throughout his career, recently featured in So Good.. magazine editions #19 and #23. His strong desire to work with the best pastry chefs in the industry continues to push him forward.


Chef Lauren V. Haas

Lauren V. Haas is the Lead Gourmet Chef for North America, overseeing the Chocolate Academies in Chicago and Montreal. Throughout her career, Lauren has worked in elite kitchens, including the White House residence, the Hotel du Pont, and the Inn at Little Washington. 

In 2016, Lauren was named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional, and in 2018 Bake Magazine awarded her the national “Top Educator” designation. Lauren’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including So Good.., American Cake Decorating, and Pastry Chef.

A passion for sustainability led Lauren to pursue further education, and she holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Baking & Pastry Arts. 

Lauren is a passionate educator, and her mission is to promote the advancement of knowledge within the art and science of pastry.