One of the chapters of my book that I found the most fascinating to research and write was the one dedicated to sweets, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for those of you that have followed me over the years. Beyond the beauty of these creations, I was on a mission to understand more about the industry and its evolutions overall. Locals and visitors might have a passing knowledge of the ways in which pastry and chocolate have changed in recent years — perhaps they recognize new flavors or new forms or even more creative packaging — but what I learned is that the shifts run much deeper.
One of the references in my research was Nicolas Cloiseau, a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in chocolate and the creative director of La Maison du Chocolat, his home for the last twenty years. What intrigues me about Cloiseau’s work is not only his perpetual task of reinvention and keeping classics “fresh” but how he tries to innovate without steering regular chocolate clients too far off course. He’s adventurous but just so. He’s also smart: he knows that it’s a gradual process to get chocolate lovers to take a break from their reliable favorites and consider other chocolate experiences. Recently, he partnered with caviar masters (caviarologues®) at Petrossian to develop a collection that blends his expertise in ganache with the highest quality caviar available. The result is indulgent, surprising and completely unique.
I spoke with Nicolas to understand more about his process and who he had in mind when creating the collection. And don’t miss the contest at the end!
Can you describe your creative process?
Through my discovery of new products and my encounters with small producers, I’ve developed a kind of taste library which I’m able to tap into when I’m experimenting. For me, it’s a long process of reflection. One day the ideas will click and the rest becomes obvious. There’s no real explanation aside from simply looking to create pleasurable moments around chocolate. My entire environment outside of the kitchen serves as inspiration.
How long does it take for your ideas to crystallize?
Each recipe is part of a collection and as such, time isn’t so much a question of conceiving of the recipe itself but finding a place for it within a collection. Sometime, I have recipes in mind that have been ready to roll out for ages but they don’t necessarily have a logical spot in current collections. Creating a recipe could take anywhere from twelve months to longer, according to the detail required.
Will the future of chocolate take a more adventurous direction?
Absolutely. Our parents’ generation remained rather classic when it came to flavors. Today, people are more curious. We live in a time when people move on quickly. What’s new today will be old tomorrow and consumers are perpetually looking for new flavor profiles and combinations. They’re looking for new sensations. Nothing is technically impossible, taste is the only limit.
What would you say to people who are reluctant to try some of your more unusual flavors?
I take full responsibility for creating the collections like L’Esprit Salé (savory chocolates) and Caviar & Vodka which are meant to be tried not only out of indulgence but out of curiosity. We had two types of consumer in mind:
– If you are a chocolate connoisseur, accustomed to grands crus, you know what La Maison de Chocolat does very well. In this case, these collections are a chance to bring their knowledge to the next level.
-If you’re not necessarily an expert but looking to be transported, or want to be surprised by unexpected flavor associations, these offer a chance to try something you’re not used to.
WIN A CAVIAR & VODKA GIFT SET FROM LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT!
This time, I have two sets to give away, for a U.S.-based reader and one in France (if you’re coming to France soon, that counts too!). Follow the instructions in the widget below to enter. Entries close on Dec. 6th, good luck!