Founded in 1922 in Tain-L’hermitagein France’s Rhone Valley, Valrhona is touted as one of the best chocolate producers worldwide. Its vintage chocolates are estate grown, created with beans from a single harvest of a single plantation. The brand has chocolate schools, and works with multitudes of chefs in high-end restaurants, hosting courses that teach them how to use Valrhona in their kitchens.
For chefs, working with Valrhona is win-win: they attend courses abroad with peers, learn new techniques, and have a food purveyor that supports their careers. They also can menu the brand name. For example, when serving a chocolate cake prepared with Valrhona chocolate, Chapeau in San Francisco menus it as Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake.
As part of its ongoing collaboration with professionals, Valrhona invites chefs to its École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, the School of the Grand Chocolate of Valrhona, established in 1989, to take advanced courses in the use and preparation of chocolate-based dishes and desserts. Valrhona also runs two other schools, one just outside Paris, in Versailles, and the other in Tokyo. A fourth school is planned for New York City, poised to open this coming summer.
Joy Jessup Floyd, pastry chef at Atlanta’s Kevin Rathbun Steak, recently returned from a four-day intensive course at the Valrhona Chocolate Factory with seven other chefs from the United States, mostly from the Southeast, including Pastry Chef Sarah Koob of Canoe in Atlanta.
“I am dedicated to Valrhona, and [the company] has always supported my career,” Chef Floyd says. “They like to make sure you have the most current techniques and the best methods to get the best end-results when you use their chocolates. They give the technical support so you can bring stellar desserts to your customers.”
One of the key takeaways for Chef Floyd from the hands-on course was the difference in mouth feel when procedures and temperature guidelines are followed, versus when they are not.
“You learn when you are working with chocolate and serving it to a guest, if you implement the right temperature and procedures, your guests don’t end up with a dessert that is heavy in the mouth and the stomach,” Chef Floyd explains. “The technique of emulsifying was also stressed, specifically the best way possible to create emulsions. When the molecules are well mixed, your guests are able to finish the entire dessert because it was mixed right initially.”
While the importance of emulsion and specific techniques are nothing new, the extent and the exactness was totally different than what was learned in previous courses, says Floyd. “Valrhona keeps advancing the science of how to use its chocolate and shares what it has learned working with it.”
By Joann Whitcher