While I can't speak for the woman at the event, I CAN tell you that as a chocolate maker and a chocolatier, I have spent 5 long years educating people about the differences between my business and other chocoaltiers, as well as the nuances in flavour that cocoa beans create. Making your own chocolate gives the chocolatier infinitely more control over the quality and taste of the final product.
Also, the industry in general has created an image in the average consumer's mind that chocolatiers make chocolate. Case in point: I recently watched a chocolatier television pour chips into a double boiler, and proclaim "this is how you make chocolate". WTF???? Are you kidding me???
Is wanting to differentiate your products from that of your peers "snooty"? I don't think so - especially when you have the potential to create a product of a quality that far surpasses your peers. Anyone with minimal training (aka homemakers, and grannies) can take a mediocre chocolate and make good chocolates (chocolate confections). However let's see the same unskilled "chocolatier" acquire good beans, roast them perfectly, remove the shells, and grind them into a perfectly smooth, decadent chocolate BEFORE making confections out of them. The end result can be absolutely stellar.
IF quality matters to you as you claim, then I would suggest that you definitely seek out snooty companies that make their own chocolate.
Hi Brad, and Happy New Year,
For some reason, your post of several months ago escaped my attention, and in many ways I agree with you. It's fine to differentiate your products from those of your peers. Terrific and good for you -- I'm a capitalist, too. But you can learn to do the same thing without turning people off. Your passion for your chocolate comes through and I like that. But if you can make an elite chocolate and do so without elitism, and people will not only love your chocolate -- they'll love your company. The approach can be made to be as easy to swallow as the chocolate, is all I'm saying.
As for Recchiuti, he does some nice things with chocolate, and some of his bars are are very good, and I wouldn't want to have standards that are so incredibly high that I never eat anything but bean-to-bar. An analogy: do you forego buying a car until you can buy a Rolls? Of course not.
I absolutely agree with you on this: there are plenty of "chocolatiers" who probably make their stuff from Baker's chocolate or some such stuff, pretty it up with lots of interior decorating, and jack up the price. Big mistake, to be sure, and it does muddy the field for legitimate people. BTW -- I actually DO seek out companies that make their own chocolate. (I'm with you about Lindt, and regarding Godiva, well, the empress has no clothes and hasn't had any for ages.)
Indeed, I actually tried to purchase SoChoklat online, but it would appear that you don't deliver to the US, because I couldn't arrange delivery anwhere but Alberta. Do you market here? If not, it's a bit like saying "we're the best anywhere, and you can't have any." See what you can do to sell some to us.
BTW -- I fully agree that a side-by-side tasting of several bars from one company is a great way to go. I've even done it first thing in the morning, as recommended by Chloe Doutre-Roussel. At first I thought the idea was nuts, until I had bought some bars while on a business trip and I did the tasting one morning in my hotel room. I was blown away by the heightened acuity in my taste buds. I highly recommend the early morning tasting idea, but it's not for the faint of heart.
Thanks for the feedback. At this time we don't ship anywhere outside of Calgary for the simple reason that the demand here in Calgary (over a million people) is enough to consume all that we make. Choklat isn't a bulk producer. Economically there's simply no reason to broaden our reach to other markets when our current demographic consummes all of our supply.
I'll be the first to admit that differentiating our product and our strategy from that of our peers over the past few years has been difficult. The strategy has in no way meant to make other chocolate makers look bad, however I know it comes across that way in some readers' eyes. The best analogy I can think of is that of the wine industry here in Calgary. Imagine for years that the consumer has been sold "red wine", "white wine", and "zinfandel" by EVERY wine store. No brands. No Sommoliers, No vineyards, no nothing. Everybody gets the same red, white, and zin and has been led to believe that the wine stores all produce their own wine because it's bottled differently from store to store. Inside however, the product is more or less the exact same from the same supplier. Then along comes a wine store that imports and sells wine properly, and employs a sommolier to help educate consumers about the differences that grapes, region, weather, soil, fermentation, etc play in the production of their varieties of wines. The new wine store clearly opens the consumers eyes to the vast array of taste possibilities. At the same time it's mere presence seems pretentious to those who are happy with the ol' "stand by" red, white and zyn.
There is simply no way for that new wine store to differentiate its products without disclosing to the consumer in even the most subtle way that the traditional way of buying wine has been misleading. The current stores do NOT make the wine they sell, even if their name is on the bottles! Some consumers will be upset at the new store for "attempting to make the existing peers look bad", while others will applaud the new bold direction, and honest disclosure.
This has been the case with my business. It has doubled in size since I first opened my doors, and this year will see even more growth yet. It appears that while a few feathers get ruffled, most people appreciate the honest approach to things. I would hazard a guess that those whose feathers are ruffled are either:
1) big fans of our peers who are overly defensive, or
2) people who don't care about the truth or quality of anything they put in their mouth.
