Monday, February 18, 2013

Follow the chocolate

Back in 2006, while at the fantastic bookstore RJ Julia in Madison, CT, I stumbled upon a little pink paperback called The Chocolate Connoisseur. Within days, I ate up Chloé Doutre-Roussel’s story about her life in the chocolate world.

While at the Salon du Chocolat in 2010, I was giddynot only because I was on a sugar highbut because I got to meet my chocolate idol in person. 

And then right before I left Paris in early 2011, I sat and visited with Chloé at her short-lived salon in the Marais and heard her discuss the finer points of developing and appreciating this “food of the gods.”

Since then, Chloé shuttered her salon and has been circling the globe (or at least South America), visiting cacao plantations and chocolate manufactures (pesky little job obligations). She’s also offering tours via, and I recently had the opportunity to “talk” with her about chocolate in Paris.

An American is going to Paris for the first time. Who are some don’t-miss chocolatiers they should visit?

First on the list would be Patrick Roger because he’s an artist. He uses chocolate to express his creativity. His shops also reflect this creativity—hey are like small universes, decorated with elaborate chocolate sculptures. Entering one of his shops is like stepping into Alice in Wonderland. He produces his own marzipan, praline, and jams. The ingredients all come from his country farm.

Another chocolatier not to be missed is Pierre Hermé who goes by the nickname: “Picasso of Patisserie.”  His whole approach to chocolate making is unique. He approaches it like one does a cake—with each layer of the structure he adds a different aroma.  His combination of flavors is so original.

I know you’re a purist, but what are some of your personal favorite bonbons?

I like a plain ganache, but the chocolate needs to be top quality. I also like a plain praline bar made with top quality nuts.

What’s your guilty pleasure in Paris?

I love to go to the cheese shops. Goat’s cheese with pain Poilâne is my guilty pleasure.  

You offer tours in Paris. Tell us a little about them.

I start my tour with an informal class where I explain how chocolate is made: how it can vary in quality, how to identify good quality with your eye, and lastly the sort of things to look out for when you taste chocolate. What I bring to this is my expertise and most importantly my enthusiasm, which I would say is infectious!

When we visit the chocolate shops, you will be invited to try and spot the difference between a chocolate, praline, or hazelnut. Spotting the quality of a chocolate will also be a skill I am keen to teach; participants should be able to tell if the chocolate has been frozen for instance. My aim is to change the way people think about chocolate. Generally people don’t think about what they are buying; with me, they cross a line. After a tour they should pay attention to what they are buying,

What do you like most about The City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)?
I enjoy Paris when I approach the city like a tourist. I love a good quality dark chocolate. I think eating good food that makes you happy is so important!

Moving beyond the boundaries of Paris, what nation are you most excited about right now, in terms of cacao production and/or chocolate bar production?

Countries that are waking up to new methods of producing are most notably Peru, Brazil and Mexico. There has been a dramatic change in the quality of bean and fine chocolate coming from these countries.

The United States is at the forefront of bean to bar production. Small independent producers are making chocolate of outstanding quality: Rouge, Patrick, Dandelion, are just a few examples. 

Curious about taking a tour with Chloé? Learn a little more at


  1. I really enjoyed meeting her at your book signing! Glad my appreciation for Patrick Roger is well-founded :) Thanks for the interview!

  2. Ahhh Pierre Herme ... I remember it well.

    The chocolate in Buenos Aires is a pale imitation of anything you get in France or the US or anywhere really. I wish she could teach them a thing or two ..

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