” Perfection innot of this world, they say. Perhaps not, yet that is what we aim for, because my very raison d’etre is to offer you a dream”
This beautiful sentence is what I am reading on smartly designed catalogue and whose art direction is signed Yann Pennor’s.
I am at the Marcolini flagship at the legendary place du grand Sablon waiting to meet Brussels-based Maitre Chocolatier Pierre Marcolini for an interview. The comfortable and sober living room room with black furniture and white walls is at the last floor of a magnificent turn- of- the-century landmark building.
” Mr Marcolini will be delayed a few more minutes … Please be kind to be patient, he just called to excuse himself as he is on his way from the Paris Chocolate Show. In the meantime, may I offer you a petite degustationwhile you are waiting and I guess, you ‘d wish to have an expresso as well?” says a handsome assistant dressed with a long black apron over an impeccable white tailored shirt in extremely attentive manners.
Of course, thank you. ” Traveling around the world to meet producers who are passionate about their work is both duty and pleasure.They let me discover even rarer and more precious beans which, reverently processed in one workshop, yield couverture chocolate that is more delicate and harmonious, more intense and therefore more alive!
“While still reading the interesting statement in the catalog, a blond saleswoman probably in her twenties, arrives in a brown uniform from downstairs with a silver tray containing several chocolate carres in slightly different tones but basically all looking all similar. “Please let me know when we can start ” the young lady says with a smile that enlighten her traits.
“They are called Saveus du Monde-epices ( taste of the world- spiced)” – I am told -” Monsieur Marcolini says that they are a delicate pacifist army against the tyranny of everything heavy and massive” As I am preparing myself, water in the mouth, to try the first weapon, I am invited like a child apparently to discover in those small and delicate pieces the taste, flavor and texture of certain distant lands.
I learn through my degustation that, Pierre Marcolini is uncompromising when it comes to choosing the raw materials for his products. With a dark assortment of chocolate of 72% cocoa content, single origin beans from selected plantations in different part of the world and their complex chemistry of the chocolate transcendence differs from one region to another.
Subtle bitterness and fresh fruit flavors from Ecuador, slightly bitter and a delicate Amber aroma from Bahia , powerful aromas of a rebellious Ghana, deep bitterness aroma of spices from Trinidad , peppers and fruits from Java, typical bitterness of fine cocoa , red and yellow fruits from Madagascar, delicate acidity and floral aroma from Venezuela.
I slightly close my eyes imagining the sun striking those fields against the grey rainy day overlooking the window view of Brussels’s Grand Place du Sablon.
Definitely voluptuous and sensually addictive these small delights have a long journey before they are finally appreciated and consumed in elegant flagships across the world’s main urban centers such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Giza, New York, Paris, Dar Al Wadi and London.
And there he is, the Lyon 1995 World Champion Pastry arriving in a rush carrying a black duffel bag preoccupied with his slight delay. He is wearing loose black trousers and a white chef uniform. He is handsome and in his 40 ths. He warns me that he only can allow me only a few minutes as someone told him that I am a French reporter that came to write about Belgian chocolate makers for a local regional newspaper.
I smile amused presenting myself, I explain that there was certainly a misunderstanding, as I am not a reporter, nor I am French. I don’t write for a local regional newspaper and he, Pierre Marcolini is the one-and- only chocolatier I chose to interview in my worldwide on- line publication featuring the city of Brussels as a 2009 December edition.
We are now both laugh , relaxed and at ease with the incident, and my first question while I furtively taste a small ‘ Plaisir d’ Enfance‘ ( childhood pleasure) is about the Brussels-based luxury chocolate maker strategic partnership with Nestle.Marcolini, now sitting comfortably in a black leather armchair and feeling -at-home confides me visibly satisfied that the partnership will allow Nestlé to benefit from the know-how and artistic talent of one of the world’s leading luxury chocolate makers, while the maison Marcolini will gain access to Nestlé’s global experience
. Pierre Marcolini will provide inspiration for future Nestlé chocolate ranges, while Nestlé will help Pierre Marcolini expand his network of boutiques across the world. He also makes sure to tell me that he will continue to lead his company as an independent and autonomous operation, and Nestlé will join its board.
I sip my Expresso, we have been chatting for more than half hour, he has been telling me that he has recently designed a selection of a few pralines for the Nespresso company under their own brand (Nespresso is owned by Nestle) which took them a harsh work that lasted several months but at last they are finally distributed in France and Switzerland, soon in Brussels as well.
