A perspective on the true elegance of the world’s finest chocolate is worth a 3-minute read in the New York Times.
The competition between French pastry chefs and chocolatiers to produce “something simple, spectacular or silly” with chocolate reaches levels mere mortals cannot imagine. “Hugo & Victor, the Paris chocolatier, has transformed the bûche de Noël, the traditional sponge cake bound with chocolate butter cream and shaped like a yule log, to look like a two-volume antique book set. It is made with six different chocolates and includes a chocolate biscuit as a base, a Tanzanian chocolate mousse, a Peruvian chocolate cream filling and nougat puffed rice. The hard chocolate casing is decorated with gold lettering. The cake is gluten-free. It costs more than $100.” Just cruising through the beauty of the Hugo & Victor website creates wonderment.
The gloves come off when artisan chocolatiers discuss the purity of their product. While the article discusses how “wildly upscale” chocolate has become in recent years, it also mentions an odd flip-side. “The craft of French chocolate-making has been degraded. In 2003, the European Union ruled that chocolate makers may replace up to 5 percent of the cocoa butter in their products with vegetable fats and still call the result chocolate. Connoisseurs picketed European Union offices, to no avail, while big chocolate makers celebrated; they could churn out a lot more chocolate for a lot less money.”
The author goes on to reveal the taste-test results between [renown Michelin-starred chef] Alain Ducasse’s new chocolate and that of Bonnat, a “small establishment in the heart of France that was founded in 1884 and claims to be the oldest family run “chocolaterie” in the world.” The visit to Stéphane Bonnat in Voiron, at the foothills of the Alps is alone worth the read. Perfecting a craft [chocolate] entitles one to educate even the most accomplished of chefs.
Read through to the punch-line.