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Top Belgian Chef Laurent Gerbaud’s Chocolate Secrets

HE SELLS SWEETNESS IN BRUSSELS

Excerpts from our exclusive interview with top Belgian chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud:

TO GO WITH Lifestyle-Belgium-luxury-chocolate,FEATURE BY JEROME RIVET (FILES) A file picture taken on December 12, 2012 shows chocolate maker Laurent Gerbaud working at his workshop in the center of Brussels. Belgium is rightly proud of its traditions in producing some of the world's finest chocolates but faced with changing tastes, it has to keep up with a discerning, fastidious clientele. In the workshop of Laurent Gerbaud, one of the new generation of chocolatiers shaking up the scene, a customer will find few traces of the Manon, the praline filled with coffee-flavoured cream and covered in white chocolate which has been the industry mainstay for decades. AFP PHOTO GEORGES GOBET

What makes Belgium the world chocolate capital?

We have a very long history in processing chocolate since the beginning of the century, from small manufactures to big European players. Thanks to a very high quality industrial chocolate couverture, the general level of Belgian chocolates is higher than in other countries.

What are the best street and shops in Brussels to buy Belgian chocolate?

The best handmade manufactures are on Place du Sablon, the very chic square of antiquaries and chocolate shops. You will find big names in the small production like Marcolini, Wittamer, Darcis, Blondeel, the big players Neuhaus, Godiva & Leonidas and the very recent location of the French stars like Patrick Roger and Ladurée.

What makes handmade chocolates superior to factory-produced varieties?

The quality of the raw ingredients, the good recipes and the freshness of the production are the main keys for quality handmade chocolates. The production is made all along the season in small batches, using none or very little preservative. The big players all tend to have the same price and quality of ingredients, and recipes with a very long shelf life by using lots of sugar. Their differences are more about the marketing and the packaging.

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How do I pick and choose the best chocolates?

The best way to find your taste is to buy here. Try one or two pralines by the weight: this is the cheapest and fastest way to get your own idea of the market. There are five chocolates that you will always find in every shop : dark, truffle, orangette (candied orange peel), praliné (hazelnut cream) and mendiants (mini bar with a mix of nuts). If you don’t have the time for this chocolate survey,

a few tips :

  • Small is beautiful : The new generation of chocolates are between 6 and 10 grams per piece while the old style remain around 20 – 25 grams
  • Enrobing versus moulding : Moulded, very shiny pralines are often a proof of industrial production while enrobed products are nearly only handmade. The normal price for high quality chocolates starts around 75 Euro per kilo in loose bags, but the high prices are not yet a proof of quality, or it would be too easy…
  • Always ask for a free tasting!

To savour the full interview with Laurent Gerbaud, read the Jan-Feb 2016 issue of  Travel Secrets.

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