John-Charles Rochoux, Parisian Chocolatier

One of the hardest things about writing about food is coming up with that killer opening sentence. It should start with something that grabs your attention right away, tickles your curiosity, then encourages the reader (which would be you) to follow the writer (which, or course, would be me) deeper into the story. Thankfully when writing about chocolate, I can include pictures to help me get going, so most of the work is already done.

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A Handcarved Rabbit Made of Pure White chocolate.


The other difficult thing when writing about chocolate is that there’s only so many superlatives you can use to describe it, and words like: dark, unctuous, bittersweet, delicious, seductive, etc…don’t really seem to pinpoint that feeling that you get when you walk into a pristine chocolate shop and are completely overwhelmed by the heady experience, inhaling that sweet, unmistakable scent of chocolate that permeates the air and overtakes you. There’s that quiet moment, when you step into a special place full of chocolate, where you briefly forget all that’s going on outside.

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Slender Orangettes; strips of candied orange peel flecked with crunchy nougat, dipped in dark chocolate.


I’m fortunate to live a city where there’s an unusually large amount of very good chocolate shops, and all-too-often one needs a refuge from the fast-pace of the streets and sprawling avenues. Here in Paris, I have my favorites, and one of them is John-Charles Rochoux. His petit shop is located just off the bustling rue de Rennes. It’s not just a refuge from one of Paris’ busy boulevards, but a step back to another era. In his shop, chocolate is both an edible obsession and an object of sculptural craftsmanship, and you’ll find many intricate, precious little chocolate sculptures, as well as a rather serious selection of bonbons from one of Paris’ top chocolatiers.

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Paris Chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux


Although there’s several chocolate shops across the city that are terrific, at Jean-Charles Rochoux you’ll find lots of little wonders here to keep you enchanted, including the amazing chocolate sculptures that M. Rochoux creates in his small, pristine workshop just beneath the tidy boutique. This kind of craftsmanship is rarely found anymore, even in a chocolate-obsessed city like Paris.

I was fortunate enough to take some time from my busy schedule to pose for Monsieur Rochoux, so he could create one of the most iconic pieces in the shop: Le torse.


Sculpted of pure chocolat noir, it certainly looks good enough to do whatever you want to it. Or with it. In case you’re wondering what caused me to strip down and pose for this erotic edible, I wanted to show-off my ‘tablets of chocolate’ for all the world to see.

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As you probably guessed, it’s not really me. Well, maybe around 20 years ago it could have been. In France, they don’t say ‘six-pack abs’, although I hear they do indeed exist under all the sweaters and overcoats, but instead they use the more David-friendly phrase ‘tablets of chocolate’. So next time someone criticizes your mid-section, tell ‘em you’ve got ‘Tablets of Chocolate’…like David does.

When I asked M. Rochoux how he got his assistants to make such perfect sculptures, without any flaws, he told me, “I beat them.”

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French people foolishly believe that babies come from cabbages, or in this case, eggs.
Don’t they know babies come from the stork?


While I’m sure the mild-mannered monsieur would never do such a thing, I challenge anyone to find a scratch, bubble, or smudge on any one of them. And since each is made of solid chocolate, they last for quite a while, and his tiny monuments of Paris surely find their way into many a gift boxes headed towards far-away lands.

Although there are lots of intricate, whimsical sculptures here, the real prize waiting for me are his dipped chocolates. And there’s certainly nothing funny about how good they taste. Les truffles, for example, are tiny squares of pure ganache, that silky blend of chocolate and French cream, melted and formed into little cubes that are so delicate they’re presented with a toothpick to make them easier to pop in your mouth…a task which actually is not at all difficult.

Since they’re so fresh, they last just 10 days (like..as if…) and need to be kept refrigerated to preserve their fresh-cream flavor.

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I’m also a big fan of his gianduja-enrobed almonds. Each toasted almond is coated with glistening, crackly caramel. Once cool, they’re hand-dipped individually in thick gianduja, that classic melange of Torinese hazelnut paste and cacao-rich dark milk chocolate. They come packed up in little sacks, as well as larger boxes, but the little baggies I find are easier for rifling through and snitching a couple out of on the métro ride home.

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And I can’t leave you without talking about his chocolates, or les bonbons, the true test of a chocolatiers mettle. Each generous box is filled with…whoa…what the hel….??

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For my birthday last month, Monsieur Rochoux gave me a nice, bountiful box of his chocolates. Of course, I had every intention of returning home and sharing them with you (and perhaps a few non-virtual friends), but avarice got the best of me, and most were gone within a few hours of yanking open the satiny ribbon.

But really, can you blame me? And it was, after all, my birthday. And since I can’t get my twenty-year old abs back, at least I can have my tablets of chocolate.

John-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45
Métro: St. Sulpice or Rennes



Related Links

My Paris Pastry App and Guide

Rochoux’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

18 comments

  • True love doesn’t need great abs, but I can tell you that simple knee lifts are more effective than crunches and sit ups because you can do many more of them without hurting yourself. And you can do them anywhere, which might just alter your experience in Paris by a huge increment.
    He is very cute, that one.

  • I tried La Maison du Chocolat by myself, Michel Chaudun thanks to you, but so far I haven’t experienced chocolates as extraordinary as those of Pierre Hermé. What about you?

