September 2, 2005
I went to the French Culinary Institute, did a couple of ‘stages’ in Lyon, France, including one at Bernachon. I’m living in New York City right now and have worked at some restaurants and at Jacques Torres. I’m planning on opening my own chocolate shop but not in NYC. It is just too expensive unless you have big backers (small spaces in the West Village are going for over $20k a month now). But not to discourage those trying – CocoaVino and Chocolate Moderne both seem to be thriving doing only wholesale and internet orders.
New York does have an amazing variety of artisanal chocolatiers – a trip to the Chocolate Show in November is merely an introduction. I don’t think that making your own chocolate from beans is a key criteria. It definitely makes Bernachon special but they’ve had over a half of a century of practice. But if production of chocolate from bean made a town the Best Chocolate City, in per capita terms unfortunately Hershey, PA would probably have the title. Far better to have creative people buying the best source chocolate they can and perfecting their recipes. And NYC at the moment has a lot of people doing just that.
July 5, 2006
Thanks for jumping in with us here and sharing your experience. How long did you work for Jacques Torres? did you do any of the bean to bar production or only the making of the chocolates? what did you think of him and the shop?
When did you graduate from FCI by the way? and did you do pastry and baking or Culinary?
Well here comes the rest….haha….I gotta say I disagree with the non importance of Bean to Bar production to make a city a great chocolate city. If it weren’t for those places…”chocolatiers” wouldn’t have a job. I think it takes the greatest skill of all to make chocolate from bean to bar(not taking anything away from common chocolatier work). We all know Hershey’s makes a lot of chocolate bean to bar but starts with low quality beans and masks the flavors with sugar and dairy. I think they are great for what they do but are no where close to real high quality chocolate and since San Francisco has Guittard and Scharffen Berger I have to remain true to San Francisco as the Chocolate capital of the USA. haha well that all folks….keep the conversations coming…
Good job to everyone in New York on here as well…I’m learning new shops from our conversations….thanks for your involvement!
August 1, 2006
America is a country known as a melting pot, which means that the constituency of the nation is a mix of all different sorts of cultures and ethinic groups/ancestries. In a sense, American could be viewed as a microcosm of the entire world since its culinary heritage is a hodgepodge of every type of cuisine imaginable. As a result, it is a bit of a misnomer to define a standard “American cuisine” as distinctly this or nominally that.
For example, fried chicken is often defined as an iconographic American food when in reality it is actually an invention of the Scots or Africans (I’ve read countless reports for both sides; you can subscribe to whichever side you wish).
The point is that the majority of America has no culinary tradition on which to base its pride (there are exceptions, of course, such as Louisiana), or at least not in the way that most Europeans do. In the case of chocolate, America has a larger audience of palates to play with and hence more freedom to be creative and to define itself as its own unique entity in the chocolate world. Furthermore, many parts of Europe pride themselves on tradition whereas America has no tradition to uphold.
Of course, the matter is not as simple as this. It’s a contrived and convoluted issue involving politics, economy, competition with neighboring countries (e.g. France vs. Belgium), and let us not forget the innovations of chocolate-making during the past centuries (whose leaders hailed from all over Europe for the sole purpose of perfecting the chocolate-making industry). During these times, what was America doing? Trying to establish itself as a democratic nation and expanding territory! Such issues were far more important than understanding the exact machinations of a conch! In other words, Europe has a longer history for such a huge placement in the equation and America is indeed a newcomer. I think we’re off to a mighty good start and expect more great things in the future.
July 5, 2006
Thanks for joining. I think you have a point but a point that can go toward good, bad or just indifferent. I think because of the lack of history(being a young country) the United States doesn’t have established traditions within the food industry that date back as far as say European countries can. Personally I think this can be something where we have to make up time but also a reason to be the fronteer of the food industry and especially the chocolate industry. I think when you have had so much tradition you can be scared to try the New, the things that have never been done. Now has this been done in chocolate making in the USA yet? hum…I don’t think so but I think that there are more and more Chefs and Culinary experts that are taking pride into their work to create a lengend of American cuisine. We might not have a large history but we are starting as Culinarians to Push the envelope and make our place in the Culinary World.
Either way as chocolatiers we have many of us all over the world and can learn from each other no matter where we are from because we all have different experiences and knowledge to share.
