“Mijn hemel ! Ik ben het zo zat” I wailed a week before I was to hang up my apron for good at Puccini Bomboni …. Oh , a translation? I was “totally over it” in modern day speak… the chocolate making that had been so good to me . The business that had rewarded me (and I it) was no longer what I wanted. It didn’t serve me to continue. What did serve very nicely was the prospect of sun sea and endless summertime and I was going after it on an island off the coast of Africa.
That was in 2006 , that was another life, another me.
Once you have chocolate in your blood there is no denying it. We in the business love it with a passion, it is a love hate relationship, we curse at this medium as we lovingly craft it . The bug , the chocolate virus, presents itself in various ways, from mildest cases of “I love some chocolates for the holidays ” to chronic ” OMG I can’t get through the day with out it”.
Once infected (there is no incubation period) you can be symptomatic, or you can be like me : a carrier. The dealer… There to get you hooked and supply what you need.
As artisan chocolatier I am one of the four horsemen of the Choc-pocalyse… I’m at the front of the jolly band , I’m the one in between the Angel of Death (Nutella) and the Angel of War ( Nestlé) . We gallop over populated areas spreading melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness with a bitter sweet undertone. Our shields are covered with purple foil and our swords drip with Couverture.
The innovator of the bunch , I spread new and exotic confections and each time the populace thinks they are over it I morph into something totally new and so it continues.
Enough of the parody , I was getting carried away with my fancy pants-ness . The thing is, I was over it , the repetition day after day , the masses of chocolate that would be lovingly and craftily transformed into things of beauty and then consumed at the door of the shop whilst the consumer texted unthinkingly . The work never ended, a stockpile was never completed … Thankful and thankless work that I lovehated to do.
Hence the virus symbolism; once it’s there it’s there.Even if it lays dormant for a while it will flare up again.
It hibernated inside me for a good 6 years … I did odd jobs, made special editions for a single customer or event here and there. But it was done in my opinion.
I loved the variety of private cooking . The hanging out with people , cooking and chatting and entertaining and getting PAID for it .
The Caribbean isn’t a great chocolate destination so ‘dinner theatre’ as it was described by one regular customer, was my creative outlet. The combination of being with people and doing what I love to do is 1+1=infinity.
Yes, that outlet, there has to be one or I will implode. I can’t not be doing something. I can’t not be creating. Be it baking , photography , cooking, writing. Something has to emanate from this factory that is PJ , it’s my purpose; it has to be because I feel so damn good when I’m doing it.
My latest endeavor , Chocolatasm, is a balls-out dive bomb back into the world of cacao. I could have done something a little more timid but no, this is a bonafide Chocolate House : ‘La Maison’ Chocolatasm has opened his doors ( yeah , my baby is a boy).
The idea was to provide something out of the ordinary , maybe I’m not so the exception in some European countries but seeing as I was to be operating in the USA, my endeavours would surely have some level of wow to them . Well, that’s what I was hoping at least…
All my truffles are called bonbons, yeah , I’m going to be technical and hissy about this . A truffle is no longer a truffle in the true sense of the word . Anything that has a soft filling is called a truffle these days and it drives me insane.
Chocolaterie Une zéro Une :
“A truffle is a confection that consists only of chocolate and cream. That’s it. The truffles (….) are hand shaped to resemble a ‘real’ truffle, of the fungi variety, and are dusted with cocoa powder. Bonbons are fillings that are coated with chocolate. The fillings can be ganaches (chocolate, cream, flavoring), pralines (ground nuts), marzipan, caramels or creams.” Karletta Moniz.
So my bonbons are made in a way I learned at school … I don’t use molds , I form my ganaches by hand , some are piped, some scooped and some sliced. I like the variety of textures and the effect those textures have on a flavour profile. My hazelnut Praline with cinnamon is light and airy , the rich thickness of its flavour is carried over your tongue as you bite into it , not heavy at all whereas the bright fresh tang of my Rhubarb ganache is a thick creamy bite that stays longer on your taste buds .
The same goes for the chocolate, a high cacao chocolate will either kill or carry certain flavour additions, I want the chocolate to be king of this castle , upstaging such a handsome product with overpowering flavours would be a crime,in my humble opinion, and I love the exploration of a flavour profile , that “CHOCOLATEcinnamonCHOCOLATEh a z e l n u tCHOCOLATE” kind of experience for want of a better description.
The shapes I want to be eye catching and original , I’m not one for adding colour or tons of decoration, the value of an artisan is how he is with the ‘couture’ element of the process , anyone can stick on a transfer these days and call it “my design”… yes, the flavour and the quality of the ingredients should carry a product but the appearance, when mimicked across the board can reduce the finest of confections to nothing more than “fancy candies” .
Harsh words? Yeah , I suppose so and I apologise for any bruised egos but its just the way I feel after being run through the mill of “No! Sloppy! Start again! No! That’s not the right shape! Dump it! Start again!” Quality is excellence ,and that excellence is standing out as exceptional in the true sense of the word.
My bonbons aren’t food, they are delicious compositions , created for one reason , the pleasure they give both taste wise and visually.
I’m blowing my own trumpet here but to be honest I AM extremely humble, I aspire to be a great chocolatier, I have many heroes and examples I follow. I feel passionately about certain aspects, well, the PJK fundamentals of chocolaterie, actually:
Be original , use the best ingredients available to you, MAKE IT YOURSELF! Keep it pure, and respect the chocolate.
I’m hoping that America appreciates my offerings, only time will tell and I’m sure there will be changes made , additions to and removals from my somewhat eclectic assortment. We’ll see.
One thing that won’t change? The love I feel when I am working .
Chocolatasm online boutique