Dessert Professional magazine and Valrhona proudly present the Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America for 2012.
Dessert Professional magazine is proud to announce the recipients of our annual Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America awards. The fine chocolate industry here continues to evolve, and the chocolatiers in North America are among the finest in the world. Our selection of the Top Ten Chocolatiers honors North American-based chocolatiers whose craft is distinctive and has elevated the chocolate industry. This year’s list includes chocolate artists with diverse backgrounds. Some are former pastry chefs, while others began as chocolatiers. Some are self-taught, while others have been classically trained. Following is a short profile of each of our 2012 Top Ten Chocolatiers.
- Gail Ambrosius
- Christopher Curtin
- Katherine Clapner
- John Doyle
- Adam Chandler
- Jonathan Grahm
- Shaineal Shah
- Christopher Elbow
- Tariq Hanna
- Rick Jordan
Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier-Madison2086 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704608-249-3500 • www.gailambrosius.com
Chocolate philosophy: I find single origin chocolate most complex and enjoyable. Right now we are using Central and South American chocolate. I taste a lot of chocolate, and I choose a chocolate based on flavor. I take my cues from the chocolate and decide how I’d like to either complement or contrast that flavor to bring out its best.
Inspiration: Discovering chocolate shops on a class trip to Paris at 17.
Business profile: We specialize in single-origin dark chocolate handmade truffles. We also make chocolate bars, hot chocolate, caramel, toffee, and summer sorbet. Our shop is warm and inviting with an Art Nouveau touch. We are located on Madison’s East Side in the Atwood neighborhood where there are many locally owned restaurants and charming shops.
Chocolate varieties: We have a standard menu of 16 flavors of truffles but typically have about 22 flavors in our display case with seasonal flavors and whims of fancy flavors. Some of our seasonal flavors include apple cider, pumpkin pecan, sour cherry, passion fruit, coconut, Key lime, eggnog, fresh mint (made with chocolate mint from my garden) and many more!
Chocolate brands: Santander, El Rey, Guittard, Vintage Plantations, and from my friends in Costa Rica, Hugo and Hubertien Hemerlink.
Signature chocolate: Caramel with Sea Salt and Lucille’s Vanilla (this tastes just like my Mom’s chocolate pudding when I was a kid – her name was Lucille.
Most unique piece: Shiitake, and Lemongrass with Ginger, and maybe some of my tea flavors.
Personal favorite: It would be hard to say, like picking a favorite child! My standard answer is which ever one I am eating at the time you ask!
Personal quote: “Have fun, be good to yourself!”
Eclat Chocolate24 South High St., West Chester, PA 19382610-692-5206 • www.eclatchocolate.com
Chocolate philosophy: It’s very simple – let the chocolate taste like chocolate. You can incorporate different spices, herbs, teas etc., but those flavors should be used only to strengthen the already underlying flavors. The old mantra that “less is more” is very important.
Inspiration: In the early 90’s I was ready for a change and wanted a different professional path than what I was ever going to get in the states so I decided on a sabbatical year over in Europe.The planned one year away turned into 14 years of working in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. In 1996 I became the first American to pass the exam for Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier in Germany. After this, I chose to specialize in all aspects of chocolate manufacturing and I chose very carefully where and why I worked in each country. From chocolate manufacturing from the bean, to industrial manufacturing of 50,000 truffles or more a day, to artisan style techniques, I was very fortunate to experience it all. The years at le Compagnon du Devoir may have been the most important.
Business profile: Our shop has definitely a more European feel to it. We use sparse color in our product and have not jumped on the airbrush style that is really popular right now. We believe our products should be simple and elegant. We believe our shop in West Chester is modern but approachable. Whenever possible, Éclat utilizes paper stocks with recycled fiber contents, as well as being FSC certified; meaning the paper stock has received the Forest Management and Chain-of-Custody certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council. In addition, paper selections often include products that are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which focuses on “the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the protection of wildlife, plants, soil, water, and air quality”. We also strive to choose manufacturers with the same level of care and environmental standards.
Chocolate varieties: We do a variety of core flavors – roughly 25 that have become customer favorites. We, of course, do seasonal flavors that pass with certain seasons. It’s important to create a seasonal chocolate to show respect to the ingredients that are only at their peak at that time of year or the seasonal holiday. We also like to do things spontaneously. If we find out we can get, for example, fresh hops from a local brewery today, we jump at the chance of doing some thing new. We will use some rare and interesting ingredients, but only if we feel it enhances the chocolate. The whole bacon thing we never really embraced.
