After four days of working with chocolate I have come to the conclusion that chocolate is just really messy. It gets everywhere! My Chef’s whites are still splattered with dark chocolate, even though I’ve washed my jacket three times. I had chocolate all over my face, up my arms, and some how I even managed to smear chocolate all over the back of my neck as did Petit Garçon A (we are both still trying to work out how that happened). Normally it’s Ms. J who is the walking Disaster, but this week we all deserved the title. Yet, somehow out of the chaos we managed to make chocolate bonsai trees and hundreds of scrumptious chocolates.
Here’s A with Chef Debove (MOF) in the midst of the chocolate madness
And after a picture of A in a surprisingly clean jacket. I must ask him if he changed his Chef’s whites before this photo was taken.
Our guest teacher for chocolate bonbon week was Chef Luc Debove (MOF) Champion du Monde 2010 (dessert glacés) from the South of France. As he was only the 2nd MOF we had ever met (besides The Chef) we were all a little anxious prior to his arrival not knowing what to expect. Would he be a tyrant, who never cracked a smile, or worse would he just think we were all blockheads. Ms. N was worried that he wouldn’t speak a word of English and, as her command of the French language is limited to Bonjour and Merci, she had visions of spending the week looking blankly at mounds of melted chocolate. Luckily, he was none of these things. Chef Debove was friendly and his English was just fine. His knowledge of chocolate was impressive and a little daunting but he was also great fun. He didn’t even mind me breaking out into an Irish jig one afternoon (I can’t believe I did that in front of a MOF).
He arrived Monday afternoon as we were finishing cleaning the culinary lab. Yes, you read that correctly, at the end of every day we spend up to an hour washing dishes, scrubbing our tables, and mopping the floor. As Chef J says, you might as well get use to it if you are planning a career in pastry. Really? There are no magical fairies that come in the night and clean the kitchen! I knew I should have become a shoemaker. At least in the storybooks, you just have to go to sleep and all the work is completed when you wake-up in the morning.
Here is a photo of Ms. M happily mopping the floor.
Anyway I digress, back to bonbons. On the first day, Chef Debove handed us a 25-page booklet containing the recipes we were to make that week. As we flipped through page after page of recipes for citron-basilic gananche, framboise caramel and Les Fingers Gourmands to name a few, we looked at each other knowingly – we were going to have to work hard over the next few days. Besides learning how to temper chocolate by feel (after the first morning, we were not allowed to use thermometers) he lectured us on the theory of chocolate, how the molecules interact, levels of acidity, colour, texture and form. We dipped chocolate after chocolate until I just stopped counting.
Six hundred chocolates later (this might be a slight exaggeration) I have a new respect for artisan chocolatiers. Making chocolates is a humbling experience. If like me you thought it was just dipping caramels in chocolate you are dead wrong. Perfecting the right balance in taste and texture is a skill that can only be developed over time and like all things in pastry with experience.
In the four days that Chef Debove was with us we only scratched the surface of making chocolate bonbons but luckily for us he will return in October to continue our training.
It’s been a slice . . .