It’s not often I get invited into the kitchen (my friends and family feel safe in the knowledge that the best thing I make for dinner is reservations!) so to find myself in the famous kitchen at The Dorchester, in a stark white apron with a glass of champagne (is that not normal?!) was really amusing for everyone I know. I am not a great cook, and if I’m honest, I eat to live, not live to eat. I usually eat out at restaurants or, in direct contrast, forage amongst the kitchen cupboards and fridge, picking ferally at whatever I may have acquired at recent supermarket dashes that isn't a magazine or chewing gum…!
So what convinced me to step into the kitchens of Alain Ducasse? One simple, yet powerful word… Chocolate.
Five years ago Alain Ducasse, the king of French fine dining, alongside Nicholas Berger, Alain’s head pastry chef, decided to make chocolate - but not just any chocolate. Positioning themselves as craftsmen, the men managed to preserve the tastes and characteristics of each bean, using traditional vintage machines and time-tested methods, eventually resulting in the 2013 opening of the first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing facility in Paris.
I was invited by Nicolas Berger, Exécutif Chocolatier at La Manufacture de Chocolat, to an exclusive, hands-on master class where I was to uncover the secrets behind artisan chocolate-making. Using the finest chocolate imported directly from La Manufacture in Paris, I accompanied Nicolas in creating a range of indulgent puddings (a tarte fine au chocolate and the restaurants signature, and incredible, soufflé) and several bars of chocolate.
I am not going to lie, the creation of the chocolate puddings was agonizing. I am well known for my incorrigible sweet tooth and it took every ounce of maturity and restraint in my body to stop me from launching myself into the giant pans of melted chocolate. I gave the rolling, stirring, piping and decorating a go (embarrassingly, yet unsurprisingly, my varying attempts stood out like sore thumbs amongst the others), and learnt the best methods to melt, mould and work with chocolate. It had indeed been an incredibly interesting afternoon, but lets not kid ourselves here… the best bit was undeniably sitting down in Alain’s beautiful restaurant afterwards, alongside Nicolas, and devouring the fruits of our labour with dark chocolate ice cream. Heaven.
“Everywhere in the world there are tensions—economic, political, religious. So we need chocolate.” Alain Ducasse
Places for chocoholics on this workshop are now available to purchase and will be taking place on the 7th of February and 7th of March 2015. £150.00 pp.