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Is artisan an overused word? Can a chain as large as Starbucks lay claim to the artisan label when it comes to a Starbucks-labeled chocolate?

What does "artisan" mean to you and what characteristics does a chocolate product have to have in order to be truly artisan?

Tags: artisan, chocolate, starbucks.

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If we follow this logic, is there no connection between the word artisan and "quality?" I can be proud of what I make - and it could be a real piece of garbage. Is it still "artisan?"

It's a good question because there are other variables, such as cost, or being made by hand that all into the same category.

I do have to agree that thinking about "artisan" as an attitude not an attribute strikes more closely to the heart of the matter.
There is a girl whose shop I've been to a couple of times. She makes everything, the pieces look beautiful... a true artisan.

On the flip side, I think every piece she makes is a bad implementation of a recipe from the CIA chocolate book... is she still artisan? I'd say so.
No machinery involved.... just a pair of hands, a dipping fork and a pot to heat the cream and of course passion!!!!!! now we are talking Artisan.
Artisan dedication to finding the best beans (trekking through remote plantations in third world countries) and shipping them back home to roast and grind into chocolate.


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Artisan bakers from Madagascar don't fly to Saskatchewan to find the best wheat and then ship it back home to grind into flour.
They might if they had more money. in fact, I also would if I had more money.
An artisan can create something that can be appreciated (in some cases, by many people), no matter what tools they are limited to. I think an artisan has an innate desire to create, and is constantly trying to do better.
An arisan, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a craftsman. To my own definition, an artisan of chocolate, takes molded chocolate and embellishes the chocolate with myriad methods and either designs the shell or the center of the chocolate piece.
Hi Gordon. I was very intrigue of this little pastry shop in Jackson WY. Chef Oscar Ortega its definitively a master in chocolate. He does a hot chocolate drink from bean to powder. I witnessed when one of his assistant was grinding the beans in a stone to form a paste, then he told me that they let it dry and then they will process it to do the powder that eventually will be the hot chocolate mix. Beside that he has a selection of 45 different incredible looking and delicious chocolate pieces. everything made on site.
My curiosity didn't stop there so I google Chef Oscar Ortega and I found 4 full pages on google of information about him. next day I return to get my chocolate fix and surprisingly he was there dipping chocolates. He was no very friendly, but he wasn't rude. Seems like he does really take pride and concentration doing his art. Also in the shop were 5 impressive big chocolate sculptures, he said are chocolate showpieces he has done in past competitions.
I will recommend to anyone who really would like to taste one of the best chocolatiers in the world visit Jackson Hole and cioccolato pastry shop.

Thanks for your note. I know Chef Ortega through his participation in the past two World Pastry Team Championships. He has been the coach of the Mexican teams. From my contact with him I know that he is seriously committed to doing good work. He also has a great sense of humor, but many chefs I know find it difficult to break out of the zone while they are in the middle of production. If you ever return to Jackson Hole and can visit the shop when Chef is not in production, my guess is that he will come across as more open and warm.

Chef Ortega is one of the few chocolatiers in America who makes some of the chocolate he uses in his shop. I think that Chef is only making the chocolate he uses in his drinks, but I may be wrong about this.

I second your recommendation. Anyone going to Jackson Hole should make it a point to stop by Chef Ortega's shop. And if you do, please take pictures and post them along with your impressions of his work. And say Hi! from me.

Cioccolato Pastry Shop
130 W. Broadway
Jackson, WY 83001
(307) 734.6400
I had the opportunity to visit Jackson hole and Chef Ortega cioccolato pastry shop few months ago, I was very very impress of the high quality of confections and service that Ortega and his staff gives to them customers. Chef Ortega's shop is clean and modern, with a great variety of European style chocolates and confections, he was very friendly in his own manner; as my husband asked him for the drakes chocolate piece he has he jumped out and wonder why he was looking for the darkest piece. He gave us a lesson on chocolate an its percentage, flavor, kind of bean and region. He also said to my husband that he probably doesn't even know what he likes and he just go for the darkest because American people will buy what ever is in the news. That made me laugh and that's why I see why Mr Clay said that Chef Oscar Ortega has a great sense of humor, he also is very young and full of energy and have a great passion for his career. He has a website great place to get world class chocolates.
My newly learned information indicates that one source of bean, and a label telling that source is also a part of this process, yes? and just to add, I agree that cooperations that pedal themselves as artisians are missing the point.
Here’s my two cents worth…….
What is “Artisan Chocolate”? What does the word “artisan” mean in this usage?

