The Western Edition of The Chocolate Guide is brought to you by the same people who produced the book Chocolate French and who are also behind TasteTV, Chocolate Television, and the International Chocolate Salons in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami, and internationally.
I reviewed the first edition of Chocolate French when it first came out, and I did not give it a very good review. Much of my criticism was leveled at the way the book was organized as well as at the apparent lack of professional copy editing and fact checking. As I remember, this level of inattention was also evident in the recipes, several of which could not actually be made successfully if the directions were followed.
In my correspondence with Andre Crump the writer/editor/publisher of Chocolate French I was accused of "killing" the book - that my review on chocophile.com was somehow single-handedly responsible for stalling the sales of the book. (Poor sales had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that the book was poorly done.) I was, however, happy to see that Mr Crump was wrong in his assessment of the book's sales potential and that a second edition was published. I did not either contribute (I was asked) or review the updated version so I do not know if the structural issues I pointed out in my review of the first edition were addressed.
When I heard that Mr Crump was publishing a guide to chocolatiers, chocolate makers, Boutiques [sic: comma is missing on the cover] Patisseries & Shops, I hoped that he would have learned his lesson from Cafe French and actually create a usable book.
Sad to say, that is not the case. Which is not to say that the book is not useful, it's just not very usable.
There are huge gaps in the businesses and areas that are covered and it's not apparent (unless you read some fine print in the front of the book) why some companies were included and featured and others overlooked, and there is no rational scheme or order that I can detect in the way the businesses that are included are ordered that would make the book's organization make sense.
The book starts showing how little attention was paid to the idea of editorial consistency when you take a look at the Table of Contents and the cover page for the first section. The Table of Contents says the first section is titled "Southern California" while the Cover pages say "Southern California & Mexico." This is born out by the fact that the Nestle Museum in Mexico City is not only mentioned in the Table of Contents, it deserves four full pages of photos. But the Museum does not appear in the "Local Directory" so there's no contact information. And what, there are no other chocolatiers or chocolate companies between the San Diego and Mexico City?
This lack of depth and consistency plagues the "Local Directory" at the back of each section. In the Local Directory for Southern California, for example, the first entry is Chuao (which is located in Encinitas which is closer to San Diego than it is to LA). The next entry is for Leonidas in LA/Beverly Hills, followed by a raft of LA metro-area entries which appear to be grouped by city, but are not organized alphabetically by the name of the business or according to the geography of LA. Nor are multiple entries for the same company (Leonidas, for example) listed in most cases, let alone grouped together. (To be fair, the Leonidas site itself is confusing: the store referred to on myleonidas.com as being in Beverly Hills is the same store whose web site is leonidashollywood.com.) So, I can see how the editors might be initially confused, but that is exactly the sort of organization and attention to detail that readers deserve, if not expect.
Furthermore, all of the entries in the Local Directories are incomplete: only a small percentage have phone numbers and none of the entries have either web site URLs or zip codes. In this day and age, surely, all of these businesses have both phones as well as web presences. In fact, the only companies with complete street addresses, phone numbers, and web addresses are the featured companies. (More on that in the conclusion.) And in the case of Chuao the address on the featured listing is different from the address in the directory, and Chuao is not the only example of this (Scharffen Berger falls victim, too). Are you confused yet? I was and still am.
Nowhere is the unwillingness to do the necessary research and fact checking more apparent than in Emily Stone's article Pacific Northwest Chocolate - The Trip I Didn't Take. Now I know Emily and respect her work and her opinion, but an article like this does not excuse TCB-Cafe Press from actually doing the research. Which reveals still yet another editorial mishap. One of the companies mentioned in Emily's article is not listed in the Local Directory. (Sour grapes? Emily is one of several bloggers whose work is featured in the book and I, and other writers whose work might also be recognized, are not mentioned at all. I know why in my case. It's because of the negative review I gave of Mr Crump's first edition of Chocolate French. And frankly, this book displays so many flaws that I am glad I was not asked to contribute; it's not a project I want my name associated with. Sour grapes? You decide after looking at the book from my perspective.)
In at least one case, it appears as if the writer took promotional copy directly from a brochure published by the company being featured and did not read it closely enough. The Qzina description on page 49, in the last paragraph, reads "... at each of our location [sic] hosted by their Corporate Pastry Chef." A clear case of not paying attention.
Another challenge the book presents to its readers is that it does not adequately distinguish (in the table of contents - there is no index) between chocolate makers, chocolatiers, recipes, blog entries, photo essays, and specialty foods distributors. You are left on your own to figure this one out, as is puzzling out why Ghirardelli is featured, but not Lindt (its corporate parent) and there is no mention at all of See's, the largest chocolate company actually headquartered in California, and highly regarded by many.
The editorial and production issues are not limited to the Table of Contents and the Local Directories: page 174 is blank except for a headline that says "Chocolate Salon." (Clearly someone was not looking closely at the page proofs when they came back from the printer.) Given the context of the facing page, missing are some photos from one of the Salons that TCB-Cafe Press organizes.
And promote the various interests of TCB-Cafe Press the book does. Of the 190 pages of the book, more than 10 pages are devoted to advertising TCB-Cafe Press projects and not a guide to chocolate at all, and one of them is an ad for the same edition of the book you happen to be reading. On purpose? Or, was it supposed to be an ad for the Eastern Edition and they just weren't paying enough attention?
