If you are lucky enough to be escaping on holiday, you might be pondering what book to take with you. I love books. So much so that my TV has been off for at least a year. Books are my friends, my inspiration, my inner world. I touch them, smell them and devour them as fast as I can. And I will never cheat on them with a Kindle. My books guard the shelves of my home office like mismatched sentinels until I feel the urge to pull them out and open them again like one listens to a good friend.
Chocolat, written by Joanne Harris, was published in 1999, the year that Artisan du Chocolat was founded. At that time we had a single client, Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital road. Gordon had just moved from Aubergine to set up on his own. We humbly presented our first ganache samples to Gordon and Mark Askew, Gordons right hand man, a quiet and unassuming Yorkshire lad. Two weeks after that, we hand-delivered our precious first few kilograms of chocolates to the restaurant that would become the flagship of Gordons empire and one of the few British restaurants to achieve and retain 3 Michelin stars. That same summer, we also started a stall at Borough market to gauge the public reaction to our dark concoctions. Borough market in 1999 comprised about 15 stalls once a month, a far cry from the heaving foodie attraction it is now . In 2000, the world fell in love with Audrey Tautou, Vianne in the film Chocolat. She uses her chocolate shop, La Céleste Praline, opposite the village church, to change the lives of villagers with a combination of compassion and subversion sprinkled with a little magic. Inspired by the film, hordes of chocolate lovers applied to work at our atelier. Producing chocolates on any scale is not as glamorous as the film depicted, a fact I had to kindly but firmly explain to all the applicants; but the magic created by giving pleasure to customers, touching lives even for a few minutes, I relate to every day. Chocolate has been both a source of inspiration and subsistence for many. Carole Matthews wrote a couple of novels anchored around a chocolate shop inspired by our first shop in Chelsea. Chocolate was originally drunk in Aztec times by rulers and warriors to sustain them. Today many writers eat chocolate as they battle to lay down words in solitude.
So, as I write this in a language that is not my own, I feel totally justified to reach for one of our new sea salted caramel bars. Translating our best-selling truffles into a bar demanded experimentation and dedication. We dont simply add caramel flavour to a bought-in couverture. We conche and refine ground Colombian beans from 3 regions (Santander, Huila and Tumaco) with cane sugar, dried milk and dried caramel. It is the hot and intimate conching of these ingredients with a hint of Noirmoutier grey salt that makes these new bars so splendid and, in their own way, magical.
Whether you are departing to an exotic heaven or just taking some time to relax, have a literary, chocolatey week,
Miss Anne xxx