Chocolate brands: Most of our chocolate for Éclat is made for us by a few smaller manufacturers around the world that have very specific machines that simply cannot be bought off the shelf, although we have started making some varieties locally. The port of Philadelphia is the largest port in the country for cocoa beans which will be more useful in the future. We do use Callabeut, Cocoa Barry and Valrhona chocolate at times for different products. Regardless of the chocolate we use, whether we make it ourselves or another smaller manufacturer, we always work only with single-origin chocolate. This gives us the possibility to work only with countries that don’t have political or working conditions that we do not want to encourage. For example, we stopped using known sourced ingredients from Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) a long time ago.
Signature chocolate: Our liquid caramels are possibly our most popular, but our Premium Cru Peruvian Nacional chocolate that we made this year is like no other chocolate in the world. Nobody else has it, since we personally harvested it with a few friends in Peru this year and oversaw every detail while making all the critical decisions in the manufacturing process.
Most unique piece: The Peruvian Nacional is by far our most unique as far as all the work that has gone into it. We hand selected the top 5% of the rarest beans in the world while they were being harvested. From harvesting the beans ourselves, we controlled every detail in the process from fermentation times to the roasting and conching from start to finish. For our size company, it was an amazing experience and the first time that I know of that a chocolatier has physically harvested his own beans, fermented them, dried them and finished the conching process.
Personal favorite: Besides our Peruvian National and the pure chocolate, I really like the star anise. But that is today, ask me tomorrow and I will probably say something else. I like them all for different reasons.
Favorite quote: A line I love from the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi is from Masuhiro Yamamoto summing up Jiro Ono with one phrase, “Ultimate simplicity leads to purity.”
Dude, Sweet ChocolateOwners: Katherine Clapner, Redding May408 W. Eighth St., Suite 102, Dallas, TX 75208512-773-5534 • www.dudesweetchocolate.com
On The Connect Network: /katherineclapner
Chocolate philosophy: As chocolate has so many complexities from the bean to the producer, I believe the complexities should be capitalized upon. Adding sweet to savory, savory to sweet, vegetables, fruits, vinegars and, yes, meat. I believe that I have just begun to scratch the surface of what the possibilities are and look forward to the journey it takes me on. I believe I never will finish, and am very happy about that.
Inspiration: I was a pastry chef for 20 years and chocolate was and is always the best seller. After working with Stephan Pyles for a number of years, I learned that it was the most versatile of all the mediums and did an experiment for gifts for my now business partner, Redding May, while he was with Merrill Lynch for corporate gifting. The project became larger than the original idea and, luckily for me, the inspiration was there. The complexities and the fact that I could throw anything at it made me extremely happy.
Business profile: Products are set as dudes and sweets, giving an opposing profile for each grouping ranging from truffles, soft chocolate toffees, fudges, Russian marshmallows, the nut group, chocolate salami, bourbon and vodka potions (with Breckenridge Distillery), artisan molded and candy bars. All our products are housed in kraft and or apothecary bottles with brown stickers. No ribbons and bows. Our low budget gave us the greatest gift of this and the décor (or lack thereof) with metro shelving, butcher block tables, antique cabinets and tool boxes (which lead to our powder-coated lunch boxes). It is about the chocolate first and foremost. Although we are in a very artistic neighborhood, our clientele runs the complete gamut of society and ages. Thank heavens for that.
Chocolate varieties: We change our menu three times a year with a core group in each category that stays. Often we bring back items upon demand. We have around 50-70 different items if you include the special items I make weekly to play.
Chocolate brands: In order of usage – Valrhona, Tcho, El Rey, El Guittard, Damori and, hopefully, Pacari soon.
Signature chocolate: Depends on who you ask. It is weird that the nut items still sell the most, however the chocolate “salami”(California marzipan, Medjool dates, figs, cocoa nibs and chocolate) is now giving it a close run for the money. Also the Albatross fudge (Rogue Creamery Blue Heaven fudge) seems to be holding its own.
Most unique piece: Have not found it yet. Some say the Porcini Toffee, but I did some great Cracklins with chocolate just recently.
Personal favorite: I think the Parique will always be special to me. Parique tobacco, cognac and Valrhona, what’s not to love about that?
Personal quote: “Remain true to your vision. Once you open the door to not, it will be virtually impossible to close.”
John & Kira’sOwners: John Doyle and Kira Baker-DoyleOffice: 161 West Wyoming Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19140800-47-4808 • www.johnandkiras.com • www.facebook.com/JohnandKiras
Chocolate philosophy: My philosophy has shifted because of a recent trip to a cocoa plantation in Madagascar where I was able to see the entire process of cocoa cultivation, from seed to bean. I’ve grown to respect the phenomenal trip that our chocolate [Valrhona] takes from Northern Madagascar to France to Philadelphia and then the work that we do to the final shipment to our customers. It’s an extremely complex and interesting voyage and there are so many different ways in which value is added to the product through the ways in which the bean is fermented and conched. My respect for chocolate has grown dramatically.
