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Aside from the massive safe in the Banque de France, probably the toughest place to get in to in France is the Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona in the little town of Tain l’Hermitage. Admission to the professional cooking program I attended is by invitation only, and several times of the year, pastry chefs and chocolatiers from all over the world come to Valrhona to watch and learn how their chocolate is made. And even more important, to discover the best and tastiest ways to eat it.

chef givre checking his refractometer chocolate

Our chef-instructor was Philippe Givre, who was good-natured, but never let us forget that we were there to work-work-work. And he was perhaps the best example of the hard-driving pastry chef.

Each morning when we arrived bleary-eyed (which had nothing to do with the Côte du Rhone-fueled dinners…), by the looks of things when we stepped in the spotless kitchen, it was obvious that he’d been there for hours, setting up the chocolate enrobers and lining up molds for our soon-to-be dipped chocolates.

snickers bars

Getting right to the chocolates, one of my favorites was what Chef Givre called “les Snickers bars” because of their layer of peanut croquante, a mix of peanuts and hazelnuts cooked in roasted sugar with a thin layer of gooey salted butter caramel on the bottom of these dark chocolate slathered bars. I think that if real Snickers bars tasted as good as these, they’d be selling a lot more Snickers bars.

And in case anyone thinks that French cuisine is fading into irrelevancy, Chef Givre proved that sometimes you just can’t beat solid technique, combined with amazing ingredients. When the French hit it right, they really do get it right on target.

spatulas eric case

I can’t possibly condense all I learned into one story here, but the base of most everything we made was ganache, that satin-smooth blend of chocolate mixed with cream and butter. But lest you think it’s just mindlessly combining those things in a bowl, heating them up, and pouring it out, we spend hours and hours whipping, beating, and pouring getting it to just the right temperature before pouring it out into blocks.

I’ve been making ganache for thirty-five years, and had never seen such meticulous care taken each step of the way, always involving a high-tech thermometer. And for those doubters out there, we tasted both poorly-made ganache next to the velvety-smooth ones, and there was just no contest.

swirled chocolates chocolate spout-tempering kettle

Being attached to a chocolate factory, we got to use all three types of chocolate; dark, milk, and white, and each had its own peculiarities. One morning was spent in the factory, watching the machines at work and the workers quietly placing chocolates on the belt before they emerged from the other side of the cascade of chocolate, perfect and shiny, ready for packing. Or eating, which we did.

Valrhona also makes what they call “cru” chocolates, and during the few moments when we weren’t hauling ass around the kitchen, I’d reach into the bags lined up in the laboratory for a taste. “Cru” refers to the terroir or region where the cacao is grown and produced, and as we found out, through multiple sampling (me sampling more than others…hey, there was no sign not to…), it can have a huge effect on the finished chocolate.

milk chocolate spatula

My favorite was the Nyangbo, which used only beans from Africa, which typically aren’t the best-quality beans. But this chocolate from Ghana blew me away and was my favorite of them all. Fruity and intense, it just might become my new go-to chocolate. We also got a sneak preview of their new Essense of Guinaja 80%, developed for professionals who are looking for more intensity in their chocolate desserts and confections. Biting into one of the truffles we made with them was an overwhelming chocolate overload. Well, almost.


For those of you who tsk-tsk white chocolate, think again, suckas…

caramelized white chocolate

What you’re looking at is a tray of caramelized white chocolate. That’s right: Caramel and cocoa butter, madames et monsieurs. Called the “Toffee of Milk”, when we pulled this tray out of the oven, spoons were flying as all the chefs were licking their lips in satisfaction, just going to show that you can teach some old dogs—some older than others—new tricks.

caramelized swirled chocolates

My other favorite chocolate we made was Iceberg, a swirl of white and dark chocolates flavored with mint. (I’m sure I was a Girl Scout in my past life with a merit badge in craving chocolate mint cookies.)

swirled chocolates

Like most of the other chocolates we produced, these were cut into little bars and sent through a shower of dark chocolate in the enrober. We were, literally, kids in a candy store, playing with all sorts of equipment, piping truffles, dipping centers, and candying everything we could get our hands on.

depositing truffles

Of course, we had the best of ingredients. And in chocolate-making, nowhere does it matter more. You can’t make great chocolates without great chocolate, or hazelnuts like these toasty beauties from Northern Italy.


