What makes a chocolatier?

A lady called in and ordered some honey caramels. When she was done, I asked her if she wanted chocolates. She stated:  “If I wanted chocolates, I’d get them from a real chocolatier.”

That created a bitter taste in my soul. Queen Bee Gardens has been making and selling chocolate confections since the mid 1980’s. Why in the world would Queen Bee Gardens NOT be considered a chocolatier? According to Dictionary.com a chocolatier is:

  1. a person or firm that makes and sells chocolate candy.

Bam! Chocolatier! Right?

I decided to double check. Wikipedia said: A chocolatier is a person or company who makes confectionery from chocolate.

It went on to say…Chocolatiers are distinct from chocolate makers, who create chocolate from cacao beans and other ingredients. We don’t create the chocolate from cacao beans.

Professional chocolatiers study many topics including:

  • The history of chocolate. I know some of the history of chocolate. I know that in 1519, when the Spanish conquered Mexico, they found the people drinking chocolate sweetened with honey. I don’t know anyone apart from Queen Bee Gardens who make their chocolates with the main sweetener being honey, and that is how it all started!
  • Modern techniques of cultivation and processing. The school of hard knocks will teach you this!
  • The chemistry of chocolate’s flavors and textures. I think my mouth can tell me that bacon and chocolate were never really meant to be together. On that note, I read in Candy Industry magazine that if you don’t have a bacon chocolate, then you aren’t a real chocolatier. Maybe that is why we aren’t “real chocolatiers.”
  • Chocolate tempering, dipping, decorating, and molding. We do every one of those things here. Many companies don’t even know what it means to temper chocolate, but that is because they are using an inferior chocolate that has wax and bentonite in it.
  • Confectionery formulae based on ganache and/or fondant. We have 22 different ganaches for all of our different truffles.

Chocolatiers generally start out as pastry or confectionery chefs. Being a master chocolatier involves perfecting the art of working with chocolate to create not only delicious desserts, but also beautifully and skillfully crafted pieces of art with the chocolate. I did not start out as a pastry or confectionery chef, nor did anyone who works at Queen Bee Gardens. I believe anyone who has eaten our confections, however will admit that they are beautiful and taste delicious.

When I googled images of chocolatiers, I found many different pictures. Some were of people meticulously making a sculpture or bunny from chocolate. We don’t make sculptures out of chocolate; however, we do make bunnies. Many of the pictures are of chocolate truffles, some of them with “feet” (where chocolate pools on the bottom of the truffle). We figured out how to get rid of the feet on the hand dipped truffles decades ago.

Some of these truffles are decorated prettier than ours, but we are “all natural,” a standard used in everything we make, including decorations. I have never claimed to be an artist, but artistry isn’t just visionary. Perhaps that is where we don’t measure up: our chocolates aren’t pretty enough. But I can say with confidence that you CAN be an artist to the taste buds.

After all you do, there is only so much that you can do. You can’t please everyone. Maybe, according to my customer, you must have sugar as your main sweetener in order to be a chocolatier. Perhaps you must use artificial flavors, bentonite and wax in your chocolate in order to be a chocolatier. If that is the case, then I don’t want to be a chocolatier.