Inspiration: I was originally a financial analyst for a bank, but I always felt like I should be doing something more interesting, so I decided to realign my career. I took a job as a cook at a restaurant in Manhattan, and that’s when I discovered I loved working with chocolate. After a few years of cooking in New York, I ended up working at the White Dog Café in Philadelphia, a restaurant known for its environmental sustainability and community engagement. It was here that I was introduced to the farmers who sold their products to the restaurant, and it was really the beginning of the whole farm-to-table movement. Eventually I decided to open my own business that would combine my love for chocolate with the idea of using local ingredients and working closely with the farmers who brought in the ingredients. I really wanted to tell the story of these farmers and the people behind the wonderful ingredients we were using. It was a unique concept because my goal was to produce a very high level chocolate product, in the style of La Maison du Chocolat, but using local products. One day at a show, Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine, tasted our chocolates and declared them to be her favorite. She put them on the cover of the magazine, and then things kind of exploded – thousands of people called and placed orders, and the mail-order business really took off from there.
Packaging: We are a mail-order company, and our packaging is very boutique-ish – our boxes come in beautiful colors and are simple but stylish, finished with letter pressed cards featuring our logo.
Chocolate varieties: We have seven main products with lots of flavor variations.
Signature chocolate: Our nine-piece ladybug medley. To make them, we hand-paint 62% dark chocolate shells with colored cocoa butter, each one unique, and fill them with a dark Valrhona 64% chocolate ganache and a hint of Singing Dog vanilla sourced from Indonesian farmers. The perfect gift to tell someone you love them.
Chocolate brand: Valrhona.
Personal favorite: Our Chocolate Figs. They’re made with organic dried Calabacita figs from a small family farm in Spain, and we fill them with a whiskey infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache, then hand-dip them in 62% chocolate. They are amazing. Kira and I made these on the Martha Stewart Show and they have also been featured twice in Oprah’s magazine. Wine Spectator loves them as well.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
–Robert Frost, from The Road Not Taken
BETA5Owners: Adam Chandler, Jessica Rosinski413 Industrial Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6A 2P81-604-669-3336 • www.beta-5.com
Chocolate philosophy: Our work at BETA5 is guided by the following five principles:
- FLAVOR: Our work is guided by ingredients. We do our best to source the highest quality products available, and our recipes are balanced to enhance their flavor.
- CREATIVITY: Creative inspiration is at the core of BETA5. Through our products, we hope to tell stories, entertain, and intrigue.
- SURPRISE: We provide you with the unexpected; you provide us with an open mind.
- INSPIRED BY NATURE: We’re continuously inspired by our surroundings. Our flavors flow with the seasons and our products take organic forms drawn directly from nature.
- RESPONSIBILITY: We take food security seriously by supporting small-scale food production and developing relationships with the people who grow our food.
Inspiration: It was a trip to Belgium, France and Spain to learn from some of the best chefs in the business. They showed me what was possible with chocolate, and inspired the philosophy and creative direction of our company.
Business profile: Our shop is located in an industrial warehouse, just outside of downtown Vancouver. The store is minimal in design, with a Scandinavian influence. We wanted to stay true to our industrial location, and our shop fixtures have been built by a local woodworker using reclaimed shipping pallets. The décor is accented by hand-blown glass lights made by a local design and manufacturing company, Bocci. Our minimal aesthetic is continued through our packaging design. We have worked in close collaboration with local designers Glasfurd & Walker to develop custom packaging for our filled chocolates, bars, caramels, chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, and an endless array of new products. Our products are made by hand, in small batches. We do as much in house as possible, from hand-painted transfer sheets, to purees made from locally-sourced fruits and house-candied citrus. We take great care in selecting ingredients and do our best to preserve their essence in our finished products. We have recently launched a pastry program to complement our chocolate selection. We are now making a selection of laminated pastries, cream puffs, cookies and desserts in jars.
Chocolate varieties: We have a selection of 12 signature filled chocolates (banana, coconut-lime, imperial stout, 72%, crispy praline, tobacco, earl grey, jasmine, lemon verbena, espresso, olive oil, whisky), plus an assortment of chocolate-covered fruits and nuts (we call them ‘pebbles’), creamy butter caramels (salted butter, mango-passionfruit, and seasonal flavors which have included raspberry, pumpkin pie, spiced apple, dark chocolate + licorice…), and our very popular Chocolate Union packs. The Chocolate Union is a monthly subscription program, where each month we develop five new products focused around a central theme (e.g. February = A Tropical Adventure, May = Signs of Life, August = Roadside Fruit Stand…). This program gives us as cooks an outlet for our creative energies, and it gives us a way of connecting with our customers and sharing a story through chocolate.