As mentioned, everyone there was highly-skilled pastry professional. But many of us were débutants compared to the chefs of Valrhona.

chef alex

Seemingly simple tasks like making a chablon, a tissue-thin square of tempered chocolate to use to seal in the firm ganache, proved a challenge to most of us, and with the chefs breathing down our necks, it was even more of a challenge. But with more patience than Job, most of us got it. (It took me four times, but I think I need to make a few hundred more before I feel completely comfortable doing them. Send more chocolate!)

pouring pate de fruit

Some of the chocolates, thankfully, instead of a chablon, had a base of pâte de fruit, or gelled fruit, which made things not only easier, but in each case, made things more delicious.

The last day of classes, we scrambled to finish and polish up everything we’d made.

lots of chocolates

And it was a lot. Not everything was perfect…


…but as I always say, “If you could already do something well, you wouldn’t need to take classes to learn it.”

There’s always more to learn, and mistakes taste just almost as good as perfection, in the case of chocolates. A theory I can now attest to with one-hundred-percent certainty.

white chocolate truffles

By the end of the class on the last night, we were all given a big box and told to fill ’em up and bring ’em home. All week, I’d been a bit intimidated by some of the sheer talent around me. Working alongside the top pastry chefs in the world, and chocolatiers with very successful businesses, was quite an experience. Although not for the easily intimidated. These folks were hard-core professionals who knew their stuff.


But no one could top David Lebovitz in the chocolate-packing department. Having taken a class in boxing up bonbons, and working in two chocolate boutiques, (in Brussels and at a boutique in Paris) everyone was stunned at how efficient I was at packing as many chocolates as I could in mine.

chocolate-master "les" snickers bars

I didn’t weigh them, but surely mine was the heaviest of them all.

chocolate spoon


Related Links

For those with a good working knowledge of chocolate-work, Ecole Chocolat offers a version of this class as an annual French Chocolate Workshop at Valrhona. In order to attend, you must either be a graduate of their program or prove a familiarity with chocolate-making on a professional level.

Valrhona hosts individual classes (in French) that are open to the public and you can visit the site of L’école de Grand Chocolat Valrhona to inquire about availability.

UPDATE: Valrhona has opened a school near Paris, in Versailles, which offers half- and full-day classes (in French) to the public. You can inquire about them by calling 04 75 07 90 95, or by e-mail.

Chocosphere: Offers the entire line of Valrhona chocolates online

Caramelized White Chocolate (Recipe)

Valrhona: Company Website

Coeur de Guanaja: Site for their new chocolate (Warning: Music)

Back to Chocolate School (Dorie Greenspan)

Making Religieuse at Valrhona (Papilles & Pupilles)

L’ecole Valrhona (Pastry-Network)



    • Murasaki Shikibu

    “But no one could top David Lebovitz in the chocolate-packing department.”

    I love this line. And it’s true that if you’ve been trained to pack things efficiently and neatly you can do this better than anyone else. If you’ve ever done part time work for a Japanese department store you can probably wrap up gifts with a single sheet of paper very neatly and do it in under 30 seconds!

    • Jeremy

    Fabulous post David, sounds delicious as well as an eye opening learning experience!


    • celia

    It was the training at Wittamer Chocolates! :)

    • Lu

    David, this writing is among your best. And, the pictures, well, they are divine. Well done.

    • adrian

    You finally got in! Congrats! Though you don’t look too happy on the picture.

    • David

    celia: Bien sûr!

    adrian: Now that I’m French, I don’t smile for photographs ; )

    I was happy but the days were quite long and after 11 1/2 hrs on my feet, I was pretty wiped out. It was hard keeping up with those young ‘uns…

    • lee

    David, I am so happy for you. The chocolates look amazing, and so do you, All that intense hard work seems to have agreed with you.

    Your writing is so vivid, it makes me dream of being competent at making good chocolate, a fantasy indeed! While I can make very good fudge and quite a few other candies competantly, chocolates are not one of them, and from hearing your description of all the hard work that goes into them, I think they never will be.

