Tell us about your daily life. What does your job at the head of Maison du Chocolat consist of?
Since 2007, I have been in charge of the creation of artistic pieces and pastries. Today we are a team of four: one person takes care of the pastry part and the other two take care of the chocolate part. I oversee both. We then work on three areas of work.
What are they?
One is to maintain the classics. Maison du Chocolat has existed for over 40 years and has some iconic recipes that were created by Robert Linxe. The whole difficulty of this area of work is to maintain these great classics, that is to say to touch them without touching them, so as not to disturb our traditional clientele while attracting younger generations. Each year, we adjust two or three, to make them evolve in relation to taste which also evolves each year. In the space of 20 years, for example, it has evolved towards chocolate that is less fatty and with more cocoa.
So this is the most traditional part of your work?
Absolutely. The second area of work consists of creating seasonal collections. These are the specific recipes and boxes intended for recurring celebrations: Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween, etc. There are about 10 a year. To do this, we simply start with a blank page, then we write a story and create recipes. My job is to select raw materials and build a cultural library of tastes. I take a lot of inspiration for creation from meeting the suppliers. For example, a Corsican supplier gave me a sample of candied citron a few years ago. I was really fascinated by this so I travelled to meet him and after four days I had a gift box on the theme of Corsica. I store all these flavours and I draw from this to design the collections.
In our business, everything is allowed!
It’s creative work and is closely linked to the last area of work...
Indeed, the last area is comparable to research and development work. We don't set any time constraints and we open the doors onto what the chocolate of tomorrow might be. For example, we designed a range of savoury chocolates in 2013 with porcini mushrooms, olives and caramelised onions. And we made a gift box in collaboration with a perfumer, to create a parallel between a box of chocolates and the perfume Angel by Thierry Mugler. We analysed the perfume and made a chocolate that matched the top, heart and base notes. They are curiosity boxes, with the idea of bringing something else to the consumer, of transporting them. In terms of creation, we know what the starting point is but not where we’ll end or whether a project will lead to something, but we are testing possibilities, and this is also what inspires us for future recipes.
Is the fact that your job requires continual renewal difficult?
Asking where we are going tomorrow is an integral part of my job. You have to have time to explore, to discover the different worlds of the gastronomy professions, and all of this can only open us to new products and develop our profession. This may seem frightening because we are going into worlds we’re not familiar with and we don’t know where we’re setting foot. There are times when I don’t know where I am going but everything is allowed, and this is also the beauty of being a chocolatier.
As you have been in this profession for several decades, do you still have favourites or specialities?
For chocolates, I particularly like dark chocolate with blackcurrant. What is special about this is that I made an infusion with blackcurrant buds which brings floral notes at first, then fruity notes at the end. For the pralinés, I made twig gift boxes which are whipped pralines in the form of sticks, like twigs, with work on both the texture and the shape. It’s very addictive and it’s one of my specialities.
Being a chocolate maker means having the time to explore and discover the different worlds of the gastronomic professions
If you were starting out as a chocolatier today, what would you be interested in?
We recently created a wellness collection, where we switched to plant-based chocolate: is this what the chocolate of tomorrow will be? In any case, if I were 20 and I had to be self-employed, I would only make plant-based recipes. I think that all the fruit versions of chocolate will gradually become plant-based versions: it seems coherent to me that in a fruit ganache you can do without cream and butter. And I think this is the type of chocolate that will prevail in the years to come.