Chocolate brand: We use exclusively Michel Cluizel chocolates.
Signature chocolate: Our signature chocolate is the Caramelized Banana. We slowly roast the white chocolate to develop a rich caramel flavour, then blend with fresh banana, vanilla bean and dark Venezuelan rum, in a thinly molded, hand-painted chocolate shell.
Most unique piece: Our two most unique filled chocolate are the Imperial Stout and Tobacco. For the Stout, we combine Green Flash Brewing Co.’s Double Stout with a 45% milk chocolate to make a creamy filling for this molded chocolate. The Tobacco is an infusion of premium Kentucky pipe tobacco blended with a fruity 64% dark chocolate from Papua New Guinea. Both of these fillings blend non-traditional flavors to accentuate the inherent flavors of the chocolate.
Personal favorite: There are four pieces that I like snacking on – the Imperial Stout and Olive Oil chocolates, our Mango-Passionfruit caramels, and Caramelized Marcona Almond ‘Pebbles’ (caramelized Marcona Almonds, coated in a layer of 63% dark chocolate). The Imperial Stout is a filling that we have spent a long time developing and the flavor of the rich, dark beer pairs really well with the creamy milk chocolate. The Olive Oil has an incredibly smooth texture due to the use of the oil instead of butter to finish the ganache. The mango-passionfruit caramels were something that I first tried on a visit to Jacques Genin in Paris, and I was determined to figure out how they were made. After numerous tests, we finally landed on a recipe that’s perfectly balanced and brightly flavoured with passionfruit, Then the Marcona Almonds are the ultimate chocolate-covered almond. Perfectly roasted, with a thin caramel shell, then coated in a layer of 63% dark chocolate, they’re kind of addictive.
Compartes Chocolatier912 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90049310-826-3380 • www.compartes.com • Twitter: @Compartes • Instagram: @Compartes
Chocolate philosophy: I like to think of the chocolate as my canvas when I am creating my chocolate art. I feel like I am a chocolate designer so to speak, so I am not only designing the exotic flavor profiles within the chocolates themselves, but the patterns and prints that adorn the outsides as well. I also feel like chocolate is something that is supposed to be delicious, sweet and a little indulgent; creating modern spins on retro classics and taking flavors we all know and love and adding interesting or exotic little touches to those to create something that’s brand new to the palate, yet still familiar. Compartes is known as one of the top artisanal chocolate companies in the world and I feel like I am constantly trying to up myself, so to speak, to do new and different things and constantly challenge myself to keep creating and evolving. Since I have no formal chocolate training at all, I also like to just focus on what I do 100%, I don’t like to go and taste any other chocolates or chocolatier’s work or really read too much about what other chocolatiers are doing, I like to just be inspired by my own thoughts and surroundings and have my thought process be 100% pure in my creation. Also, I feel like Los Angeles does not really have any chocolate scene, as opposed to somewhere like New York or San Francisco which have flourishing chocolate scenes, so I am definitely trying to put LA on the map and create something that is uniquely Angeleno, inspired by Los Angeles and its diversity of cultures and being the entertainment capital of the world, I use LA as my inspiration really for my unique line.
Inspiration: My family actually purchased Compartes when I was about 15 years old and I absolutely love chocolate and food in general, so it really was just a natural progression. Growing up in the food business (my family owned a wellknown wine company as well) I was able to taste amazing flavors and ingredients in all the best kitchens in LA, so I acquired a gourmet palate at an early age, some say at the age of 2 or 3. When I saw this opportunity to take a long-stagnated almost forgotten-about chocolate store, Compartes, and totally re-envision and reinvigorate into something modern and trendsetting and amazing, I saw it as a challenge to myself to become the best chocolatier I can be. Now, having been recognized in over 100 media outlets, named top in the nation and being the only chocolatier on the Forbes list, I have definitely come into my own. I absolutely love chocolate and I feel like it’s such an amazing thing to work with and really everything tastes better with chocolate anyway so it’s almost like no matter what I blend it with I can make it work. Haha! In reality, I am constantly inspired by tasting amazing and interesting exotic ingredients from across the globe, I travel to different countries in search of exotic and rare spices or fruits to blend into my chocolate which helps fuel my other passion, traveling. To get to do both is like a dream come true for me. I live, dream and breathe chocolate all day long. I really think I have the best job in the world: what can be better than getting to play around with one of the world’s most delicious ingredients, chocolate, all day long in a kitchen for a living? I’d say I am definitely living the dream and I am really excited about all my future plans for Compartes and taking it to a whole new level next year – I constantly challenge myself and I constantly want to grow and make more and more people aware of the unique thing that I do here at Compartes. I feel like I definitely put a young face on chocolate, an American face, a new generation, so to speak, of chocolatiers and I am really happy that I am considered the “poster boy” for that, it’s really an honor. I am able to really show people that if you just practice your craft and hone it and hone it, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish, I think every batch of chocolate I make is amazing and each batch gets better and better every time, I always want to outdo myself and I am just so excited to see where this journey takes me next!
