Pas­sion for chocolate

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

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.

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