A chocolatier is a person or company who makes confectionery from chocolate. Chocolatiers are distinct from chocolate makers, who create chocolate from cacao beans and other ingredients.
Education and training
Traditionally, chocolatiers, especially in Europe, trained through an apprenticeship with other chocolatiers. It is now equally common for chocolatiers 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 desserts as well as skillfully crafted pieces of art 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 centrepieces. Perfecting the technical aspects of design and developing the art of flavor takes many years of practice.
There are a variety of culinary schools and specialty chocolate schools, including the Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Canada, and The Chocolate Academy, with twelve schools worldwide. The French Culinary Institute 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 these compete in The World Chocolate Masters, a chocolate competition that started in 2005. Leading chocolatiers include Naomi Mizuno (Japan), Francisco Torreblanca (Spain), Pierre Marcolini (Belgium), Yvonnick Le Maux (France), and Carmelo Sciampagna (Italy). Mizuno won the World Chocolate Masters competition in 2007. The competition was judged in four different categories: molded pralines, hand-dipped pralines, gastronomic chocolate dessert, small chocolate showpiece, and creative chocolate showpiece. At 28, Mizuno was the youngest competitor from his nation. He is employed at Futaba Pastry.
- Tempering: Tempering chocolate involves heating and cooling the chocolate to result in desired characteristics like shininess of the chocolate or 'snap', the way it breaks. Chocolate contains cocoa butter which crystallizes during the heat treatment of melting and tempering chocolate. 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 it in alternating segments is referred to as tempering.
- 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 involves using chocolate to create a piece of artwork. Sculpting may involve using molds and pieces of chocolate, and decorating the piece with designs in chocolate.
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