Business profile: Chic and modern with a hint of traditional, Compartes Boutique chocolate shop in Brentwood, Los Angeles, is a gallery of handmade chocolate art. Wall to wall chocolates with glass viewing windows into the factory and a cute and secluded outdoor cushioned seating patio fit with water fountain and exotic plants. Compartes is definitely known for its trendsetting philosophy of being ground-breaking in not only our chocolates themselves but the gorgeous packaging they are presented in. Everything we do is custom-made for us to be unique and different from everyone else out there. Compartes as a brand is definitely playful, stylish, sophisticated, funky, interesting, preppy and again totally Angeleno. As a native Angeleno, I have created a brand around everything I like and my surroundings in LA that inspire me. There’s nowhere else in the country you will see chocolates adorned with palm trees, Aztec prints, plaid, argyle and animals all in one box, it’s definitely very imaginative and very young and vibrant, bringing chocolate to a new generation of chocolate lovers. It’s also not overly fussy, we just make really great chocolate, we don’t try and do pastry or ice cream or anything else, it’s almost like I feel we should stick to what we are good at, really great chocolate with very interesting flavor profiles in chic and unique packaging and it works for us! Our branding emits a classic, luxurious and vintage feel reflecting our long standing tradition and fashion-oriented, stylish and delicious Signature Truffles coupled with a modern young and vibrant approach to reflect our team of young chocolate artists.
Chocolate varieties: We have countless flavors and varieties of chocolates! Our Signature Truffles feature hundreds of exotic flavors, using ingredients from across the globe, fusing them together to create unique flavors such as Raspberry Pink Pepper, Mango Chipotle, Smoked Sea Salt, Peach Rosemary, Caramelized Plantain and many more! A lot of our flavors are seasonal and some extra special ones such as Cocoa Fruit will appear in the store for only one day in the year. In addition to our truffles, we continue to hand-dip our line of traditional fruits and nuts, including our famous chocolate-covered apricots and orange 88 peel; homemade peanut butter honey sea salt cups, toffees, sea turtles and more!
Chocolate brands: We use several different brands of chocolate in creating our confections, depending on which ones we are making or the flavors we are blending into them. I am always open to new ingredients, new chocolates, etc all the time so people are constantly sending me samples of stuff and when I find anything I like, I use it. I definitely want to support other food crafters around the world and if I think it’s good, I use it.
Signature chocolate: Compartes is definitely known for our chocolate and salt combinations. Even though chocolate and salt is now done everywhere, we have been creating confections using savory and sweet and salty for over 10 years, before it was popular. Our Salted Caramel, Smoked Salt ganache and Honey Peanut Butter Sea Salt are among our top sellers. We are definitely known as the “go-to” place for combinations of chocolate, salt and various ingredients.
Most unique piece: Our Signature Truffles are our most popular and unique items, the flavors are seasonal, exotic and unbelievably delicious with in-store specials made in micro batches. Most people come in and look for the chocolates that don’t even have a name tag on them, where we test exotic ingredients and new flavor profiles. These are the definitely most unique and may never be made again!
Personal favorite: My personal favorite is always the newest creation I make (haha). I am constantly trying to create new items and flavors in order to keep it fun and interesting for myself. Personal quote: “Chocolate is Art. Cocoa is the Ultimate High.”
Xocolatti172 Prince St, New York, NY 10012212-256-0332 • www.xocolatti.com
Chocolate philosophy: For me, chocolate is the perfect medium to express my creative thoughts and ideas. I’ve always been a creative, imaginative person and through chocolate I can turn those ideas into an art form that encompasses all of one’s senses. You can sculpt, paint, mold, and flavor chocolate. Together with the ability to hand-make chocolates and find superior ingredients from across the globe, one is able to create an edible piece of art. Chocolate that is given the utmost attention to detail, and one that is handcrafted, brings about an experience that one may not feel through mass production. I strongly believe that presentation is very important, as people eat with their eyes first. In all, chocolate is a medium that should be experienced with all your senses. All of our chocolates are handmade, and contain no preservatives.
