Jean Apos­tolou, one of Go­diva’s most cel­e­brated cho­co­late mak­ers, on gar­lic-flavoured cho­co­late and adapt­ing to bizarre trends

Friday - - My Working Life -

How did you set out on the cho­co­late path?

The first smell you get when you step out of the train sta­tion in Brus­sels is of a neigh­bour­ing cho­co­late fac­tory: I lived nearby and the aroma of cho­co­late was al­ways in my nose.

I grad­u­ated at the age of 17 in cater­ing from Ce­ria in Brus­sels and be­gan my ca­reer as a choco­latier-patissier at Patis­serie Ja­cobs in Molen­beek in Bel­gium. It was here that I learnt the ba­sics of the trade. Af­ter gath­er­ing more than three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with sev­eral pres­ti­gious cho­co­late brands, I joined Go­diva five years ago.

I’m still in Brus­sels, and am now in­volved in de­vel­op­ing and over­see­ing new prod­ucts, ex­plor­ing the use of in­no­va­tive in­gre­di­ents and tech­nolo­gies for cho­co­late man­u­fac­ture, and work­ing with the raw ma­te­rial sup­pli­ers to en­sure only the very best reach our man­u­fac­tur­ing ar­eas.

In a room full of 100 dif­fer­ent choco­lates would you be able to iden­tify your own?

Oh yes, with­out a doubt. When I do a blind tast­ing I can al­ways recog­nise those that I’ve cre­ated my­self. I be­lieve this is the case for most choco­latiers, be­cause we all use cer­tain flavour pro­files and tex­tures.

Is there a truly bizarre flavour com­bi­na­tion that you per­son­ally love but the public isn’t ready for yet?

I’m very open-minded and for me noth­ing is bizarre. Ex­am­ples are some choco­lates that have black olive notes, or mush­room ones – they pos­sess these flavours with­out adding any ex­tra in­gre­di­ents, all by them­selves.

Where do you get your ideas for new cre­ations?

I like the food-pair­ing trend, and I fol­low this to see which flavours might work to­gether. But most of the time I make com­bi­na­tions in­stinc­tively.

When was the last time you tried some­thing new and it tasted aw­ful?

Cho­co­late and gar­lic – there is just no way to make it work.

What are some in­ter­na­tional trends in the in­dus­try now?

In Asia, for ex­am­ple, they don’t like sweet­ness so much. When I tasted gin­seng for the first time it seemed very bit­ter and as­trin­gent to me, but you quickly re­alise that be­hind the gin­seng there are some in­ter­est­ing flavour notes that com­bine very nicely with cho­co­late. Over the years choco­latiers have learned to adapt and ev­ery­thing be­comes less and less bizarre.

What about here in the Mid­dle East?

My un­der­stand­ing is that you have a rel­a­tively sweet tooth there. I did a Mid­dle Eastern col­lec­tion last year with al­monds, rose wa­ter and pis­ta­chio. I se­lected white and milk cho­co­late be­cause I know that they are pop­u­lar in the re­gion.

Is there a tech­nique to stor­ing cho­co­late?

Don’t keep cho­co­late in the fridge. It is cold and hu­mid and the mois­ture cre­ates a sticky sur­face that com­pletely changes the flavour of the cho­co­late. If you can keep it at 18°C, that’s per­fect.

What col­lec­tion are you most proud of?

Réserve Privée – it’s the most pres­ti­gious col­lec­tion we do and is cre­ated with very ex­clu­sive in­gre­di­ents.

Like what?

Take the Bronte pis­ta­chio. One of the best known va­ri­eties of pis­ta­chio is from Iran. Then there’s one from Tur­key. A third fine va­ri­ety is from Si­cily – there is a small vil­lage called Bronte lo­cated at the foot of Mount Etna, the vol­cano, where the ground is rocky. It’s arid, which forces the trees’ roots to go very deep in search of wa­ter. In do­ing so they also cap­ture the min­er­als that are present in this vol­canic soil, and it gives the pis­ta­chios a very deep flavour com­bined with a nat­u­ral salty essence. They are the most ex­pen­sive pis­ta­chios in the world be­cause there are so few of them pro­duced.

Have there been any un­usual trends in the world of cho­co­late re­cently?

Right now there’s one in which cho­co­late is made from raw co­coa beans. Nor­mally, the cho­co­late process be­gins with the roast­ing of the co­coa beans – it’s a process that has been per­fected grad­u­ally ever since the Mayans’ time, but some choco­latiers are now us­ing raw co­coa beans to cre­ate some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. They say they are go­ing back to cho­co­late’s roots, but I don’t like it be­cause I strongly be­lieve that it’s too far from what we know as cho­co­late.

Fi­nally, if you were at an air­port and needed a quick cho­co­late fix…

I am a great ad­mirer of Bel­gian cho­co­late, per­haps be­cause of those child­hood mem­o­ries of be­ing so close to that cho­co­late fac­tory, so I would wait un­til I could get my hands on some­thing that I re­ally loved from a lit­tle closer to home.

With ten­nis star Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, Go­diva’s brand am­bas­sador

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