Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bean to bar craft chocolate and life altering decisions.

School begins in less than a month. I am excited about classes beginning. The only part of my new adventure that makes me nervous is the internship I'll have to do next fall. I've started thinking about what kind of an internship I'd like to do, and once I've decided that I will start thinking about where I'll do it. For me, I've narrowed it down to three choices. Restaurant Pastry Chef, Patisserie Pastry Chef, and Candymaker. I can make an excellent argument for each of these three options. A few options I know I am definitely not interested in are cake maker/decorator and bread baker. To strictly make bread, I believe I would feel very limited. I do not, personally speaking, think I would find bread baking as challenging as working as a pastry chef in a restaurant or bakery. As far as cake decorating goes, I don't feel it's about baking. It's about art and sculpture. If you watch Ace of Cakes and listen closely, most of the folks who worked there were trained as artists, not bakers. Look at the gallery on their website! They are amazingly beautiful creations.

Last week, I attended a lecture at the NC Museum of Science. The topic of the lecture of was Bean To Bar Craft Chocolate and it was given by Hal Parson, one of the co-founders of Escazu Artisan Chocolates here in Raleigh. He spoke at length about sourcing the chocolate, the equipment used, and the processes involved. We had samples to taste. It was fascinating and it got me thinking. My great-grandparents owned a candy store in Pittsburgh, PA. I've always had in the back of my mind that I might like to make candy one day. This lecture really got me thinking. Were you aware that there is a big craft chocolate movement in the US? Think microbreweries, but chocolate. There's a big farm to table movement going on the the food world. It only makes sense that chocolate should be a included.

Over the past week, I've been thinking hard about my choices. It is with careful consideration that I cross chocolatier off my list at least for now. I made a cherry pie the other day. It was damn good. (I promise to do a post on it soon. I can't find my cable for my camera. I put it away because Elvis was playing with it and now I forget where I stashed it.) After I made this pie, I shared it with some friends. Giving away my pie was just as enjoyable as making it. It made me remember why I am going to pastry school. I am not contented to make pies and cookies at home. I want to share these creations with friends, relatives and customers. Eating a piece of homemade cherry pie or brioche or cake can make someone really happy. If only for a few minutes, it can right all the wrongs in the world. I want be a part of that experience. I want to make pies and cakes and croissants. I want to feed people my creations and make them happy. Working with dough is a remarkable experience. I prefer to knead my dough by hand rather than with machinery. I always have. This isn't something I want to do so much as it is something that I need to do. I have to do this. I'm not sure I could be fulfilled with chocolate alone in the same way that I could not be fulfilled with bread alone.

Where I go from here is still up in the air. We have a number of James Beard Award nominees in the area and a few spectacular bakeries as well. I have a lot of options. I will continue to think and research but I think I'm a lot closer to a decision. I've included a list of Bean to Bar chocolate makers in the US. If you know of any others, please let me know and I'll be happy to add them here.

Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate in the US
Amano Artisan Chocolate in Orem, UT
Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, MO
DeVries Chocolate Location Unknown
Escazu Artizan Chocolates in Raleigh, NC
Mast Brothers Chocolate in New York City
Patric Chocolate in Columbia, MO
Taza Chocolate in Somerville, MA


Kristina P. said...

I am jealous! Pastries scare me. If I have to roll it out, I won't make it. Unless it's a Pillsbury Sugar Cookie roll.

Kathy B! said...

I love how passionate you are about this. I can't wait to hear how this all plays out and see the results of your internship. Now go and find that cable or we'll never see anything!

andrew said...

there's always ghirardelli in SF. there used to sharffen berger in berkeley, and joseph schmidt in SF, but hershey bought both of those plants and closed them. bastards.

Meg said...

A-Technically Hershey is considered a bean to bar manufacturer too! However the difference between Hershey and those I listed is that in a Hershey factory, beans go into one end of a machine and a wrapped bar comes out the other end without seeing the light of day or a human. I would suspect that Ghiradelli is closer to Hershey than say Mast Bros. or Escazu. With the amount of product they make I'm guessing it's unlikely they hand mold and hand wrap chocolates. I could be wrong. Have you been there? Do they do tours? Sharffen-Berger was considered a craft chocolate company until Hershey bought them. They made everything by hand.