  • Oh dear, I can still taste those wonderful truffles from our visit, David! And now I’m feeling extremely guilty because those were my husband’s absolute favourites from the selection I brought home, too, and I didn’t get him any for Christmas.

    Thank heavens Valentine’s day is just around the corner!!

  • Thanks David, I’m going to have to find cash for an airfare to visit John-Charles Rochoux. There is nothing that I have seen in Melbourne that comes remotely close to those wonderfully cute sculptures. I’m jealous & your lucky living in Paris. Now I have to go find a chocolate fix….

  • The mere sight of Rochoux’s brown crocodile-embossed box tied with its satin ribbon makes my heart beat a little faster. The bonbons are divine and it’s a wonder to watch Madame as she carefully assembles each and every box to order.

  • I’m not original, but I wish I were you… (in the chocolate-sense only =) )

  • Ummm, we have one box of orangettes left Rochoux and I gaze at the bespoke ribbon from my last ballotin from there. I have to say,their boxes are the best and I have them all.

    Good thing I have a ticket and hotels booked for the last week in February.

    I also was going to blog this week about the fact you spend too much time in Paris patisseries when you are using pierre herme bags to line your wastebaskets.

    nm

  • Wonderful blog, David. That sweet little rabbit is adorble!

  • oh, my goodness, looking at those orangettes and hearing your description was a rapturous event … it’s not fair to tease like that!!!

    but on a serious note, david, i would be interested in hearing your opinion on belgian chocolate as well. i got to sample some from neuhaus only on my last trip.

    btw there is an awesome handmade confectioners shop called LA CURE GOURMANDE, in the lower town, which makes heavenly caramels and nougat … i’m sorry to say that i selfishly haven’t shared what i brought back, as much as i intended :@( …

    and that recipe for the lemon buttermilk sherbet sounds divine…thanks!

  • oh my goodness, seeing those orangettes and hearing your description was a (gasp) rapturous (sigh) event…it’s not fair to tease like that!

    but seriously david, i would be curious to hear your opinions on belgian chocolates as well…i was only able to experience the neuhaus variety, which i thought was good … but somehow i remember some years back someone bringing some truffles back which were absolutely org@$mic… so i’m thinking there’s more to explore.

    btw there is an awesome handmade confectioners shop (in brussels) called LA CURE GOURMANDE in the lower town, which has divine caramels and nougats.

    thanks so much for the lemon buttermilk sherbet recipe, and good luck with your book!

  • thought that first one got lost lol!

  • Hi D.
    Happy 007. I write to thank you for your inspiring newsletter. After reading it I made the Lemon Buttermilk Sherbert AND the Dulce de Leche Brownies….what can I say, my guests were beside themselves and 4 days later my evenings are still ending in lemon chocolaty bliss.
    Who needs James Bond?
    I look forward to this sweet year with you!
    Petra

  • Barb: I actually am working on a post for this chocolate-filled month about Belgian chocolate(s). Stay tuned…

    Petra: Who needs Daniel Craig? Well, if you don’t I know a few folks who do!

    (Glad you like the sherbet & brownies, although obviously he doesn’t eat any of those things. So he’s not perfect.)

    Doug: Madame is Murielle! Next time you go in, tell her I said hi for me (and watch they way she slips on that silky, black-lace glove!)

    Paul: I wish it was luck that I got to live here…you should see me Visa paperwork, aka le doissier! I have another appointment at the Préfécture later this month since since my last 3 visits, they were unable to finish the paperwork and I need to go back for some unspecified reason.

    Luckily it coincides with when I need to begin the renewal process for next year’s renewal…

    (PS: I hear Melbourne has some terrific food…maybe we can do an exchange!)

    GuyAimeChocolat: I haven’t tried Pierre Hermé’s chocolates in years, since it’s almost impossible to shop in the rue Bonaparte shop with the crowds (I guess I could go to rue Vaugirard…) But I do remember liking them very much & they’re all make right downstairs, which I got to see once.

  • Lucky you David, you have seen all the most wonderful secret places of Paris that smell of chocolate!
    I tasted Pierre Hermé’s chocolates by chance around christmas 2005 when in line rue Bonaparte; Pierre Hermé had been kind enough to hire waitresses to give us chocolates while we were in the longest waiting line I had ever seen in front of his tiny shop. He did the same on new year’s eve. I had never thought of buying his chocolates, and in the end I had the best chocolates of my life for free while freezing on the pavement. Now I think he is the most under-estimated chocolatier in Paris.

  • you ARE fortunate. i’ve found one good one here in naples (although david may be able to help me with that one) and my island of ischia has none.

    yum

  • I have been enjoying your blog for a while now and it always makes me miss Paris. Congratulations on your nomination for the best food blog and best wishes for a very good 2007.

  • This post is definitely one of my favorites. You are at your absolute best here–both in writing and physical form. Love it. Love you. Love all that sculpted chocolate!

  • I found your blog while searching google for “chocolate torsos.” THank you so much for aiding me in my search. Love the blog, love you. Will be back often. Please post more chocolate torso photos too…they are divine.

    Big wink and lots of kisses,
    Rachael