    I’m still going to try your method for tempering chocolate though.

    • H.Peter

    Sounds like a brilliant adventure to me.
    Create all those fantastic items AND take them home?

    Europe is calling more and more!

    • H.Peter

    Sounds like a brilliant adventure to me.
    Create all those fantastic items AND take them home?

    Europe is calling more and more!

    • Prue

    This post is outstanding – one of the best I have ever read on any food website. I want to know more about the caramelized white chocolate. How? How do they do it, it just sounds so decadent. When I did my training I loved learning to temper chocolate by pouring it all out on the stainless steel counter top and working it back and forth in long sweeping motions in order to get it to the correct temperature. Please tell me how they did the caramelized white chocolate. Please.

    • Wendy DeBord

    Oh my, I’m sooooo jealous! Could an English speaking person survive their class?

    • Mrs.T.

    Wow, wow, wow. Love this post, best thing to read first thing in the morning. The only problem now is that I want some of that chocolate! Where’s Willy Wonka with his tv set when ya need him?

    • chocolatechic

    Oh…David….you are killing me.

    Caramelized white chocolate….oh…dear…me…

    I think I need to make another mug of hot chocolate.

    • krysalia

    I love the pleasure you had, that can be read in your story and in your pictures. And I don’t know by what i’m the most amazed : the nice story with the funny end, the neat, beautiful and professional chocolate porn pics, or your humble way to consider your own presence among those important people :)

    congrats for this nice moment you had, and thanks a lot for the sharing, it gives good vibes :) .

    • MyKitchenInHalfCups

    David I have never been so mercilessly teased in my entire life. You and this post should be outlawed! . . . by invitation only, I’ve always wanted to see the earth from space and that’s prohibitive. Now, I must add Valrhona to my never make it list.

    . . . caramelized white chocolate. . .caramel and cocoa butter. . .that has got to be incredible (and I know that is too timid a word).

    Thanks for this one.

    • Phoo-D

    David- What an incredible experience! I felt like I was peeking behind the curtain into the inner sanctum of chocolate gods. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am in awe of your mad skills!

    • Bryce Corbett

    Surely the mouth watering blog entry on the web today.

    And you have the audacity to call this a job?

    • dawn

    What a delightful read! I loved every inch of this. I’ve always told my hubby that my last dying wish is to either die at Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona or at Branson’s Necker Island. Two of the best places on earth!

    • amy

    Yum – love this post

    • Little Miss Cupcake

    Wow – I am so jealous! This was a great write-up – thanks for sharing. Those icebergs look delicious. Must have been a fun week!

    • cdelphine

    wow, that is very cool. Thanks for taking us along ;) Everything looks amazing and those iceberg chocolates are so beautiful. and caramelized white chocolate?! I generally don’t like white chocolate but I think that I would devour that.

    • Kim B.

    sigh . . . heavenly.

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride. What Krysalia said!

    • Julie

    Thanks for sharing this! It looks like an amazing experience. And I’d be right there with you sampling that cru chocolate!

    • Chaitali

    Wow! Chocolates…omg..your pictures are amazing, I can almost taste them!
    One question though: what exactly do you use a refractometer for?

    • Laura

    Congratulations on attending. I can’t imagine how hard and fabulous it must have been. Thank you so much for letting us experience it. I know I’m going to dream about caramelized white chocolate tonight!

    • Tami

    Thanks for chronicling this experience for us. I’m in awe. But mostly I can’t get my mind off that caramelized white chocolate. I’d love to know more about that product, specifically if I can make it myself. I too am a lover of white chocolate and get tired of how people poo poo it. As long as you don’t compare it to chocolate I think you can learn to appreciate its creamy luxurious flavour. But carmelizing it! Bonjour!

    • SavvyChristine

    Nevermind the caramelized white chocolate — I’m looking straight at les Snickers bars. It’s a good thing you take good photos of chocolate, so those of us who can’t eat it can savor it just the same.

    The chocolate-packing department: that’s where they teach you how to eat as much of it as possible while no one’s looking, right? ;-) Packing it in.

