Culinary Classroom – Chocolate Workshop at Town & Country Fine Foods
This session was certainly one that piqued many people’s interest – chocolate! The Servest Culinary Classroom chefs were lucky enough to be hosted by Town & Country Fine Foods for a day focussed on our enduring love of the cocoa bean. The day was directed by Town & Country’s Sales Development Chef, Jerome Dreux. Having worked in 2 Michelin star restaurants and with over 28 years’ experience as a pastry chef, Jerome really was a font of knowledge and anything he didn’t know about chocolate probably wasn’t worth knowing. It was to be a day of two halves; the first part learning about chocolate and the science of tempering it, with the second half being a practical session.
Jerome kicked things off by running the Servest chefs through the chocolate production process, from growing the beans to producing the chocolate itself. He showed a video and added his own expertise in and answered any questions that the chefs had. From there it was straight on into the kitchen for a crash course on the different varieties of chocolate and how to temper it. Jerome started by doing a tasting course, urging the chefs to cleanse their palate often, to fully appreciate the different flavours. This section was extremely similar to a wine tasting, with Jerome providing the tasting notes and the chocolates continually rising in cocoa content. It was interesting to note that white chocolate is not in fact chocolate at all, as it contains no cocoa powder, and it’s safe to say that it isn’t Jerome’s favourite type! Some of the notes identified by the Servest chefs included caramel, tobacco and cinnamon; it was a truly fascinating and eye-opening journey into the world of chocolate.
Once the tasting was complete, Jerome moved on to the science of tempering chocolate. It is an extremely technical process, with exact temperatures needed for the chocolate and also the room itself. The room was kept at a steady 20 degrees in order to aid the process and to make sure that the marble table was kept at the right temperature. It is this level of detail that really astounded some of the Servest chefs. Once the chocolate had been correctly melted, it was time for Jerome to demonstrate how to make intricate shapes and interesting designs; something that the Culinary Classroom chefs were extremely interested in. Given Servest Catering’s vast exposure to hospitality catering, seeing Jerome in action was really inspiring for the young chefs. Sharing some of the tricks of his trade, Jerome made patterned chocolate, delicate nests and tear-drop cases, amongst others.
Just before lunch there was time for some quick product demonstrations, showing how it is possible for chefs to turn out high-class desserts in a minimal time without having a dedicated pastry chef.
After lunch, it was time for the practical session. The Town & Country development kitchen was reorganised to give the Servest chefs room to get into groups and come up with some desserts of their own. Using Town & Country’s products, each group devised some truly stunning desserts that tasted every bit as good as they looked. Chris Ince, Servest’s Chef Director and driving force behind the Culinary Classroom programme, also joined in by making some desserts to his own recipe. It’s safe to say that the resulting dish was easy on the eye and even easier on the palate! Servest had arranged for a professional photographer to come along to the session, so the last part was a chance for the Culinary Classroom chefs to be photographed with their creations.
It really was an excellent session, with many of the chefs commenting on how interesting they found the day to be. They left the day with chatting about new desserts that they could make, something that is sure to please Servest clients in the near future.