The Chocolate Life

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Most people have seen the influence that Norman Love has had on chocolatiers all over the world, without really knowing much about the person behind the techniques. Since even before founding Norman Love Confections in 2001 with his wife Mary, he was known for innovative and intricate surface decorations on his molded chocolates using colored cocoa butters applied using various techniques.

Today, almost every chocolatier who makes shell-molded chocolates has at least one piece that uses one of the techniques that Norman has perfected.

Now is your chance to ask Norman questions: About his techniques, his inspirations, what it's really like to produce millions of pieces a year (he's a creative force behind Godiva's G collection as well as doing the production), what he looks for in chocolate and how he chooses the ones he uses, business advice, anything you like.

You can ask your questions by replying to this Forum post. You have until Valentine's Day to post your questions. Then, he and I will look over all of the questions that have been submitted and he will answer the 10 of them that we find most interesting. I'll give him a week or so to compose responses, then he'll send those answers to me, I'll format them, and then post them for you to read and comment on. I hope to convince Norman to join TheChocolateLife so he can respond to your comments.

Some backstory

Norman contacted me a couple of weeks ago to let me know he was about to launch a new collection, BLACK, in time for this holiday gifting season. BLACK not only takes the surface decoration techniques he is known for to an entirely new level, it is a collection of five origin bonbons. Anyone who knows chocolates well will immediately recognize the chocolates he chose for the collection: Felchlin's Grand Cru line. Norman has been using Felchlin chocolates for a long time but this is his first collection that features the Grand Cru collection - 74% Cru Hacienda (Dominican Republic), 72% Ecuador, 68% Cru Sauvage (Bolivia), 65% Maracaibo Clasificado (Venezuela), and 64% Madagascar.

When I first tasted them I found them to be not only recognizable from the outside as a Norman Love product, but inside the silky, buttery texture and flavor that are his signatures were immediately evident while complementing and not overpowering the unique characteristics of each chocolate, a delicate balancing act. So, I thought it would be interesting to "interview" him in this fashion rather than talking to him myself on the phone and writing my impressions up.

Here's what the box and the bon bons look like (click to see a larger version in a new tab/window):

And for those of you who've never seen a photo, here's an official one:

Here are the answers to Norman's top 10.

Tags: BLACK, felchlin, norman love

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Replies to This Discussion

I would love to know when he will be having his classes again. Would he ever fly to, say, Phoenix and do a class here? Perhaps in Scottsdale? I bet that there are lots of Chefs here who would love to learn from him. It would be great to have this happen!!! I bet we would fill out that class in record time, too. Maybe he would have to teach several classes?
I apologize in advance for the somewhat long introduction that follows, but Norman Love really changed my direction in life.

I was in my first trimester at Johnson & Wales University Baking and Pastry Arts program- their inaugural year (2002). I was undecided as to whether I wanted to be a culinary student or a pastry chef. I as a 4th generation baker in my family and thought that I would get more out of the culinary side. At the same time, I am an observant Jew who does not mix meat and milk. This problem led me to decide to start off with the pastry program so as not to make my religious life complicated. As the Good L-rd would have it, this was a very important decision. My first class was Intro to Baking & Pastry taught by Chef Elena Clemens.

Shortly after the year progressed, Norman Love came to the campus, and specifically to our class to do a private demo for the 20 of us. Chef Clemens had worked with Norman at the Ritz Carlton and as a result we got extra time with him. At that time, I had never seen chocolate with colors. I also was totally unaware of using chocolate in architectual creations. In short my mind was blown. I also was totally unaware of the varying qualities of chocolate.

My experience at my grandfather's bakery had led me away from chocolate- it was a new york retail bakery that made everything from scratch and didn't use to much high quality chocolate. The dark chocolate I grew up with was sickly sweet, and I tended to prefer cheese bialys and other savory breads to the sweet stuff. After seeing Norman's demonstration I immersed myself in trying every kosher dark chocolate I could. I was hooked as they say. I decided after that seminar I wanted to work with high quality chocolate.

Fast forward 7 years I find myself in the Holy Land, Israel on the brink of opening the first bean to bar microbatch chocolate company here, and much of that has to do with Norman. I would like to thank him for his openness in continuing education, through seminars and the world pastry forum in Vegas, as well as his committment to the highest quality with Norman Love Chocolates (formerly ganache chocolate). I learned so much in such a short time with him that words really can't convey my appreciation.

Finally since this forum is about questions for Norman, I guess I would ask if Norman would ever consider making his own chocolate from the bean, on a limited basis similarly to the European chocolatiers. I know I would "love" to see what his take would be on the bean to bar or confection.

I know he has travelled the world and I wonder if he has been to Israel yet. If not, I send an open invitation to visit and show the locals just how amazing of a medium chocolate can and should be.

And Finally
What do you think the next "big thing" in chocolate will be
ditto about him coming to Israel. Can he give classes here? That is my question, even though I am not a fan of artificial colors, I still like the technique adventures and can use a few natural colors.

Here is the question I'd like to ask Norman Love.........What are you doing to help ensure the survival of Theobroma cocoa? There are all sorts of rots and fungi that can cause massive losses as well as the destruction of habitat. Does your company help the farms, farmers and plants that help you to make your business a success?
Should cacao be reclassified from the traditional 3 (Forastero, Criollo, Trinitario) into the 10 categories suggested in the research study *Geographic and Genetic Population Differentiation of the Amazonian Chocolate Tree*?

The suggested new categories are
Amelonado - Brazil
Contamana - Peru
Criollo - Central America, Venezuela and Columbia
Curaray - Ecuador
Guiana - Guyane
Iquitos - Peru
Marañon - Brazil (Amazon) and Peru
Nacional - Ecuador
Nanay - Peru
Purús - Peru
Here are the three questions I would like to ask:

(1) How do you airbrush your chocolate molds? Does the chocolate need to be tempered beforehand? How do you keep the cocoa butter from hardening inside the airbrush? This is a technique I'm dying to try, and am wondering what equipment I will need and how to go about it.

(2) Have you ever made your own chocolate transfer sheets, and if so, how would you advise going about it at home? I have made one or two attempts at silkscreening and found it excruciatingly difficult with white chocolate, and nearly impossible with cocoa butter. How is this done commercially?

(3) Is there any place - class, online, in a book, or elsewhere, where you would recommend going to learn about creating chocolates as beautiful as yours? is the answer
As someone starting a business in this industry I'd like to know what is Mr. Love's favorite part of owning a chocolate business... and then the aspects he likes the least. What is his advice for a budding chocolatier?
Good day.

I was wondering what happened to this thread? Is Mr. Love still going to answer some questions? I would be very interested in his opinions and feedback.

Thank you,

Andre Costa
Yes, it's just taking a lot longer than I thought to get 10 questions! I just extended the deadline to Valentine's Day.

:: Clay
Since most artisan chocolates use natural ingredients and are preservative free, I would be interested in hearing the steps he takes within a recipe to increase shelf-life. Additionally, how Mr. Love reduces unbound water (aw values), and how he views the role of ph levels within a recipe.
Considering I am just beginning my chocolate journey, I think my question would be:

What are some pointers you could give to someone who is changing careers from a boring cubicle to an exciting chocolate kitchen?

Andre Costa


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