    • Hilda

    I LOVE this post. This post should be nominated for best single post for the food blog awards next year.

    “And in case anyone thinks that French cuisine is fading into irrelevancy, Chef Givre proved that sometimes you just can’t beat solid technique, combined with amazing ingredients.”
    I couldn’t agree with you more. People think that being on the cutting edge means leaving the basics behind which couldn’t be more stupid or untrue.

    ‘…but as I always say, “If you could already do something well, you wouldn’t need to take classes to learn it.”‘
    Amen to that too.

    “But no one could top David Lebovitz in the chocolate-packing department.”
    I can visualize it.

    • Jessica

    I am suffering from intense jealousy right now! All that chocolate looks delicious – nom nom nom!

    • Norlinda

    What are the glossy red “sheets” on some of the chocolates made of? I’m guessing sugar but I’m not sure.

    • Nikki

    Nummy num num.

    French patisseries, Valrhona, macarons… how on earth do you live in Paris without gaining weight?! lol

    I swear I need to go find my copy of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”…

    • ToastedSpecial

    Wow, this is one of the best blog posts I’ve seen for a long time … anywhere! Looks fantastic David. Got any of those choccies left?? ;)

    • babeth

    I hate you ! ;-)

    • Sara

    The class sounds really interesting.

    Caramelized white chocolate sounds like something I will have to track down and try.

    • Dallas from Bitchin’ Kitchen

    You are living the dream, man!
    … and we are all living it vicariously through you

    • amanda

    Sooooo jealous!!! And I also vote for an additional blog about how to make caramelized white chocolate! Please!!!

    • eva

    Thank you so much for sharing this David! Kisses on both cheeks :)

    • David

    Wendy: Our class was in English, since chef Givre speaks great English. But I think he teaches in whatever language is set up for.

    Norlinda: Those are sheets of plastic that we “painted” with tinted cocoa butter.

    Tami + C.delphine: I like white chocolate, too. I just did an interview and said that people who say they don’t like white chocolate “because it’s not chocolate” are essentially saying the equivalent of they “don’t like white wine because it’s not Champagne.” They’re both similar, but vastly different as well.

    H. Peter: There was a ton of chocolate. I don’t know what they would have done if we didn’t take it home. I have a feeling the people that work at Valrhona, and their friends, don’t suffer from a shortage of chocolate.

    • james

    Please tell us more about the caramelized white chocolate. Great post.

    • kathie

    Beautiful Chocolates!

    • marie

    Reading this makes me hungry! Such beautiful pictures!

    • Hillary

    David, thank you for giving us a behind the scenes look at making these gorgeous truffles!!

    • jessica

    I like to imagine what my life would be like if I lived your life! You are so lucky!

    • Angry Brit

    What an amazing experience. I’m pretty sure that I would not have the requisite patience for something like this. No patience and easily frustrated do not seem like qualities one would be looking for in a professional chocolate chef. And I love white chocolate, so nyah-nyah to all the haters out there.

    • Sarah

    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory got nothin’ on you! Mazel Tov on your excellent adventure.

    I LOVE watching candy makers. Seeing chocolate being tempered on a giant slab gets me high. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s art to me. And I would have loved doing the swirling on those white and dark mint bars, and then tasting them too.

    But “les snickers”, are you kidding me? You gave a website but it doesn’t sell those. I totally understood why you couldn’t give up your sesame baguette dealer/boulangerie. But I am begging for a lead on “les snickers”!

    On second thought, summer is almost here and I don’t want to be so enormously tempted during swimsuit season ;-)

    Hi Sarah: We made ‘les Snickers’ in the class; they weren’t store-bought. But if they were, you can be sure I wouldn’t give up that address either…I’d hoard them all for myself, too! x -dl

    • CakeSpy

    Just as you can’t quite cover EVERYTHING in one posting, I can’t quite say everything I love about it in one comment. But most of all, thank you–for bringing white chocolate, my dirty little secret of a guilty pleasure, to the spotlight, where it belongs!

    • Margie

    Hey, you may have been in the midst of the cream-of-the-crop, but seriously, could they have put this tale into words as beautifully as you have done?

    I think not.

    P.S. Got any leftovers?


