It is rare to find a program on TV all about our favourite ingredient; chocolate. Thankfully for us, Michel Roux Junior took it upon himself to find the perfect chocolate and provided us with an hour of entertainment on our favourite topic.
For clarity purposes, it is probably best to explain here that we as a company are 'chocolatiers', meaning we use French couverture in our famous products such as our luxury chocolate truffles or covering our melt in the mouth handmade honeycomb. We aren't however a 'chocolate maker' who sources beans from around the world and turns them into chocolate. Each discipline has it's own skill set, much like a coffee roaster and a coffee barista. 99% of chocolate companies in the UK are in the 'chocolatier' category like us, with perhaps only three 'chocolate makers' in the UK making chocolate from the bean. Most chocolatiers in the UK will use cheaper Belgian couverture in their products, however as Michel Roux Junior explained at the very beginning of his program, the best couverture is made in France, which is the very reason we use it in our creations. To find out more about the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate maker, you can read our recent blog article on the topic here.
The first chocolate factory Michel visited was the world famous Bernachon in Lyon. This is a family run chocolate company, now in it's third generation. Focusing on very small batches of chocolate, they are unique in the sense that they are one of very few companies that are a chocolate maker, making chocolate from beans that they source from around the world and using them in their chocolatier creations. The amazing thing to watch out for in this small bean to bar chocolate factory is the stunning machinery. Rather than having brand new stainless steel machinery, the family prefer to use antique chocolate machines. It is widely reported that the older machinery helps develop more interesting and intense flavours. We think it looks much better too! Interestingly, many people do not know that after the chocolate making process the chocolate will actually need to mature before being used, typically for 30 days, which takes away some of the bitterness.
After a couple of visits to chocolate shops in Lyon Michel then headed to Paris to meet some of France's best known artisan ‘chocolatiers’. The two chocolatiers he went to visit were Jean-Paul Hevin and Patrick Roger.
Jean-Paul is famous for combining traditional artisan techniques with a modern flair and a love for modern machinery. Patrick Roger is one of the most interesting men in chocolate, famous for his chocolates, but perhaps more famous for his chocolate sculptures. His sculptures include life size Gorillas, Alligators, a 10 meter high chocolate Christmas tree. Amazingly, his chocolate sculptures are now cast in bronze to preserve the incredible artwork for evermore.
Overall, we found the program informative and interesting. We are big advocates of consumers understanding the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate maker and we feel the program helped shed a bit of light on the different disciplines. We did however feel that the program lacked a little in direction with a slightly rushed ending with Michel Roux Junior visiting the largest chocolate maker in the world, Callebaut. Here he blended his very own chocolate using beans from different origins. We would have loved to have seen him blend his own chocolate at Bernachon, or our favourite chocolate maker, Valrhona!
If you would like to watch this program, it is available on the BBC iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b049k8c2/chocolate-perfection-with-michel-roux-jr