Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Chocolate Linguistics Part 6: Chocolatiers and Chocolate Makers

When asked I Pierrick Chouard, who makes chocolate for Vintage Plantations and who only weeks ago relocated his factory operations from Ecuador to the United States, to define the terms "chocolate maker" and "chocolatier," his first response was that "differentiation may not be the best way to promote artisan chocolate making." Setting up and fortifying different camps is a futile activity, I agree. But I continue to ask questions about cacao rhetoric (collected under the tab "Chocolate Linguistics" on this website and scattered around the web) precisely to point out how our opinions, attitudes, and objectives inform the language that we use (and hear). Though Pierrick is tied up with the fan belt of a tempering machine this week, I hope he'll enjoy reading the overlapping definitions I've collected here, including the contribution from Wisconsin-based Gail Ambrosius, who uses Plantations chocolate (or "couverture") to make her confections.

In your own words, what's the difference between a "chocolate maker" and a "chocolatier"?

Gail Ambrosius
Owner of Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier in Madison, Wisconsin
A chocolate maker is someone who has a thorough understanding of chocolate, how and where it is grown, the best growing/processing practices, and has a fine palate to recognize high-quality cacao beans. A chocolate maker is someone who produces chocolate starting with the cacao beans. Hopefully, he or she is also traveling to countries that produce the beans to see how the cacao is grown, ensuring that it is fermented properly and dried well. After the beans are sourced, he supervises sorting the beans after they arrive at the lab or facility to make sure only quality beans go into the roaster. Then he makes sure the beans are gently roasted to tease out the best flavors. This is work that requires someone with expertise--who knows how to bring out the best flavor of the beans in order to make a fine quality chocolate. Once the beans are roasted and winnowed, they go through the first grinding to make chocolate liquor. Once the liquor is made, a chocolate maker will decide upon the recipe or formulation of the chocolate to be produced. After the formulation is made, more grinding and conching takes place until the chocolate maker ends with a fine-quality, fine-flavor chocolate.

A chocolatier is someone who also has a good understanding of chocolate, how and where it is grown and processed, and knows how to showcase its finest qualities in confectionary. The chocolatier begins by tasting fine-flavor chocolates produced by chocolate makers and decides based on those flavors how to best highlight and enhance the chocolate in a confectionary application. The chocolatier creates alchemy by taking the fine-flavor chocolate and by using the art and science of confectionary and imagination to create wonderful confections and other chocolate products.

Gail will host a chocolate tasting to accompany readings by me and Michelle Wildgen at the Alchemy: Chocolate and Cheese event in Madison on August 12.

Carlos Eichenberger
Owner of Danta Chocolate in Guatemala City, Guatemala

Chocolate makers manufacture chocolate, in bar, callet, block or other form, in whatever scale they wish to produce. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be manufactured from bean to bar. It could also be nib to bar or liquor to bar. They sell their chocolate either to chocolatiers, chefs, pastry chefs or end users.

Chocolatiers on the other hand (and strictly in my personal opinion) purchase their chocolate from manufacturers to transform into their confections. This may also include bars, especially if the chocolatier is blending several origins or manufacturers.

In my particular case, I like to call myself a chocolate maker/chocolatier since I'm working both ends of the business.

Matthew Stevens
Editor of Dessert Professional magazine
Chocolate maker (French: Chocolatier) :: a person or company who/that makes chocolate packaged for direct consumption (i.e., to be eaten), and/or for use as an ingredient. Chocolate makers/manufacturers may also make semi-finished products for their own use and/or for sale to others as ingredients.

Chocolatier (French: Confiseur) :: a person or company who purchases finished chocolate and semi-finished cocoa products from cocoa processors and/or chocolate makers/manufacturers and uses them to create confections (e.g., bonbons) and other products, including chocolate bars.

In France there have long existed the professions of chocolatier and confiseur. Traditionally, a chocolatier made chocolate (most often from cocoa beans, but also from cocoa nibs or liquor), and a confiseur (confectioner) crafted bonbons. As a result, stores were identified as chocolatiers, confiseurs, or chocolatiers-confiseurs to accurately portray their skills to the public.

To make things more confusing, the French have long abandoned their distinction between chocolatier and confiseur at the public and governmental levels. In France today, a chocolatier is what was formerly identified as a confiseur, and the term confiseur has been effectively tossed onto the culinary compost. Even the honor of Chocolatier MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) is awarded by the French government to those who in days gone by would have been known as confiseurs.

One of the few Frenchman to lament the elimination of the traditional and accurate chocolate career terminology is Stephane Bonnat. He is a chocolatier-confiseur by definition, and excels at both. And he is a purist who would like to see a return to adherence of the traditional definitions.


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