I think it is possible to clarify the current meaning of this word, as used in the early 21st Century, by looking at the subject from a new angle. By asking questions of what is not ‘artisan’.

Because I live in a rural area of the country there are producers all around me who I don’t think of as artisans. Because this is also an area attractive to crafts-people, there are many other neighbors who do think of themselves as artisan crafters. For example: Contrast a local herb farmer versus a local clay potter.
Perhaps the herb farmer would like to be thought of as growing artisan herbs, he maybe could get a higher price for them if so called. Perhaps you could stretch the definition of artisan to cover herb growing but I think that few people would understand or accept that. No artisan herb farmer.

The potter on the other hand has been thought of as an artisan crafter making wall sconce lamps, decorated sink bowls and place settings of dishes and mugs. Yes, artisan potter.

A third example, something in-between: A local dairy farmer who bought land here, moved his special breed of dairy cattle here (southern Missouri) from Wisconsin. He grazes the cows in his manicured pastures, feeds them his special feeds, milks them and makes their milk into cheese curds for sale at his dairy and also at local grocery stores: So what say you? Is he an “artisan dairyman” or not?

I think so. I think he has introduced the idea of “design” into his produce, his finished product. Correct, in my opinion: artisan cheese curds. What’s the difference? Well, there are things, efforts, which he has done to translate an idea (s),his ideas, some personal thoughts, into a finished product. With his elements of design this makes these finished products different/better (at least in his mind) than they would be if just made by formula by a farm hand or mechanic/tradesman. It is the introduction of design from the mind of the artisan which makes the product an artisan product.

Also, it strikes me, does it you?, that there must be a close connection between the artisan and the finished product in fact. By the hand of the artisan this was made. Not to say that machines can’t be used. A Swiss clockmaker working in his shop in the Alps may be an artisan and still use an electric lathe to make clock parts. But he is connected directly to the finished product. So now it is design plus personal connection to make a superior article. You can buy a factory made clock but not an artisan factory made clock. It may have been designed by an artisan but not artisan made.

An artisan fishing lure? Sure! Designed and crafted by hand by a wood carver and painted by him. Yes, artisan fishing lure. Artisan fisherman? I think not. He didn’t make anything. Even if he uses artisan lures? No.
So what about chocolates? Does using artisan-made chocolate make the finished pieces artisan? Not if they are machine made without seeing the hand of the chocolatier and with no design input from the maker. No, just factory made chocolates; maybe very good tasting but not artisan. By this logic, all pastries made by hand in the restaurant kitchen with a little creative flair on top are artisan. I really don’t have any problem with that. So few good things are handmade now days, adding design elements to a product above and beyond a cook-book recipe deserves being called artisan. But, I’m sure some may not agree with this and the disagreement could be valid.

Usually there is a factor of training or apprenticeship of the crafter under a master to become an artisan. Is this necessary? Maybe in some gilded trades. Not for chocolate making, I think. In the small, privately owned chocolate shops, there aren’t enough masters to train the artisans below them. You can be self taught in my opinion, in chocolate making. I think the chocolate is still artisan made if designed by and made by the hand of the chocolatier. Does this mean that a trainee filling molds at Christopher Elbow’s shop cannot by definition make artisan chocolates? Therefore the chocolates in the showcase are not artisan?

Hummmm? Good Point.

Are we any closer to defining “artisan chocolate” ? Maybe, maybe not…..just my two cents worth.


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