Swiss school grad ‘hero’ among café siege victims

César Ritz Colleges, a Swiss hotel management school group, issued a tribute on its Facebook page to a former graduate who died while trying to end this week’s café hostage-taking incident in Sydney, Australia that left three people dead and five people injured.

Swiss school grad 'hero' among café siege victims
Photo: César Ritz Colleges/Facebook

Tori Johnson, 34, manager of the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney’s central business district, was identified as one of the victims of Monday’s siege, along with a 38-year-old lawyer and hostage taker Man Haron Monis, 50.

Johnson, who attended César Ritz Colleges, tried to wrest a sawed-off shotgun from Iranian-born Monis when he appeared to doze off but in the ensuing scuffle he died from a bullet to the head, according to Australian media reports.

Several hostages were able to escape while this was going on before police stormed the restaurant, killing Monis, described as a "fringe Islamist", in the process.

“Every one of us has been touched by the tragic news of the passing of a member of our family,” reads a statement on César Ritz College’s Facebook page.

“So many wonderful memories have been pouring in from classmates and friends during his time at César Ritz Colleges in 2002-2003,” the statement says.

“His courage and actions during the Sydney siege will always be remembered.”

The school group passes on condolences to Johnson’s family and partner, identified as Thomas Zinn.

César Ritz Colleges offers specialized training in the tourism and hospitality industry.

It has one campus in Lucerne and two others in the canton of Valais in Brig and Le Bouveret.

Johnson, son of Australian artist Ken Johsnon, took a two-year course at the institution before becoming manager of the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place in Sydney in 2012.

The café is one of eight operated in Australia by Zurich-based chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli.

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Swiss chocolate consumption falls to 40-year low in pandemic

The desire for comfort food during the pandemic has failed to boost the fortunes of Swiss chocolate.

Swiss chocolate consumption falls to 40-year low in pandemic

Swiss chocolate makers were perhaps expecting a sweet spot as people turned to comfort food during the pandemic but are instead facing devastating 2020 figures showing consumption in Switzerland melting to a 40-year-low.

Chocosuisse, the national federation of Swiss chocolate makers, painted a bleak picture this week of the impact that the Covid-19 crisis had taken on the industry, with plunging production, exports and even consumption.

And Lindt and Sprungli, one of the wealthy Alpine nation’s most famous chocolate makers, published its annual results Tuesday detailing a nearly 11-percent drop in its 2020 revenues, to 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.4 billion, 3.6 billion euros).

Amid lockdowns and a pandemic-fuelled economic crisis last year, it may not be surprising that Swiss chocolate makers overall saw their production fall, shrinking 10 percent compared to 2019, to 180,000 tonnes, according to Chocosuisse.

And exports, which account for nearly 70 percent of Swiss chocolate makers’ revenues, fell by more than that, slumping 11.5 percent in 2020, to 126,000 tonnes.

More surprising perhaps is that the country renowned for its love of high-quality cocoa products, where people gobble up more chocolate per capita than anywhere else in the world, also saw consumption drop.

Lowest since 1982

In fact, annual consumption fell to below the symbolic threshold of 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) per person, dipping to 9.9 kilos — the lowest level since 1982.

A major contributor to the drop, Chocosuisse chief Urs Furrer told AFP, was the steep decline in foreign tourists, who tend to tip the consumption scales.

The per capita chocolate consumption in a country is calculated by dividing the volumes sold by the number of inhabitants, leading to inflated figures in Switzerland, where chocolate treats are a favourite souvenir.

“It would be impossible to calculate the exact consumption of residents, because in shops, the salespeople do not know if their customer lives in Switzerland or is a tourist,” Furrer said.

But the absence of tourists is not the whole explanation for last year’s decline. In Switzerland as elsewhere, the health crisis and accompanying restrictions including forced teleworking, has had a clear impact on consumption habits.

“Consumption also dropped in areas that are usually crowded with passers-by, like train stations and city centres,” Furrer said, pointing out that chocolate was often an impulse buy by people on the move.

Physical distancing requirements have also taken a toll on social occasions where handing over a box of chocolates might be expected.

“The sale of gift boxes of pralines has also declined,” Furrer said.

At the same time however, the sale of raw products like chocolate masse usually used by chocolatiers, bakeries and patisseries rose last year as more amateurs delved into making their own sweets at home.