Julien Millet

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Fruit of the Gods

Meryle Evans - January/February 2014

Paris—One hundred and forty thousand worshippers of cacao streamed into two vast exhibition halls at the Porte de Versailles last fall during the annual French five day immersion in the world of chocolate.

For the 19th edition of this revered indulgence extravaganza, held simultaneously with the fourth biennial Salon du Chocolat Professionnel, 250 exhibitors displayed and sold their specialties, and 200 pastry chefs, chocolatiers, ice cream makers, and cocoa growers offered 80 demonstrations and degustations.

At the trade-only pavilion, chocolate companies and equipment makers displayed their latest products; eminent chefs offered culinary workshops; and the World Chocolate Masters competition, sponsored by Callebaut, Cacao Barry, and Carma, drew an enthusiastic audience who had come to cheer the 19 finalists as they prepared showpieces, pastries, and plated desserts based on the theme “The Architecture of Taste.” After a harrowing three days of nerve-wracking suspense, Davide Comaschi of Italy was declared the winner by a panel of judges, including Floridian confectioner Norman Love.

Nearby, in the cavernous halls of the salon that were open to the general public, chocolatiers commandeered one floor, pâtissiers and confectioners another, as crowds surged through the aisles like marathoners in slow motion, pausing to gape at the colossal chocolate statue of the king of Sparta, made by the Belgian firm Leonidas, currently celebrating its centennial, and to gorge on bonbons offered by top-tier artisans and manufacturers. They stopped to admire the 19 chocolate designer dresses that were worn at a gala preview fashion show (one model entered riding a large white horse), circled Ladureé’s full-size white merry-go-round while seeking macarons, and watched Pierre Hermé demonstrate chocolate baba at one of his four master classes.

Salon du Chocolat founders Sylvie Douce and François Jeantet, who have watched the expositions proliferate throughout the world, from Brazil to Japan (the salon will return to the United States next November), applauded chocolate as “an amazing link between people…there are very few completely apolitical topics on which everyone in the world agrees.”