What I DO know however, is that my outspoken approach to promoting chocolate here in Alberta has caused our largest competitor to change the verbiage on their packaging from "Manufactered in Calgary Alberta" to "Manufactured from imported ingredients", and at the same time OTHER small chocolatiers are now beginning to promote the brands chocolate they use rather than tell people it's "their" chocolate.
As far as I'm concerned, if my peers are making changes because of what I'm doing, then I'm definitely doing something right, and those who don't like my honest, candid approach, can crawl back into their hovel and suck a lemon. (not that I'm saying you don't appreciate it Keith! Haha!).
On the topic of early morning tastings.... Hmmm... Is that before or after brushing my teeth? An apple or orange BEFORE tastes a whole heck of a lot better than after! I wonder if chocolate is the same.
Do the tasting BEFORE brushing. OK to have some water, but room temp water -- nothing cold, or the chocolate will take longer to melt. It's the most intense way to taste chocolate -- even if it's impractical for most people. Also not good if you're not a "morning person".
I have been a Chocolatier for over 20 years and have made truffles the old fashioned way that the professionals have taught me. Like with everything "new and improved" tries to replace "what has been for generations" in an effort to make way for new ideas and create new businesses. There is room for everyone's ideas, new or old, and there is no need to make anyone feel less than or inferior to make yourself feel superior. I have learned a long time ago you can't please everyone all of the time and the most important opinion is your own.
Bean to bar is a relatively new term and did not exist originally as part of the "Chocolatier" function. Chocolate manufacturers made the chocolate and the Chocolatiers were the artisans that created the decadent fillings that were the original products desired in the first place. The chocolate was merely a thin coating used as a wrapper, if you will, so you could pick up the truffle without getting it all over.
My advise to you is to do what you love, make the product you love, make the best product you can and don't be attached to the good opinion of others.... they tend not to last very long! "When you judge others you don't define them you define yourself"
Chocolate is fun and there is enough room for everyone...... Go out and keep the world sweet!
Really has it comes to terms that define what we do? I am a chocolatier, I melt chocolate to create new and exciting things. Why would that be a bad thing? Call me a re-melter if you wish. LOL
We are all artisans in our own way regardless of what we do. " re-melter " sounds negative but in the grande scheme of things does anyone care? I don't think the average consumer or even a more savvy chocolate lover would really care what you call it.....As long as it taste good, looks good and people enjoy it, that's what matters most, no?
Be proud of what you do. Just my two cents.
I have been making chocolate "at origin" from tree-to-bar in Costa Rica for about 3 years...the last 1.5 years really starting to produce a viable amount to support our family. Our challenge has been defining our chocolate as something better than the "rustic" chocolate that is not tempered or conched.
I just wanted to agree with Dirke on his two cents. Whatever you do, do it well and if you buy chocolate to use for your truffles or bars then give the "chocolate maker" some credit. Since we are also cacao producers, we are very aware of each stage of the chocolate process....not to say we are experts. But each player is important and those who are doing it all...know that everyone deserved all the credit and "Value added" to making chocolate.
I understand the bean-to-bar chocolate makers difficulty selling to "re-melters"...we have had several chocolateers, and pastry chefs who want to use our chocolate for their products because it is from Costa Rica and is superior in quality. However...we cannot produce that kind of volume and need to make the maximum value added. I only will wholesale to people who are going to give credit and pay fair value all the way to the producers.
Ok, this discussion is getting pretty old......let's wrap it up and close it out. Bean to Bar producers or creative pastry chefs crafting chocolate confections from wonderful chocolates--- we are all artisans making beautiful products for other to enjoy---- let's move on and get some more productive discussions going!!
Belle Fleur Chocolates
I feel compelled to ad my 2 cents here as I have had to explain to non-industry folks at chocolate tastings I have conducted the difference between a chocolate producer and a chocolatier/confectioner. We all know the difference, but we also know that creativity and craftsmanship may be expressed in many forms. While M & M/Mars is a volume producer of mass-market commericial finished goods, they also roast a lot of beans. Conversely, the good folks at See's Candies have never roasted a bean and they are driven to quality as much as the next guy.
It is paramount the we educate the consumer on their options and teach them to differentiate so that they can make decisions based on knowledge and not solely advertising, negative or otherwise. The information must be conveyed thoughtfully, objectively and accurately. I do not condone 'bashing' as a form of education. We are not the Chocolate Police but it is not inconceivable that a little respectful policing is in the best interest of the industry.
Roast, melt...whatever you do, do it with integrity, passion and creativity and advocate for an open and collegial environment for all to thrive and succeed.
I'm amazed that people are still replying to this after 3 years. Jim, your response is the best one yet. Thank you.
According to their FaceBook Company Overview, the original company in question still uses the term 're-melters'. I know for a fact they have lost business with a few of us re-melters for use of this term and way of thinking.
That's okay though, with today's market, there's plenty more to engage business with.