After reading the introduction on the Welcome Page, the actual purpose of the book becomes clearer. It's as much a promotion vehicle for the companies that support TCB-Cafe Press's television and event businesses as it is a true guide. Companies that support TCB-Cafe Press's other businesses are featured in the book; companies that do not, are not. That the next to the last page of the book is an ad for a company that has nothing to do with chocolate, but probably provides business service (promotion, PR, marketing) to TCB-Cafe Press really drives this point home.
This regrettable circumstance gets in the way of the book's usefulness in other regards, too. Northern and Southern California fill about 140 pages of the book while only about 40 pages are given over to "Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia." Apparently there are no chocolatiers or chocolate makers worthy of inclusion in the book in Arizona or New Mexico, or any other state West of the Mississippi - which would be a natural dividing line unless a third, Midwest Edition, is planned.
Now of course the publisher could complain that this was a print book and not a web site and therefore space was very limited. That's nonsense. The way to handle the space issue would have been to reduce the number of pages devoted to completely and totally irrelevant (at least to true chocolate lovers interested in a real, usable, guide) content. One page of photos of the Nestle Chocolate Museum in Mexico City would have sufficed. There, I just saved three pages for useful content. The double page spread for Sacred Chocolate could also be sacrificed on the altar of more content. Two more pages available. Three pages for the How to Conduct an Interview segment. Six pages for gear, wine, and Vermeer could easily be done in three. The cover pages for each section could be done in one page, not two, saving another three pages. Losing the ads at the back would save three more. There, I just freed up 17 pages - nearly 10% of the book - for meaningful (by which I mean central to the purported premise of the book) content.
At this point, after reading all the reasons I found not to like The Chocolate Guide: Western Edition, you've probably forgotten that early on I wrote, "Which is not to say that the book is not useful, it's just not very usable."
The book is useful in the sense that it does list a lot of companies whose work you probably should be aware of but have never heard of, even though it fails to mention many others you should also know about. Armed with the base information the book provides, an understanding of its editorial slant, and a willingness to do a lot of your own online research, The Chocolate Guide: Western Edition is worth reading if you are planning your own trip to Discover Chocolate out West.
I also want to point out that I applaud Mr Crump and his associates' efforts in promoting chocolate in general and American artisan chocolate in particular. The book is a great idea conceptually. This first edition is flawed, and I hope that the publisher works to resolve the copy editing, design, and usability issues I mention when producing future editions - these guides are supposed to be updated on a regular basis.
Book Review Rating:
Must Have :: Should Have :: Nice to Have :: Not Worth Shelf Space
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I have also pre-ordered the Eastern edition of this book, Amazon estimates the shipping date for end of April/ early May - its only $10.85 to pre order. I hope others discover these guides too, they are just choc full of photos and great info for any choco lover....
I also agree with Clays assesment of the rather poor editing quality, unfortunately its true. But Im glad someone started the ball rolling on choc guides as they are fun to look at and can be a good resource- but like Clay said, not all choc shops are represented (only those that "subscribe" to Taste TV- TCB Cafe Press- the publisher) and certain regions are NOT covered enough- although their website says a Central USA guide book is still coming....one would certainly want to also gather info off the web for a complete listing of any regions visited.
We weren't in the book for the same reason many other excellent companies were omitted: companies needed to pay for their inclusion. Additionally, the size of the layout depended not on their relevance or quality, but on how much they were willing to spend. It may be good publicity for many of the companies, but it also means the book is a willfully inaccurate "guide", at best.
Thanks for the review, Clay. I saw it at Powell's and glanced through it and even at a glance I found errors. It is a really good idea and it would be cool to see it more fully realized, and including Alma chocolate, of course :-)
One of the things that I am going to be setting up in the next week or so is a version of the chocolate-makers database for chocolatiers. In this way we can create our own guide.
At a minimum the database will include the name, street address, city, state, and postcode, country, phone numbers, website address, founder(s) names(s), chocolatier name, and type of sales (retail, wholesale, online, retail store).
I also think that a comment space for specialties, year founded, and the ability to upload a copy of the logo as well as a photo (or two) of work.
If you have any ideas for what that database should include, please click the Feedback link at the bottom of this page and let me know.
I get all my chocolate shop recs from bloggers anyway! Thanks to Candy Blog I just had a great trip to LA. I was certainly deterred from purchasing this guide after coming up with my own negative opinion of the French guide (so there Andre Crump!).
I would still consider purchasing the Western guide after a few revisions, but am really looking forward to seeing the lists of shops here grow. I was creating my own personal guide, but became exhausted with all the locations across the States!
I dug up this old review of the books associated with the Taste TV and Chocolate Salons after a newsletter was received this week from Taste TV stating they were doing a Chocolate Salon in Hawaii. I asked the organizer why they selected the location of Waikoloa resort on the Big island. he told me for several excellent reasons but provided none <( except maybe he and others get a vacation write off? )
I further inquired all my chocolate colleagues in Hawaii if anyone had heard of this ( scheduled for August) and no one had.odd that the very people who might potentially exhibit had no clue. Waikoloa resort, while lovely, has no local population to draw from and has been experiencing weak tourism and vog. ( volcanic smog) the organizers est attendance at 500-1000 is beyond eggagerated. The well organized , well marketed thru media and well represented by people in Hawaii 's chocolate industry, recent Hawaii chocolate Festival in Honolulu on Oahu, a city of 1 million, drew about 1000 people.it is likely not many of us would bother with the expense of a booth, air cargo goods. Hotel and other costs to go to a sketchy event where because of no attendees and especially no repeatable as in local business would be guaranteed to lose money. Apparently the organizer has only his own interests in mind.