Salon du Chocolat 2016
We at Paris in person give away the impression of being exclusively art historians, experts in aesthetics, superb guides and all around extraordinary people, but few know that when we first had the idea of starting the touring business back in 2010 it was originally supposed to be all about the chocolate in Paris – tastings, chocolate walks, workshops etc. It has long been our passion, both the field of expertise and a favorite past-time. Off course, it only stands to reason that we wouldn’t miss this year’s Salon du Chocolat.
We will post our impressions about the Salon du Chocolat from 2010 (in the Vintage category) just so that you could compare the two and see how far this manifestation has progressed. We will keep you tuned for that one. Back to this one now.
So all was set – rigorous preparations accomplished, our palates cleansed, minds and bodies locked on the objective. No spicy, salty, overly sweet, sour or bitter foods days before the Salon, light fasting for a couple of days, several visits to the sauna for detox (some of this may be slightly exaggerated, who knows) all preparations were made so that we’d temper ourselves to be in perfect shape for the Salon.
And off we were. First, the place is huge. This time around it was expanded by an extra floor, and unlike a couple of years ago when one floor where it took place was half empty, now two huge floors were packed. A lot of people came and created a huge crowd – but hey, can you really blame them? Off course not. It was all very orderly.
The Choco-Kong, a 6 meters (a 20ish feet) tall chocolate statue dominating this year’s Salon
We’ll say right now that our impressions were great. Amazing even. It may have had something to do with the sugar high that started kicking in very soon (almost every stand offer tastings and no matter how glutenous you are there is no way that you can taste everything that was offered), mixed quite opportunistically with copious amounts of alcohol. This is not only a Chocolate Fair, it is “all things chocolate related” fair, meaning that there were quite a few stands serving rum, champagne, chocolate related cocktails and alike. Needless to say that we checked every one of them and got pretty wasted pretty fast. The rest of the visit was a drunken, euphoric run all over the place, as we were trying to take the atmosphere in and not miss anything. Some of the crew members may have trolled some stall staff with excessively detailed questions, we won’t mention which ones; some may have drunkenly professed affection to their favorite chocolate producers (Bonnat, you’re the best!) but it was all very kind hearthed and in good spirits. The compliments go to the staff of almost every stand as they were all surprisingly kind for French standards especially.
Now, for what’s new. First, the invasion of the Japanese chocolate. Japan got (chocolate) game; their producers constituted roughly one third of this year’s salon, and they are making quality products. No surprise there really, but they weren’t on our radar thus far. We’ll see if they will be able to do the same in the world of chocolate as they did in the world of whiskey (to fairly dominate quality wise). They seem to be well on their way.
Also, it was notable that some big producers were not there. We’re not talking only about the ever secretive and seclusive Amano, but also Domori and Amadei; further still, great chains like Lindt and Milka didn’t have their stands. Milka, we don’t miss you at all, as you can’t really be considered a chocolate at all; but it still is quite strange. Even more se seeing how the bags they would distribute on the entrance had Milka ads on them, and there was a person dressed in the purple cow to be seen trolling the visitors, but no stands. Perhaps it was a cheery visitor who had nothing to do with the actual company but just decided to come in a Milka purple cow costume – we’ve seen stranger things – we don’t judge. Lindt was completely absent (them, we did miss), and Nestle had a very small stand. Valrhona was completely absent. This is strange as they are by far the largest French chocolate producer and they furnish the actual couverture for some 80% of producers who do not grow and pick their own cocoa seeds. That is also known as a bean to bar policy, and is definitely a growing trend, which is also good.
On the other hand, most of the respectable big names of the scene were there – Bonnat, Michel Cluizel, Pralus, Jean Paul Hévin, Chapon, Foucher. Maison du chocolat was also absent for some strange reason. There were also many new-comers worthy of notice – Carré C with their original Chocoscope packaging, Pacari, Vanillabeans (a curious name for a chocolate company, but hey, we don’t judge) with their bold and amazing Smoke chocolate (so apparently it works on chocolate as well as it does on whisky – a great discovery), Marou, and many more. There’s over 500 participants, too many to list them all here.
Another novelty of this fair is that it tried including the audience more. Many ateliers, workshops and cooking classes were around. Some producers, like Bonnat, included actual machinery to show how the chocolate is being made. Further down those lines, you could not only watch and perhaps buy industrial scale machines, but also, which is supremely exciting to us chocolate fans, home-scale machines for conching where you could create your own chocolate. We’ve had a very interesting talk with a passionate chocolate guerrilla warrior from Indi Chocolate, Erin Andrews, who presented here vision of every household making their own chocolates (as she does), therefore contributing to the overall global variety and quality. This is a very exciting, albeit controversial possibility and goes much in line with the fragmentation of the economy (3d printers, self-sufficiency, self-employment etc.) as a counter act to the domination of the global corporations. Anyhow Erin will stay on our radar as we might end up buying one of her affordable, small yet heavy duty durable y machines so we could start our own production.
We could go over all of the chocolates we tasted and our impressions of them but that is a subject for another post, as it would prolong this beyond what is (humanly) acceptable. We’ll start bringing it to the end by saying that this year, much like in the previous years, the accent was not on the premiers and launches of new products (that we somehow always expect), but rather on the presentation of the already existing items. Also, we’re indecisive on what to think of the fact that many producers show up for the Salon but are then unavailable throughout the rest of the year. It’s cruel to play with us like that ! We were happy to see Blanxart, Guittard and Theobroma but were then disappointed to find out that they would only be there for the Salon. I guess that’s better than nothing, but still people, come to Paris, seriously.
So, to wrap it up, this year’s Salon was amazing. Huuuge, overwhelming even – a lot of programmes, a lot of tastings, producers, good deals and discounts, chocolate sculptures and eccentricities, there was something for everyone. This is not just an ongoing sugar high speaking, our impressions really are that good. Most of Paris in person crew is into dark chocolate bars – they were a plenty, but if you’re more into patisserie, bonbons and the chocolate produce, there was more than enough of that as well. A big space was reserved for kids, so it’s also family friendly. It is really, really, really worth your time and effort. While in some previous renditions of the salon we were somewhat jaded and let down, this time it is not the case. Let us hope that the Salon du Chocolat 2017 is even better.
Salon du Chocolat
28th October 2016 to 1st November 2016
Viparis – Porte de Versailles
1 place de la Porte de Versailles