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Education and training
Traditionally, chocolatiers, especially in Europe, trained through an apprenticeship with other chocolatiers. Today, it is equally common to start out as pastry or confectionery chefs, or attend culinary training specifically for working with chocolate. Being a master chocolatier involves perfecting the art of working with chocolate to create not only delicious desserts, but also beautifully and skillfully crafted pieces of art with the chocolate. Generally it takes years of experience and a good background of confections and pastries to master the art of working with chocolate. Chocolatiers must understand the physical and chemical aspects of chocolate, to not only create chocolates and other confections, but also to create sculptures and center pieces. Perfecting the technical aspects of design and the developing the art of flavor takes many years of practice.
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There are a variety of culinary schools and even specialty chocolate schools, such as the Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Canada, and The Chocolate Academy, with twelve schools worldwide. The French Culinary Institute also offers pastry and confectionery courses that are said to help a chocolatier learn the trade.
Programs of study at such institutions can include topics like:
- the history of chocolate
- modern techniques of cultivation and processing
- the chemistry of chocolate's flavors and textures
- chocolate tempering, dipping, decorating, and molding
- confectionery formulae based on ganache and/or fondant
- business management skills including marketing and production
Once a chocolatier has mastered the artistry of chocolate they may be considered a Master Chocolatier. The best of the best can be found competing in The World Chocolate Masters, a chocolate competition that started in 2005. Some of the greatest chocolatiers of today are Naomi Mizuno from Japan, Francisco Torreblanca, master Spanish chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini, Yvonnick Le Maux from France, and Carmelo Sciampagna from Italy. These master chocolatiers are some of the best in the world when it comes to designing and sculpting using chocolate. These master chocolatiers also craft pieces of chocolate with outstanding flavor and texture, said to be the best in the world by some. Chocolatiers must be able to work with chocolate in many different applications tempering, molding, sculpting, and decorating. Chocolate can be made into pieces, incorporated into pastries, or simply designed as a piece of art.
2007 World Chocolate Masters Winner: Naomi Mizuno Mizuno, from Japan, took home the title to the World Chocolate Masters competition in 2007. The competition was judged in four different categories, including: molded pralines, hand-dipped pralines, gastronomic chocolate dessert, small chocolate showpiece, and creative chocolate showpiece. Mizuno, 28 years old, was the youngest competitor ever from his nation. He is employed at a pastry school, Futaba Pastry.
Tempering: Tempering chocolate is a heat treatment method performed on chocolate involving heating and cooling the chocolate to result in desired characteristics like shininess of the chocolate or 'snap', the way it breaks. A chocolatier must know how to temper chocolate properly for different applications or for desired characteristics. Chocolate contains cocoa butter which crystallizes during the heat treatment of melting and tempering chocolate. The crystal formation in chocolate can affect many different attributes to the chocolate - mouthfeel, snap of the chocolate, the color, dull or shiny. Heating the chocolate at certain temperatures, around 86-90 °F (30-32 °C), for specific periods of time and then cooling the chocolate and working with, in alternating segments is referred to as tempering. There are machines that can temper chocolate for you, but many chocolatiers use marble slabs and hand-tools to cool the chocolate and work with it.
Molding: Molding is a design technique used in making chocolate pieces that are of a certain shape by taking liquid chocolate and pouring it into a mold and letting it harden.
Sculpting: Sculpting is a type of three-dimensional artwork, and in the case of a chocolatier, involves using only chocolate to create the piece of artwork. Sculpting may involve using molds and pieces of chocolate, and decorating the piece with designs in chocolate.
Chocolatiers in France
The presence of the chocolatier in France is significant because chocolatiers embody the French gastronomic identity of being artisanal and aesthetic in addition to Their maintenance of high standards of taste, production and craft. The stores of French chocolatiers are small boutique stores that create aesthetically outstanding and high quality chocolate products. French chocolatiers were threatened when Belgian chocolates entered the French market in the 1980s. Belgian mass-produced chocolate candies were sold in stores that closely resembled those French boutiques, but cost one-third to one-half the price. On that account, Belgian chocolate did very well in France at the time and captured almost half the confectionary gift market.
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