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).