The few minutes Pierre Marcolini had reserved for our interview now passed the hour.
I decide to ask him two last tricky questions: Would there be anything he would bring back in return of his glorious success as one of the world leading chocolatiers to those illiterate and simple plantation people from where , as a conquistador he purchases row beans in their most natural state and magically infuses them through a sophisticated process of several steps.
The Chocolatier supervises himself until they are like wizard ‘s magic transformed into luxurious and edible small jewels that lift the senses of a privileged population that is from another part of the globe.He pause for a while, probably to better answer my question, he then moved, talks to me about and the different human experiences him and ex-wife, mother of their only son, founder of the Maison Marcolini and still today his friend and business partner, encountered during their several trips together or separated in those distant lands.
His partnership for example with Clara Echevaria, the Mexican grower who has been fighting for years to protect her exceptional bean, the “Porcelana”, (porcelain) from extinction, bears testimony to his commitment to following a fair trade policy.
This alliance between the best beans and a Master of Chocolate has created an exceptional product, a vintage: the “Limited Edition Chocolate Square²” chocolate bar. In Bahia, in the North of Brasil, a couple, husband and wife plantation producers were flown to Brussels to actually witness the transformation of their beans into Marcolini’s chocolate production.
The manufacturing process begins with roasting the beans to remove any residual humidity and to increase the aroma. The beans are then crushed and the mass that emerges is divided into minuscule particles, which are then ground. This is when the chocolate-making process begins: cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar and fresh vanilla from Tahiti. Thus Pierre Marcolini continues the traditions of the “inventors” of chocolate, constantly seeking new flavors!
Pierre Marcolini has not limited himself solely to chocolate of course. he creates desserts, biscuits, ice creams and sorbets to the rhythm of the seasons and his inspiration. Inspired by gastronomic trends that he discovers during his visits around the world, he invents, designs and develops superb creations, which have already earned him an outstanding reputation (l’Envol, Aurore, Arriba, ).
And while these classics are the translation of his talents as a chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini still knows how to transform the most wonderful ingredients to recreate the links with the great confectionery classics. A range of Eclairs, a timeless classic of patisserie is waiting to be discovered.
Not satisfied with bringing back the best beans in the world to his ateliers in Brussels, this alchemist then subtly blends the beans from the different regions and works with original aromas to create un-equalled flavours: Ganaches made with teas from around the world, Origin “Crus” chocolate bars.
The advantage of creating your own coating is undeniable: real products, rigorously selected ingredients that enhance each of the specialties with their specific flavors to create chocolates that are always different, always original, sometimes audacious, and that remind us of the best “Grand Cru” wines.
Pierre Marcolini manufactures his grand cru chocolate himself (coating) using cocoa beans that he selects personally. He is among the last five craftsmen working this way in Europe. But Pierre Marcolini is also and above all a humanist, both in the way he manages his company and in his commitment to supporting small top quality growers.
It’s getting dark, I am in a rush now, Pierre Marcolini goes down the modernly glamourous stairs of the Sablon luxurious flagship, surrounded with velvet curtains, white Phalaenopsis orchids and impressive chandeliers. I perceive him whispering in the blond lady’s years.
A few minutes later I am handed an Ecrin Noir (a black round gift box) with a selection of chocolate personally picked by mr .Marcolini himself as well a stunning black art book on his life’s and work inspirations, architecture , painting and poetry. The beautiful book is called Eclats ( glimpse of splendor).
With no more words to be added I will, inspired by such Art and Poetry do my best as well to picture the true dream.”
Inspired from Hans Sachs ‘Les Maitres Chanteurs‘ ( The Mastersingers)
The Chocolate flagship Pierre Marcolini: Rue des Mimnimes, 1 Place du Grand Sablon-1000 Bruxelles/ Tel :32 2 514 1206 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manifacture: Place du Grand Sablon, 39 1000 Bruxelles / tel +32 513 1783/ email@example.com
The movie : Carre 2 Chocolat (Absolutely beautiful)
Photos credits of coffe in cup and coffe bags: courtesy Nespresso / Plantations, cocoa beans and Pierre Marcolini in Cuba: Tawao
Arief Priyono, Antara for The Jakarta Globe, La Libre Be./ Vanilla Sticks : Zester Daily