    • Cindy

    You wouldn’t be mind indulging the steps in making some of my own toffee of milk might you? I am simply a lover of white chocolate who has been on the receiving end of the white chocolate criticism

    • Peggy

    David, I really love reading your columns (and drooling over the pictures). Perhaps you could help me with a travel question? Where in Paris could one find a plug converter to adapt a US computer to a Paris electric socket?? I know the better answer would be to bring it with you…but somehow this did not happen.

    PS I apologize for leaving an earlier message on a blog from several years ago, but now I understand the time frame connection would work better on your most recent blog. :) Peggy

    Peggy: Electronics stores like FNAC, Surcourf, and the BHV department store carry those. Hardware stores like Castorama and Leroy Merlin most likely will carry them as well. -dl

    • Rachel

    One more vote for an entry on caramelised white chocolate – I’ve never been a white chocolate fan (not out of snobbery, I just find it too sweet), but your pics and writing have made me reconsider!

    • Semine

    Hmmm, I wonder if your Flash-Gordon-like packing speed and efficiency was a direct result of your serious want to take as much chocolate as possible home? ;]

    • MrsLavendula

    caramelized white chocolate….sounds like a dream! =)
    congratulations for getting in the class. im sure this means we’re to expect more great posts about goodies from your kitchen! yippeeee!

    • Skippy

    This was just simply thrilling.

    And thank you for the defense of white chocolate. People who knock white chocolate have likely only had the bad junk–and there’s a lot of bad white chocolate out there. Good quality white chocolate, used the right way, can be a revelation.

    Now I’m going to go back and read this again. Sigh.

    • noble pig

    I am oozing envy…it’s dripping out like melty chocolate.

    • David

    Whoa! I didn’t realize there were so many white chocolate-lovers out there. (I think we need to start a secret organization and have a top-secret handshake or something…?)

    I’ve ordered a bag of Valrhona’s Ivoire white chocolate disks and I’m hoping to do some sort of playing around in my home kitchen.

    I’ll have to see what I come up with and hopefully I can come up with a recipe that’s just as good as the one we had in class, using the professional equipment…wish me luck!

    • Alta

    As I’m reading your post, I’m sitting here drop-jawed and drooling. I am insanely jealous, and my mouth is watering thinking about all of those chocolates! And I’m very curious about the caramelized white chocolate…that sounds delicious! please please post your experiments once you get those white chocolate disks in!

    • ritanyc

    I would love to spread some Nyangbo on my quignon and have someone watch me eat it (in public).

    • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    Unbelievable, really looks like so much work for something we enjoy so quickly. I wish I had the patience and more importantly, the space and tools to try. Some day…

    PS: Who’s the cute guy above your pic?

    • Prue

    Thank you David, I cannot wait to see how you caramelize the white chocolate. I even woke up during the night and started thinking about it!

    • Claudia

    oh my, a swirl of white and dark chocolates flavored with mint. I was definitely a member of that girl scout group of yours….

    • Dominique (de vous à moi)

    Quelle belle expérience! Moi aussi je suis fan de chocolat blanc, et la qualité de Valrhona est à mes yeux la meilleure. J’espère que tu as pu goûter à tout!

    • monica

    Very interesting post!!!.
    I´m a Pastry chef and I´m training in chocolate
    I´m going to Paris in June, and I´m attending a course at Valhrona and Callebaut in Meulan.
    Your website is being really useful for me to organize my stay in Paris.
    I want to know if you are organizing some kind of activities related to chocolate, like
    a tasting, conferences, or other events.
    Thanks a lot,
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    • T. Tilash

    What struck me when I first tasted Valrhona chocolate, was that the description on the package actually matched the content! You know the “bitter and tender” or “slightly spicy and refreshing” or “fruity, exotic and velvetty” etc…. those kind of descriptions which are often just for show… Well, the ones on Valrhona chocolates are accurate, and that tells a lot about the thinking process and precision theses guys have.

    Great post, very “dream-like”. ;)

    Oh and for the white chocolate lovers outthere, Nestle Dessert (in France) recently started making a white chocolate for desserts, and it is really good, way better than other mass produced white chocolates I’ve tasted (Galak, Meunier…even Lindt isn’t as good in my opinion).

