Note: This interview first appeared on 11-4-16 on my original Blogspot site.
This week’s interview is with Pam Williams. Pam is the founder of Ecole Chocolat, lead instructor, and co-author of Raising The Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. (Did I mention I got both my chocolate certifications from Ecole Chocolat?).
I want to thank Pam for taking time out of her busy work schedule to answer these questions.
Pam Williams, Ecole Chocolat Founder & Lead Instructor
Victoria Cooksey: What originally influenced you towards fine chocolate making?
Pam Williams: I was a baker starting in my teens and narrowed in on chocolate as my passion as it’s so creative and fun to work with – that happens with a lot of pastry chefs who become chocolatiers.
VC: What lead you to start Ecole Chocolat?.
PW: I got so many questions from people wanting to know how to become a chocolatier at a time when there were only two training facilities that focused on chocolate: ZDS in Germany and Richards Researches in California. And both taught commercial/large factory techniques for the employees of multi-store and multinational operations, not the techniques and skills you need to be an independent chocolatier. As I was developing the program, the curriculum of that knowledge and skills grew so large that offering it online was the only affordable solution for our students. And I wanted to create an educational platform that would allow people to obtain that knowledge and learn those skills anywhere, anytime.
VC: When deciding on making a new flavored truffle, or chocolate bar, what exercises do you recommend chocolate makers follow for finding ingredients that match well to the chocolate being used?
PW: When deciding on making a new flavored truffle, or chocolate bar, what exercises do you recommend chocolate makers follow for finding ingredients that match well to the chocolate being used? If you are committed to a specific chocolate for the product, we have an exercise in the Professional Chocolatier Program that we borrowed from award-winning Pastry Chef Philippe Conticini. Basically you make ganache using that chocolate and your favorite recipe, and then measure it carefully by weight into small quantities that you flavor with your ingredient in different concentrations. During the tasting you can decide which ratio of ingredient to chocolate gives you the flavor profile you are seeking. This gets everyone thinking and then each chocolatier develops their own way of doing this as they get more and more experience with recipe development
My position is that consumers should stay away from chocolate that is promoted as “raw” i.e. not having been subjected to heat over 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Cocoa beans that haven’t been cleaned and debacterialized by the application of either heat or steam at 160+ degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous from a health perspective as they could still contain microbes and bacteria such as salmonella or listeria, etc. There are so many “good for you” chocolate choices out there so staying away from raw won’t curtail your chocolate enjoyment.
PW: I like both and neither term denotes better quality and flavor than the other. Chocolate made with blended beans have a huge place in a chocolate makers, chocolatiers or pastry chefs chocolate arsenal as they provide a consistent flavor and workability. That consistency allows the maker to produce the same exact bar, bonbon, confection or dessert over and over again. Consumers love their favorite products and expect them to taste the same time after time.
VC: When putting together Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate what message were you most hoping for readers to take away from the book?
The vast majority of cacao farmers live below the poverty line. If we want diversity in fine chocolate flavor, chocolate makers have to be willing to pay farmers a premium for good quality cocoa beans so that the farmers aren’t motivated to rip out their cacao trees to grow more lucrative crops such as rubber, palm or bananas. And in turn, consumers have to support the farmer by being willing to pay more for high quality fine chocolate from those good quality beans.
PW: The only way to keep that from happening is to support the fine chocolate makers and chocolatiers by buying those products you adore.
To learn more about Ecole Chocolat visit:
Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate: