Stalls were laden with bite-sized delicacies crafted from cacao beans harvested all over the world and I left with a goody bag filled with sweet souvenirs and a chocolatey grin on my face.
My attention was captured by a stand which featured a remarkable statue of a head carved entirely out of chocolate. I stopped the man who was flitting about the stall in a white chef’s coat, chatting away to passersby, and he confirmed that he was the creator of the masterpiece.
The artist’s name is Paul Wayne Gregory, an enthusiastic young man who started off as a baker, went on to become a chef and then found his vocation as a Chocolatier.
He told me, he had entered the World Chocolate Masters culinary competition and couldn’t understand why he didn’t win, until he was told that his creations were too artistic for their formal, angular pieces. He then realised his gift as a true artist with a flamboyant flair. He’s not entering the contest this year as he’s now an elected member of the Ambassadors Chocolate Academy.
Everything in order
It took me a lot of convincing to sample his cacao concoctions and no word of a lie, they were to die for.
As I wolfed down a piece of chocolate with a passion fruit centre, he instructed me to eat slowly and let the chocolate melt, as I should be tasting the different flavours in the following order: chocolate – passionfruit – butter – caramel – acidity – back to passionfruit – back to chocolate. Strangely enough, he was right.
“How do you do that?!” I asked, still tasting the delicious flavours swirling on my palette. “It’s taken years of practice”, he replied with a tireless smile.
Looking at his ultra slender form, I had to ask the question: how come he isn’t hideously obese?! He said he’s one of the lucky few with a fast (I would say, high-speed) metabolism and someone who only needs three hours sleep a night to be raring to go for the day (I would not be a nice person to be around if I was running on that kind of schedule).
Paul’s passion has brought him much success and many awards, including providing Her Majesty the Queen with chocolates for her 80th birthday and an Award of Highly Commended by the Observer Food Monthly magazine.
The World Chocolate Masters Final takes place from 19th – 21st October in Paris and will be streamed live for 24 hours.
I also visited the Ecuador ChocoFest stand and discovered the art of ‘warming’ the chocolate in the palm of the hand before sampling it, which adds a creamy smoothness to its taste.
An Ecuadorian lady called Lourdes Paez told me about the Kallari chocolate brand, which is fully owned by a group of indigenous cacao farmers who have developed their skills to become fully fledged chocolatiers. They are involved in all aspects of the chocolate making process, from the harvesting to the marketing and managing of profits.
The Kallari Co-op was started to give the 850 Amazonian families a cash crop and a source of income that they could cultivate under the forest canopy and preserve the Amazon rainforest: one of the earth’s greatest natural resources.
I asked her, what about the farmers who struggle to understand the varied concepts of business? She nodded and said, it was difficult and time-consuming but there are academies and training programmes in place which assist the farmers in every way possible.
With 20 years experience in Marketing herself and owner of her own advertising company, Lourdes volunteers in Ecuador to help farmers get their business acumen up to speed.
She said, their relentless efforts have helped to encourage the government to take notice and it is now funding a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly chocolate factory, in the Napo Province within the Amazon Rainforest.
The factory will be designed by Architects Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation comprising of designers and students who work with communities in need, and is expected to be completed in a year.
The Chocolate Unwrapped event was surprisingly insightful and took me back to the roots of chocolate creation and forward to chocolate etiquette: tasting the chocolates in a way which maximizes the tantalizing experience.
It was an inspiring journey and if you want to embark on it yourself, get yourself down to the last day of events tomorrow: http://www.chocolateweek.co.uk
– Monica Sarkar
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