    • Whitney

    What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing :)

    • Paula Maack

    What a fantastic experience! You look stellar in that photo, David. Damn…

    It is always daunting to take a class in your field with others that are at – or above – your skill level in certain areas, isn’t it? It challenges one to the core.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. This is the kind of thing that makes your blog so special. I can’t wait to read the recipes that will surely follow.

    All of the candy images are so delectable and tantalizing. I want to lick all of those surfaces, and gobble up those tasty bonbons so badly…. Mmmmmm!


    ~ Paula

    • Paula Maack

    By the way, I really feel I should be applauded for my restraint in not making a fuss over your “chocolate packing” skills. It’s so unlike me to let something as tempting as that slip by without at least one bawdy comment, if not a full blown raunchfest. ;)

    Just saying…


    ~ Paula

    • Lisa (dinner party)

    Love this post, David. Thanks for letting us all tag along with you.

    • Hannah

    i love that you managed to stuff the most into your box :)

    • Amanda

    I couldn’t wait for another entry about white chocolate, so after googling “caramelized white chocolate”, I made an attempt myself. I chopped up some callebaut white chocolate and put it in a 265 degree oven. After stirring it occasionally for about 25 minutes, I had brown crumbles. It never even remotely melted. :( Next I”m going to try melting white chocolate in the microwave first, then putting it in the oven. Maybe that will help.

    • Glitzer

    This looks amazing!!! I would love to have gotten the invitation. The chocolate looks so good.. even though I may not have gotten an invitation, but the photos that you have shared surely shows a great and tasty adventure!

    • Prue

    David, it was keeping me up at night, so I attempted the caramelized white chocolate. I got it pretty good I think after three attempts. The first one was way too grainy, the second really dry and the third (I grated the chocolate and had it in a 265 F oven, for about forty minutes, scraping with a palette knife every ten minutes or so). I made truffles with them – they are wicked but do you think the fact that I used Callebaut chocolate would have made a difference. I am dying to see what you do. Thanks again.

    • Lecia

    I’m sure I will daydream about this post throughout my day.

    • Eric

    Wow what a beautiful photo of you holding the chocolate. Who took it?

    • Patricia Shea

    What can I say that hasn’t already been said, WHAT a breathtaking post…Thank you!!

    • Judith in Umbria

    See? I knew I was right! Valrhona has been almost impossible to find here in Washington DC, but I was intrepid until I finally found a miniscule 100 g bar at Rodman’s. This stuff just tastes better and makes everything you make taste better.

    Does it really seem fair to you that you, who have had so many opportunities with sweets and chocolates, always get the opportunities to do things with sweets and chocolates while the rest of us are investigating pig farms and trying to decide if our eggs were obtained humanely?

    • Lola

    Can I just say that I absolutely love your life.

    • Bernadette

    A wonderful experience David and despite the long days, you were well up for the challenge, congratulations! I imagine the smells in the building were heavenly.

    • Yun

    Thanks for sharing a great post! Although I’m nowhere near professional level (hobbyist), I am so jealous of your experience at the L’ecome du Grand Chocolat Valrhona! I came across your website while I was looking for a homemade ice cream recipe last weekend and I’m combing through your entire blog now. Great blog. I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back often. Thanks!!

    • Seanna Lea

    Wow. Color me green with jealousy. I love baking et al, but I’m definitely an amateur!

    • Simone Izumi

    Great post!!!
    J’adore Valrhona and I hope I ‘ll be able to go to a workshop in a near future.
    I love your blog…
    Simone ,from Brazil!

    • Nina

    During one of my very active baking phases, I had just come home from the grocery store with bags of wonderful food….great cheese, bread, vegetables….and several large squares of Valrhona chocolate for a new recipe that I was going to try out. The phone rang as I entered the house, so I flopped the bags on the floor and got engrossed in a conversation with my friend. After I hung up the phone, I went to put away the groceries, but found that my dear dog had riffled through the bags. She passed on the cheese and bread, and went straight for the Valrhona, consuming a good portion of one of the bars. My dear Beagle confirmed why Beagles are used to sniff luggage at Dulles airport. I called my Vet, because I had heard that chocolate is potentially dangerous for dogs. He told me to watch her and call if any signs of distress developed. So I watched my dear dog as she stretched and snoozed and had a look of utter delight and satisfaction and I’d even say a bit of smug amusement. She ended up being perfectly fine and probably is one of the few dogs on this plant that can eat chocolate without any problem. Even Beagles know a good thing when they sniff it.