All for one and one for all….I think that fits here….
February 23, 2006
I’m so aggrevated, I just typed this long response and it got deleted! Here we go again! Robert, you pose an interesting discussion, especially the fact that we are a young country so that in some ways limits us but let’s not forget that we are a melting pot of ethnicities. This I believe is not to our detrement but to our benefit. If you have one chef, that gives you one backround, one point of view, one set of life’s experiences to draw from, so this presents one style. If you have 2 or 4 chefs you have a compilation of ideas, experiences, and tastes. I think that is what makes our country so intriguing to other countries. Also, we are embarking on a whole chocolate evolvment that is extrememly exciting. Americans are finally willing to open their minds and not only are willing to try a more premium product they are expecting it! One thing that we do have that is to our detrement is Hershey’s, countries around the world view that as ‘American’ chocolate, and that is definately not how we should be defined. We have so much more than that! What about Sherfenberger, what about Dagoba, what about Debelis. There are more and more companies emerging that are creating a more premium chocolate, but forever Americans will be described abroad as having “Hershey” palets!! Such a shame!
Keep it Sweet!
July 5, 2006
I must have come off a little wrong. I was making more of a point that we have a lot going for us in the United States. haha I’m not good at getting things across when typing I guess…oh well…I like what you have had to say though JoAnne. I see your point and think that is definently one of the reasons we are getting such a huge interest in gourmet foods and especially chocolate. We are a mix of a lot of different backgrounds, personalities and skills and I think that because of that we can have our own niche in the world.
I think it bears mentioning that two of the Bay Area chocolate companies Robert mentions above are no slouches in the tradition/longevity department. Ghirardelli began in 1852, and Guittard in 1868. That’s substantially older than many a revered European brand.
As excited as I am about recent premium chocolate developments in the US, there’s certainly a healthy history to it as well!
Also, not to contribute overly to the East Coast/West Coast polarity–although as a native Californian, I almost feel I must–I’d side with Robert on the issue of US chocolatier nexus. If you’re up for some varied and very good confectioners, I’d say New York might be the spot for you, but if it’s fine premium chocolatiers you’re after (in the sense of fundamental chocolate manufacture–and what else is this forum about? , then go west young man (or woman)!
August 1, 2006
Robert, I’d have to disagree with your assertion that America doesn’t have a history in the food industry. Now, in culinary terms, i.e. establishing a national cuisine, then yes, American hasn’t quite achieved this, but in terms of the food industry, then no; to the contrary, America has a long and illustrious history. Granted, this history doesn’t date back nearly as extensively as that of Europe, but then again, you see much more stagnancy over there than over here. What this alludes to, essentially, is America’s freedom and social obligation to innovate and improve the current food industry. The perfect example is Coca Cola. Originally invented as Coca Wine (later French Wine Cola), it contained alcohol (wine) and, of course, and cocaine from the coca plant. However, during Prohibition, sales in Coca Cola dropped, and so the obvious solution was to eliminate the alcohol component (yet the cocaine remained!), which thereby created a “soft drink.”
This is history. And America is full of it. But I wanted to clear up briefly the distinction between history and national cuisine. Another point is this: it seems, then, that the innovations in America’s food industry have centered on certain aspects of everyday life that reflected the culture and environment of the time. There was a lot of room for experimentation, and this is what led to the surge of food industries back in the 19th century. It was an untapped market, and there was a latent demand for convenient and tasty foods not yet available to the general public. America was growing quickly, and there was little time to worry about the exact preparation of the next meal. Besides, America was a nation of entrepreneurship and industry, and everyone needs to eat. In a sense, you could say that the desire for quick and convenient meals was being shaped through years and years of innovation. TV dinners, cookies, fast food restaurants, for example, all didn’t emerge out of thin air. Things like this take time to evolve to what they are today.
July 5, 2006
August 25, 2006
I enjoy your tenacity and passion. Really makes for an interesting post.
Sure many other out there agree?
I read through your list of US based chocolatiers.One name I assumed would be on the list is Norman Love Confections in Florida?
Any thoughts? Comment?
Keep up the energy!
