Passion for chocolate
Living in foodie mecca, France inspired Whitby woman Annette Esquenet to make artisan chocolates, and it seems Kiwis are catching on.
New Zealand’s first-ever chocolate festival will be held this weekend as part of this year’s Wellington on a Plate food festival.
Whitby chocolatier Mrs Esquenet will be among the stallholders at the chocolate festival, and looks forward to the opportunity to meet likeminded food lovers.
‘‘Wellington is a fabulous food city,’’ she says.
Her own enthusiasm for food began in Rheims, in the Champagne region of France, where she lived for years with her French husband and their three children.
There, chocolate is top quality but eaten in small quantities as a treat.
Moving to New Zealand eight years ago, she decided to recreate French-style chocolate here.
‘‘ I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to share a bit about what I learned in France,’’ she says.
She started by trial and error in her kitchen with minimal tools and knowledge, but plenty of gusto.
‘‘When I think back now I don’t know how I did it.’’
The sailing was not always smooth – figuring out how to incorporate honey into chocolate was a challenge, and Mrs Esquenet still hasn’t cracked a palatable lavender flavour.
But making chocolate soon became a passion and has blossomed into a full-time business, Esque chocolates.
‘‘ Once I got going I got really very excited about it,’’ Mrs Esquenet says.
‘‘I like making chocolate. It’s what I’m passionate about.’’
A Gallic influence is obvious not only in the classic French flavours of her chocolate bars, but in their careful presentation and high quality.
‘‘People want to be given something really thoughtful rather than something really expensive. And that’s what this is, little gifts made with love,’’ Mrs Esquenet says.
But there is also a strong British essence in her chocolates.
Mrs Esquenet is originally from England and has devised two flavours based on childhood memories, a salty caramel bar that recalled the English seaside and her grandmother’s toffee apples, and an unusual thyme flavour designed to evoke English meadows.
New Zealand Chocolate Festival, August 12-14 at Intercontinental Hotel, Wellington. Tickets $20.
French fancy: Whitby chocolate maker Annette Esquenet’s Frenchinspired wares will be on display at New Zealand’s first chocolate festival in Wellington this weekend.