Chocolate sculpture class. Day 1

image

The first thing I learned in chocolate sculpture class is to let go of expectations.  Contrary to my desires we will not be designing and building a sculpture based on our own imagination, we will be recreating one of Chef Leroux’s designs with a partner.  I understand the neccesity of this as well as the practicality but at first it was hard to accept.

After a brief introduction and some housekeeping we got right down to business choosing our sculptures and learning how to construct the bases.  Here we have entered the real meat of the class.  We began using and building different molds to build the main structures of our final sculptures.  Chef Leroux has a technique I really like using multiple pieces layered together to build a base for the sculptures.The finished result is nice because it gives the pieces a great lift and feeling of lightness while still being very stable.  Unfortunately it is time consuming and requires a lot of precision.

As I come to terms with recreating Chef Leroux’s showpieces I get more and more excited about the piece we are creating.  It’s a nice opportunity to work outside of my comfort zone and learn some great new techniques.  Chef Leroux really is a master of his craft.  Everytime he does a demo I walk away thinking, “OK I can do that.  It looks pretty straightforward.”  Then back at my station I realize that his superb mastery of his craft is why it looked easy.  I just have to trust that with practice I will develop similar hand skills and be able to execute with as much precision and grace as he does.

Bluegrass Country

image

image

image

When a nature lover like me is  preparing for a week long stay in the United States third largest city a moment in nature is required.  To fullfill this need I planned a days stay of rest and relaxation at a friends home in Paducah, KY. 

Paducah is a midsize town situated where the recently flooded Ohio and Illinios rivers dump into the Mississippi.  My friend’s home is on the edge of an open field and pond, thankfully in a higher part of town.  Nature has always been a source of inspiration for me and spending the day on the edge of this tranquil pond was no different.  In the morning a few deer grazed in the field and in the afternoon hummingbirds and butterflies danced through the air.  I’m a big fan of old barns of which Kentucky has an abundance including a fine specimen on the edge of the field.

Inspiration was abundant in the texture of soft grasses, the ridges of rusted metals, and rich blues of the clear sky.  I’m grateful for a day to relax and gather my thoughts about my upcoming class.  Already visions of sculptures including tranquil lily pads, stunning flowers, and shimmering dragonflies are flooding my mind, and increasing my excitement for my upcoming chocolate sculpture class.

On the road to inspiration.

My chocolate sculpture class begins Monday morning so I have three days and about six hundred miles to discover what other chocolate inspiration I might find.

Generally I am apprehensive about visiting other Chocolate shops.  Too often my visits begin with excitement over new flavor combinations and end in dissapointment as I taste poor quality chocolate and over or under flavored truffles.  I do my best to remain unbiased but over and over I find myself craving the familiar flavors of The Chocolate Fetish.  Sometimes one does find a diamond in the rough.

image

My chocolate philosophy is all about subtlty.  To me, the secret of a great truffle is balancing a disticnt flavor in a way that is recognizable yet allows the flavor of the chocolate to be the star of the show.  A truffle’s flavor should unfold gracefully and be enhanced by its flavorings, not overpowered by them.

First stop on the road to inspiration is Nashville’s The Cocoa Tree.  I find this little shop in an interesting block off North 5th Avenue nesstled amongst a cluster of local cafes and shady trees.  Founded by chocolatier Bethany Thouin The Cocoa Tree features Southern inspired flavors like Jack & Ginger and Yazoo’s Dos Perros.

I really enjoyed the Music City inspired artwork, especially the photo of a guitar adorned with truffles.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of Cocoa Trees truffles.  All of the chocolate was of good quality and I found some flavors delightfully well balanced.  Thanks Cocoa Tree for a pleasant visit and a little bit of inspiration along the way.

image

French Pastry School & Stéphane Leroux

The impetus for this blog is my upcoming trip to the University of Chicago’s French Pastry School to attend a course entitled “Chocolate Showpieces for Competition or Display.”  I have been blown away by Master Chocolatier Stéphane Leroux’s chocolate sculpture for years and jumped at the opportunity to study with him.  As you will read in his bio below Leroux is truly a master of his craft and each day as the class approaches my excitement to learn from someone of his caliber builds.  I find myself thinking, “Why keep all this inspiration to myself?”  The class begins on May 2nd and until I begin posting all the revelations I experience I’ll share some of the research I’m doing to prepare.

Stéphane Leroux

Chocolate Sculpture by Stephane Leroux

Stéphane Leroux, a native of Brussels, shares his unique talent and style teaching internationally, in addition to competing internationally. Leroux is considered the best craftsman of “chocolate matter in the world”. His three-dimensional works appear remarkably true to life. Acclaimed as a great master by his peers from Chicago to Tokyo, Paris to Buenos Aires, Stéphane Leroux is driven by the ethics of the Compagnons du Devoir du tour de France, an association supporting craftworkers and tradespeople. In 2001, he won first place in the Trophée Pascal Caffet in Troyes, France. He was twice named “Chocolate Creation” World Champion, and placed second overall in the 2004 World Pastry Championship. During the same year, he earned the Meilleur Ouvrier de France title, the highest distinction a pastry chef can achieve in his career. Leroux is currently a chocolatier and instructor for Belcolade (in Belgium) where he recently co-created a stunning Art Nouveau chocolate sculpture two meters in height for the Bruges Chocolate Festival in April, 2007. Leroux published a new book in 2008 entitled, Matière Chocolat that has now been translated into eight languages. In addition to the array of stunning images in the book, it also includes a practical manual illustrated with more than 1200 photos retracing step-by-step the techniques he has developed.

Another amazing showpiece from Stephane Leroux. Yes! This is made out of chocolate.

The French Pastry School

The French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago is a premier international institution of pastry arts education.  It offers the opportunity to work one on one with world-renowned chefs and learn from their direction, their stories and their successes and failures.  The French Pastry School also offers the opportunity to work with the latest in culinary technology in its state-of-the-art kitchens.  As it’s website says, “It strives to offer an innovative, effective, superior education in which students are equipped to achieve excellence in the pastry, baking and confectionary arts.”

In the begining…

Welcome to the Chocolate Fetish blog, a place where we can share what’s going on at the shop and our discoveries as we travel the world in search of an ever-expanding chocolate knowledge base.  We invite you to join the conversation as we explore the wonderful world of gourmet chocolate.