Alain Ducasse my coal drops yard Alain Ducasse my coal drops yard

Smooth Operator


Think you know chocolate? Unless you’re already familiar with the world of Le Chocolat – the boutique chocolatier created by multi-award-winning French chef Alain Ducasse in Paris in 2013 – then you really might want to think again.


That’s because Le Chocolat chocolate isn’t just as far removed from the mass-produced bars that fill our supermarket shelves as the chef’s Michelin-starred restaurants are from a high-street takeaway chain, it’s a long, long way from most ‘boutique’ confectionary brands as well.


You see, Ducasse approaches making chocolate with the same passion and near-forensic attention to detail he brings to any other food under his watch. (‘I want to know everything, I want to see everything,’ he says, ‘for example, when I am cooking asparagus, I need to know where it was bought from, who grew it; I need the whole story.’)


Most chocolates – even the very finest – are created using ready-made couverture chocolate (which is melted and then used for their product). The best couverture is excellent quality, crafted from some of the world’s finest cocoa beans. However, because it has already been ‘made’ before it reaches the confectioner, much of its flavour has already been determined, denying Ducasse the level of control he was determined to bring to his offering.


Le Chocolat confectionary, then, is not just handmade, it’s done so from scratch from hand-selected beans (by Ducasse’s appointed expert and which he oversees) and on vintage confectionary machines – some of which have had to be adapted from machines made to roast coffee or nuts and seeds (necessary to create his product at the boutique scale his strict quality control informs).

Alain Ducasse my coal drops yard
Alain Ducasse my coal drops yard
Alain Ducasse my coal drops yard

Would it surprise you, after all that, to learn it took him five years to develop the product and find the workshop in which every piece is produced on-site? Thought not…


Ducasse compares chocolate making with winemaking. ‘The variety of the beans, the type of soil in the country, the weather, all these things will change the flavour of the beans a little bit,’ he says. And it’s that ever-diligent attention to the ‘little bit’ in which the magic lies.


Because it really is all there in the taste, something that is only heightened by an understanding of the level of skill and quality that goes into each exquisite milk or dark chocolate – every one filled with its own perfectly executed praline, truffle or ganache.


There’s a lot being said and written at the moment about the benefits of finding succour in small pleasures during these times. Alain Ducasse’s beautiful Coal Drop Yards store is now back open for business and this is the perfect time to indulge yourself with the ultimate chocolate treat.


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This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the Autumn 2018 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Words: Rebecca Seal.

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