Inspiration: My mother, she is an exceptional cook, and always encouraged me to follow my passions since I was little kid. From the beginning I was always more of the creative, imaginative person and had a liking for creating things – paintings, sculptures, making desserts. So when I graduated from college, I helped my mom out in her wedding cake buisiness/hobby and she encouraged me to start something on my own. She taught me how to make chocolates and that’s how I got really interested in it. She is my partner now.
Business profile: Our store is a 150-square-foot cube, where the walls are stacked with our boxes from floor to ceiling. It serves as decoration and inventory, as I can use each and every box in our store to make and create a custom chocolate box. It’s a very unique concept which lots of our customers love. When people first visit our shop, they think of it as a bank vault, or Harry Potter’s wand shop. Overall, it’s a very interactive experience for the customers as they are able to choose our chocolates from the wall, and during holiday season they can actually remove prepackaged boxes from the wall. Furthermore, during holiday seasons we are able to change the color and pattern of the walls to reflect a certain theme. For example, last Christmas we made a band of red boxes in the store to make it look like a packaged Christmas gift box.
Chocolate varieties: We have 16 different types of truffles, seven Slates (very thin bars), five clusters, and gelato and hot chocolate which are interchanged in summer and winter. What brand of chocolate do you use? Valrhona.
Signature chocolate: I would say it is our sake truffle. Early on in our company we became known for the sake truffle, as it was very different and very good at the same time. It is the smoothest, most delicate truffle we offer, and many of our customers love it! I think we are able to say, that we are the first and only company to make a sake truffle. Most people always pair chocolates with wines and champagnes, and we just wanted to offer our customers something totally different.
Most unique piece: I would say olive oil and basil truffle.
Personal favorite: I love caramel, I usually don’t have a sweet tooth for any candies or chocolates, but for some reason I love the salted caramel truffle. I’ve always liked caramel since I was young, it just has such a unique flavor and texture. It reminds me of British toffee that I used to have when I was younger, and conjures up memories of my childhood.
Favorite quote: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.“– Albert Einstein
Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate1819 McGee St., Kansas City, MO 64108816-842-1300 • www.elbowchocolates.com
Chocolate philosophy: It is two-fold. First, to achieve balance between the flavor of the chocolate and the flavor/ingredients in the ganache or caramel. They need to work in harmony with one another and not overpower each other. Second, to utilize only natural, fresh flavors to achieve the true flavor of the ingredient. We don’t use compounds or extracts.
Inspiration: I was first exposed to chocolate making when I was a pastry chef in Las Vegas. It wouldn’t be for another three or four years that I would have an opportunity to really experiment with flavors and techniques, but once I did, I knew that I had found my calling.
Business profile: In addition to our bonbon collections, in our store we also have several other products available, including 17 flavors of chocolate bars, chocolate covered almonds, toffees, turtles, pates de fruits and drinking chocolate mixes. The store has a modern feel to it with a chocolate lounge area for enjoying any one of our 14 flavors of drinking chocolate. It is in an artistic, industrial area of Kansas City. Our white and brown boxes are very elegant and sleek.
Chocolate varieties: We have 26 flavors of bonbons year-round and 10-12 of them change twice a year, for Fall/Winter and Spring/ Summer to reflect flavors and fresh ingredients appropriate to the seasons. We also release special collections throughout the years and around holidays.
Chocolate brand: Mostly Valrhona, but we also use one particular chocolate from El Rey.
Signature chocolate: Rosemary Caramel is our signature piece. It was one of the very first herbal infusions that I tried and has been in our collections ever since I started making chocolates. Most unique piece: I just finished making an applewood smoked bourbon ganache. I think it is going to be a piece that people either love or hate!
Personal favorite: I think the Bananas Foster piece is my favorite. It combines one of my favorite desserts of all time within a chocolate shell. We go through the trouble to flambé the bananas, just as you would while making the dessert and the flavor really pops.
Personal quote: “While humans are not perfect, striving for perfection in everything you do on a daily basis will, at the very least, allow you to achieve a very high level of excellence.”
SucréOwners: Tariq Hanna and Joel DondisShops: 3025 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA, 70115 and 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie, LA, 70002Confection Studio: 3930 Euphrosine St., New Orleans, LA 70125504-708-4366 • www.shopsucre.com
Chocolate philosophy: Keep it simple. Do not over-complicate the flavors and especially do not mask the natural flavors and tones of the bean. Select a great base chocolate to start with and compliment the chocolate with secondary flavors, not the other way around. Also, only work with product and producers you believe in.