July 5, 2006
Are you speaking of my website http://www.chocolateguild.com or on this post? yeah I had someone else mention Norman Love Confections and I completely forgot to mention them….I actually just added them to my website….good catch! keep me on my toes….so where are you from? how did you get into the chocolate business?
Have a good one,
April 20, 2006
August 25, 2006
I am a traveller. Right now I am typing on a train between luzern and Zurich. Chocolate runs in my blood. Seriously addicted to the it!
Norman Love is a big Felchlin chocolate utilizer.Are you familiar or comfortable with this courverture? Used it a few years back while in Australia.Had really good results (as do most things in life from switzerland).
Keep the stories coming……..
July 5, 2006
March 17, 2005
April 20, 2006
Though there was some Trinitario in Belize starting in the 50′s (I’ve not talked to anyone who still knows where it came from), a lot of the cacao in Belize is a trinitario that was brought in during a project called TAMP/VITA in the 80′s. This was during the time when Hershey’s was interested in taking advantage of the area for its cacao growing potential and so parentage of the cacao was based on kilos per hectare production, and not on flavor. However, over time as the farmers in the area organized a collective called TCGA (Toledo Cacao Growers Association), and their organic cacao began to be bought at fair-trade prices by Green & Black’s in the early 90′s, Hershey’s pulled out, realizing that it was not a good situation for them. Hershey’s needs rock-bottom-priced cacao of course.
Anyway, the cacao in Belize, by and large, is nothing special, though many of the farmers know about proper fermentation and sun drying du to education that occured in TCGA after they began selling to G&B’s. There are a few plots of land where some of the oldest farmers have the older cacao, but they are few and far between, and the issue of quality in cacao is not understood in Belize at this point because ever since Green & Black’s has come into the area every farmer has been paid fair trade prices for all the cacao, regardless of quality, so there is no incentive to grow better quality cacao, let alone learn how to distinguish it from the run of the mill stuff, and learn how to carry out post-harvest processing differently. Interestingly, Green & Black’s is the only company currently buying there. TCGA, though not contractually obligated to only sell to them, has consistently turned down other offers for buying over the years…perhaps for fear of losing their arrangement with Green & Black’s. It’s hard to blame them because during the period when Hershey’s was there, the price paid for the cacao every single year was dropped from something quite high (in the first year)until everyone was making little more than a pittance. That situation and the impoverished time which came along with it both still weigh heavy in the minds of most farmers in Belize. Anyway, if you want to try some chocolate made from this cacao, buy a Green & Black’s “Maya Gold” bar. Unfortunately, the orange flavoring ruins the possibility of tasting the qualities of the actual chocolate, and there is also no guarantee that the bars are made only from Belizean cacao.
That said, the Maya there do indeed have a long history of home cacao ball making in which they take the fermented and dried cacao, toast it on comals (which now are usually cast-iron pans), winnow by hand, and then grind it by hand or with a hand cranked machine until it is somewhat pasty and make balls out of it to use in hot drinks.
EDITED: to remove the word “artificial” (which was in front of “orange”) that I realize could easily be taken in a way other than what I intended.
March 17, 2005
July 5, 2006
Yes it is Green and Blacks that buys up their cacao. I am getting more and more information on the actuall beans grown there and should have the exact info pretty soon. I know a man their that owns an orchard or cacao and he makes chocolate himself and he is sending me some. I will let you guys know how it is…I myself have never tasted a single origin chocolate from Belize and would love to know the flavor.
About the “Maya Gold” Bar mentioned above. Alan you said, “Unfortunately, the artificial orange flavoring ruins the possibility of tasting the qualities of the actual chocolate” and I’m not sure if you ment the orange flavoring was actually artificial but I am looking at the package right now and it states “Natural spice and fruit extracts”….now of course I would rather have the chocolate with nothing in it but as for the person who likes the spice and orange flavor…they might enjoy it.
April 20, 2006
I’m going by the word of someone who used to work for G&B’s, and apparently the flavoring, though natural, isn’t actually from an orange, but rather is from an herb that has an orange-like flavor. I suppose there’s a possibility that my source was misinformed, and I couldn’t verify it by just searching on-line just now, but the point, at any rate, is that the orange flavoring, whether from an orange or not, is so strong that it is hard to taste the chocolate underneath. And, though I’m sure that there are some people out there who will like it, I’m certainly not one of them.