Since 1765, The Chavanettes have been making chocolate from scratch here in Orleans, France at Chocolaterie Royale. Standing in front of a life-size mermaid made of carved chocolate, we met the master of chocolate, the handsome 43-year-old Charles Chavanette, who arrived on his motorcycle and quickly changed into his chef’s whites and toque to talk about his passion.
This is no ordinary chocolate, mixed from a factory-made batch and decorated. No, Chavanette approaches these beans with care and meets the farmers in Ecuador, Java, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic who grow them. “It’s a political product,” he told us in French. He said that he works with Oxfam , helping to give credentials to worthy farmers, and that much like the fair trade movement in coffee, there are some parts of the world where cocoa beans mean bad things. That’s why he doesn’t buy beans from Africa. Things like child labor taint even good beans.
He said he likes the darkest, most intense flavors, like the one he hands us from a little silver plate. It is barely sweet, very strong, and he said it’s 100 percent chocolate, so there are not as much natural sugars. These dark morsels were from Java, very different from the pieces from Ecuador we had just tasted. The samples from Madagascar were from red cocoa beans, he said.
Chavanette has a plan, one that will bring these gourmet high-end morsels of chocolate to the US. He wants to open in Los Angeles, not New York. He said he’s worked in the Big Apple and wants instead to conquer the US from the left coast. I asked him what was the difference between these dark black pieces we were tasting and chocolate made in a factory.
“It takes about four hours for them to make it, but I roast the beans slowly, and it takes between 24 and even 72 hours for me to make the same amount.” Like good cooking, you can definitely taste the difference that time makes in Charles Chavanette’s chocolates.