Inspiration: The expected story about me is that I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, close to the national cocoa processing plant and our neighborhood always had the scent of chocolate in the air. It sounded good but is so cliché. That is not what inspired me, it’s what turned me off to chocolate as a child. My love for chocolate today is not based on the fact that I love eating chocolate, it’s the fact that I love the science and the possibilities of chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating it now, especially knowing I can manipulate it into whatever I want. I also have to pay special tribute to the people in my life that inspired me to pursue this career, namely, Gunther Heiland, Norman Love, Anil Rohira, Stephan Iten, Hans Baumann and, of course, my wife Jennifer. Through all their guidance, advice and inspiration, my career would not be where it is today. Because my career has been immersed in chocolate, the molecular structure of theobromine is tattooed on my forearm. The other reason is, well, chicks dig chocolate!
How long has your shop been in business? We opened our first Sucré – A Sweet Boutique in April of 2007, and then in November of 2008, we moved our production to a dedicated Confection Studio to handle the demand. In December of 2010, we opened our second location and we are currently planning the opening of our third shop in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans.
Business profile: Sucré prides itself on offering the absolute confection experience and being a one stop shop for all things sweet. From gelato and sorbets, to macarons, entremets, petits gateaux, viennoisserie, wedding and specialty cakes and, of course, chocolate, artisan bars and confections. Our setting is an impeccable, streamlined space with a hint of midcentury modernism in the brand and the retail space. Set in a comfortable pallete of pastel pistachio green and light brown wood accents, Sucré lends itself to a fun upbeat atmosphere for a quick coffee and macaron escape, to after dinner dessert on date night. Our Garden District Magazine Street location sees very busy afternoon tourist traffic during the day and a brisk after dinner crowd mainly made up of locals and tourists. Fortunately, Sucré is on the cities list of 20 must-see places in New Orleans. A major objective of ours was to maintain mass appeal by catering to all levels of sophistication and income.
Chocolate varieties: We offer 15 different standard bonbons and pralines along with eight different Artisan Bars. We create seasonal collections for Christmas, Valentines, Mardi Gras, Easter, Spring, Mother’s Day, Summer, and Fall; each consisting of at least three different chocolates. Our Artisan Bars are 100- gram bars of Milk, Dark or White chocolate with inclusions. Some of the more popular bars are the “Nibs and Brittle Bar” a 38% milk chocolate studded with pieces of pecan brittle, caramelized cacao nibs and fleur de sel. Also popular is our newest white chocolate bar with dried strawberries, crushed Amaretti cookies and cacao nibs.
Chocolate brand: I use Felchlin exclusively and have done for the last 15 years. They offer me a huge range of incredible single bean chocolates along with great blends. I find the product lends itself well to my palate and my style of flavor creation. Other than the fact that they make what I believe is my favorite tasting chocolate and is very user friendly, I have grown fond of the people and philosophies of the company. I was fortunate enough to spend some days this summer in Schwytz at the Felchlin factory creating my own blend of chocolate along with 10 of my esteemed peers. In the process, I learned in great detail the level of attention that every small batch of chocolate receives as well as the farmers they “cultivate” around the world and, of course, the great care and attention they pay to their dedicated employees.
Signature chocolate: Sucré’s Signature chocolate is the Avery, a caramel double cream milk chocolate ganache made from the Felchlin 49% Maracaibo Creole and finished with a pinch of fleur de sel. The piece is piped in a rosette, enrobed in 65% Maracaibo and finished with yet more fleur de sel.
Most unique piece: Currently, I would have to say my newest Holiday Truffle, a 64% Madagascan ganache finished with Tahitian vanilla and toasted cardamom.
Personal favorite: My favorite piece that I make is the Meuniere. It is a white chocolate ganache blended with Beurre Noisette and salt in a fleur de lis mold. It’s very New Orleans.
Favorite quote: Gunther Heiland once told me “Sugar is the enemy.” A simple philosophy that I hold true every day in creating new product. Without the reliance on sweetening with excessive sugar, it is the challenge of extracting great flavor and sweetness from a natural product. I’m often accused of not make very sweet chocolates or desserts, and that is a compliment to me. I spend a great amount of time exploring fantastic products, and that’s what drives me, so why ruin it.
Advice to young chocolatiers: The best bit of advice I can give any young chocolatier or pastry chef is simply, have fun, don’t over think it, and for God’s sake, don’t take yourself too seriously. We are the fun ones. Take the time to enjoy yourself and what you do, and you will find endless sources of inspiration.
