The Chocolate Connection: an evening with Stéphane Leroux
Earlier this month, I was thrilled to be an invited guest of the Chocolate Connection: an evening with Stéphane Leroux. The event was held at The Loft on King in Toronto. It was organized by Puratos and their chocolate brand Belcolade. Again, after a two-year hiatus of in-person events in the food industry, I looked forward to an evening of learning, tasting, and networking. Let’s explore the Chocolate Connection: an evening with Stéphane Leroux.
Who is Stéphane Leroux?
Since 2004, Stéphane is known as the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in the pastry confectioner category by the French government. A prestigious title conferred only to a few of the best artisans in the country. The winner of several other professional competitions in France and abroad, Stéphane is the author of several books showcasing the world of chocolate. He has been working with Belcolade for over 14 years creating wonderful and diverse chocolate innovations. Stéphane inspires many with his creative approach to the world of chocolate.
The Chocolate Connection: an evening with Stéphane Leroux highlights
The event was held over a three- and half-hour period with about 60 invited guests including experts in chocolate, pastry, baking and food. As a writer for Bakers Journal for over a decade, I’m always interested in understanding more about certain topics. Chocolate – who isn’t interested in that topic! Here are my highlights from the evening.
The highlight of the education component for me was learning about Cacao-trace. I’ve been writing and speaking about sustainability for over five years. Consequently, this topic piqued my interest. Cacao-trace started in 2013, is Puratos’ unique, mutually beneficial program for farmers and industry. It builds upon the farmers’ local knowledge and expertise, then empowers them to be more productive and sustainable. As a result, Cacao-trace answers the need for a more sustainable and transparent cocoa supply chain. Continuous improvement is embedded into the program and validated through independent, third-party audits.
When it comes to flavour and taste, Cacao-trace chocolate offers an intense focus on the post-harvest process which many other sustainable chocolate products do not. Factors such as soil, climate and the variety of the bean. Fermentation is an essential stage in developing the flavour potential of cocoa beans. Mastering this process ensures that only the highest quality beans become delicious Cacao-trace chocolate.
We were treated to a delicious chocolate tasting at our seat with four creative chocolates by Stéphane and local whiskey and wine. Plus, there were trays of other chocolates on display throughout the event we could taste at our leisure. My favourite was the Blue Point. Layers of flavours including a UK based blue cheese, tangy raspberry filling and smooth dark chocolate. It was delicious with Dillons’ 100% Canadian rye whiskey.
Stéphane uses traditional ingredients including almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cherry, and strawberry but also innovates with experimental or non-traditional ones such as mushrooms, truffles, paprika, roasted buckwheat and rosemary. Of course, as a seed lover, I enjoyed the chocolates with flax and chia seeds in addition to the Blue Point being my ultimate favourite of the evening.
In the food industry, I find in-person events offer better experiences, especially when tasting is involved. Professionally, I welcome the opportunity to engage with colleagues I have never met in-person! And the chance to meet new ones like Stéphane and Atul Palghadmal, chef and owner, Nugateau Patisserie in Toronto who I sat beside during the event. As a result, I was able to connect with Atul post event and include his insights for my upcoming Final Proof Column in Aug/Sept issue of Bakers Journal. There is nothing like building your network organically and in-person.
I won Bleu Chocolat!
There was a draw for Stéphane’s book Bleu Chocolat and I was a lucky recipient. Stéphane signed it for me. Bleu Chocolat is full of incredible pieces. A talented artist with a delicious medium. I can’t believe they are made from chocolate.
Final Thoughts of The Chocolate Connection: an evening with Stéphane Leroux
As a business owner, now that it is possible, it’s important for time away from the office to learn, taste and connect! Thank you organizers of The Chocolate Connection: an evening with Stéphane Leroux for inviting me and making it such a worthwhile event.
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Photo credits: Puratos for all except The tasting