    • ABowlOfMush

    Chocolate heaven! I can’t tell you how jealous I am of you going there!

    • Axel

    Dear David,

    would you mind sharing / posting the “le snickers” recipe with us. It is truly one of the few professional things left undone for me, since my very first days as an apprentice.(Well, at least undone so far, because of the lack of a damn good recipe for ages)?!?
    I´d love to learn how to to it, even though my chance doing it with chef Givre is not exactly high, is it?

    Thank you very much in advance

    yours Axel

    • David

    Axel: Because the recipes are from the school, you’d need to get them directly from them as they hold the rights to them and their distribution.

    • Aaron

    Dear David,

    I’m a Taiwanese who’s deeply in love with chocolate. Since the quality of handmade chocolate is rather poor in Taiwan (some people think Valrhona doesn’t taste like choc, can you believe that?!) It leaves me no choice but to learn on my own, and I’ve been doing that for like three years. My dreams are to go to Paris one day and learn from the best chefs.

    But there are a few problems which have been bothering me for quite some time, and I couldn’t find the answers, so I came to bother you ;)

    I was wondering how could one make the coating of a bonbon as thin as possible when hand-dipped? I know a lot of professionals use enrobers, but I’m just a student (and my family doesn’t own a bank). Are there any tips for decreasing the coating’s thickness? Maybe not as thin as an enrobed one, but at least thinner than usual?

    One last thing, about the wave-like decoration on top of the Snickers, how is it applied onto the choc? I guess maybe by the force of air, but I would like to know more specific details (if it’s OK).

    Thank you so much for spending time on this long comment!

    Best regards


    • david

    Aaron: The chocolate enrobing machines have an adjustable fan, which they set to regulate how much chocolate to blow off the bonbons after them are just-dipped. I’m not aware of the Snickers design, but they likely regulate the thickness of the chocolate and how quickly the pouring funnel is lifted.

    • Nadine

    Great post! I must admit I’m sort of jealous. I was wondering how many days the workshop was and if an amateur would be able to join. I dream of doing something of the sort one day since lately I have developed an obsession of making things from scratch and I am a full blown chocoholic :-) Thanks!

    • David

    Hi Nadine: The course is intended for professionals with a certain amount of experience in chocolate work. You can inquire with the school, at the link at the end of the post, whether they offer other classes. Ecole Chocolat, also linked, does an annual trip to the school as well.

    Valrhona has opened a second school, close to Paris (91, rue Joseph Bertrand, in Viroflay, near Versailles), although I’ve not been able to find much information about it online. There are individual, full and half day-long classes in chocolate and other facets of pastry-making for folks of various abilities.

    Their phone number is 04 75 07 90 95.

    • Nadine

    Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I will look into the info above. Just found out that the next annual trip of Ecole Chocolate will be in April 2011 which would give me some time to learn some basics. Thanks again.

    • Chi

    I’m a relatively new culinary school graduate. I finished my studies in early April and have been working in the New York restaurant scene since. This is my second career, so I’m a lot older than most entry level pastry assistants/cooks and have more responsibilities outside of work because I have two young children. I feel I don’t have the luxury of time to spend working for a few years in 3-4 star restaurants at entry positions to learn more about chocolate. I certainly won’t last at my current job, working 10-12hrs shifts, 6 days/wk going full stream without ever slowing down or taking a break. Given that, my question to you is how can I get into the class? Do I have enough experience coming out of pastry school and working with chocolate ganaches at the restaurants to qualify? Also, is the instruction only in French? It’s been 15yrs since I use my French so I can’t say I’m fluent anymore. Thanks.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    It would be best to contact the school and the company directly for answers to your questions about their programs. You’ll find links to Valrhona in the post and their school.


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