Rick Jordan Chocolatier14882 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO 63017636-230-9300 • www.rjchocolatier.com
On The Connect Network: /RickJordan
Chocolate philosophy: There is a unity of flavor, texture and aesthetics – and intent is their binding. I believe it is paramount for there to be a real origin to any piece; that there is intention behind its creation and not simply for the sake of doing, and that every detail of every step in the processes to be nailed. Regarding flavor and texture, if you can’t cook, there’s no sense in going forward with aesthetics and if you can’t mind the aesthetics, then it is a slap in the beautiful face of what you have made.
Inspiration: A man, a chocolate demi-god, my chef and forever my inspiration, Patrick Roger, MOF. I first discovered him back in culinary school doing research for a project and I had never been so moved by someone that absolutely embodied their work; he was complete, perfect, and my immediate connection was indescribable. It spoke clearly to me and I knew this was what I was supposed to do. Incredibly, and I do mean incredibly, the fates aligned us in 2010 when I was the first American invited to go work with him. I still can’t believe it happened. There was Rick before that experience and Rick after that experience; I learned what I was made of and how much harder I could push myself. He broke me and built me back up again; I made life-long brothers and sisters there and as brutal as the work was, I miss it all so much and would do again right now. I went to my oasis of inspiration and become part of it, who gets to do that? I am humbled and inspired by this man and his team; it is reflected in everything I do.
Business profile: My boutique and lab are in one space which is located in the west county of St. Louis, Missouri. My clientele include myriad people, from neighborhood locals to out-of-town visitors who heard about us. We do a lot of work with the casinos, country clubs, events and weddings. The boutique is very modern and minimal with breathing space between products; there is glass running the length of it that shows my lab where everything is made. There are a lot of toys back there and people really like to see them work. Visually the boutique is stunning to walk into; everything was custom made; the cases and back wall with the logo cut into it with glowing light block behind it. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a complete stranger walk in and be so moved by what I’m doing here. If gratification could pay the bills, I would be a very rich man. My chocolates are openly displayed and run the length of the window into the lab. Customers select a box size and we guide them through the collection to fill their box. My packaging is custom made, reflecting the pale green, blue and dark brown colors of the boutique. The scheme came to me driving to my pastry chef job one spring morning while looking at a farm. The farm was just turning green, the dead tree line was dark brown, and the sky a pale blue, it was natural and beautiful. In addition to our chocolates (ganaches, pralinés and caramels), we make a variety of other products; panned nuts and crispearls, bars, wrapped caramels, lollies, spreads, confitures, unique items such as our crunch, our cacao infused honey from our beehives, and we are well known to make the best orangettes and the best French macarons.
Chocolate varieties: We have 12 chocolates available on display at a time with around three that we rotate out to keep things changing a little bit. There are around thirty varieties in total that we make; some ongoing and some seasonal. About seventy-five percent of the menu is static, with twenty-five percent changing with the seasons and with what I have available to work with; we use a lot of ingredients local to Missouri that are available at different times of the year.
Chocolate brands: We use Cacao Barry, Valrhona, Cordillera and we also make chocolate from the bean. I have two conches and can make around forty pounds at a time.
Signature chocolate: Aaahhh the Cyclone. It is on our business cards! Most people go right to it because it is eye candy. It really ends up in almost every box, I think primarily because it is a clean flavored piece that most people can agree with, a very unctuous milk chocolate salt caramel; its texture is awesome, flavor is simple, clean and visually it is beautiful.
Most unique piece: Probably the Blix – a balsamic, honey and rosemary dark chocolate ganache. It has a sweet, fruity flavor. The black cherry notes from the balsamic are sweetened by the honey, and the rosemary is a light earthy background. It is greater than the sum of all of its parts.
Personal favorite: This is hard, they were all my favorite at one time, BUT I have two that have to tie right now. I adore the composite piece of passion fruit ganache/praline, it is just such an unexpected right hook to the jaw of flavor, amazing flavor. I think that the union passion fruit and chocolate is one of the greatest gifts of the multiverse. Then the honey and nut demisphere is just so rewarding; to take care of the bees, harvest them and use the honey to make something else so beautiful is just awesome. Honey is piped into the top of the demisphere, then an almond praliné is made with only cocoa butter to preserve the nuttiness of the almond. A lot of love and work goes into that one.
Favorite quote: Walt Disney was quoted saying something about an unpleasant experience he had stepping on chewing gum upon touring Disneyland before it opened, so he decided that gum will not be sold in the park, and to this day they don’t. Minding the detail and seeing it through.