There’s something to be said about the effectiveness of simplicity in sweets. The more complex something is, the more likely it is that all the components will blend together into some sort of indistinguishable blob of sugar. Chocolates are straight to the point. Through chemistry, you are allowed near limitless options to create amazing sweets using just a few ingredients at a time
Walking into class the first day, our chef (one of my favorites we’ve had thus far) exclaimed that the class wasn’t so much about chocolates as it was about crystallization. This statement proved true, as the next few weeks were packed full of the most academically heavy content we’ve seen in the kitchen up to this point. Discussing the various crystallization processes involved in chocolate and candy making, we covered ganaches, confections of crystalline and non crystalline varieties, jelled candies, and shell molded chocolates. In addition to all of this information, I walked away with another thing…… a reinforced love of chocolates.
I can say with a fair bit of certainty that I am not the strongest in the kitchen. In all honesty, I find it to be a stressful and alien environment. This class was the first time it felt right. Chocolate isn’t for everyone. It is difficult to work with and can at times, be an extremely frustrating medium to tackle. At the same time, it is very structured. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things, and that’s something I find comfort in. It is as simple as “if you do not follow the rules, your product does not turn out.” This is true in baking as well, but there is definitely a little bit more leeway and wiggle room to work.
In addition to its structure, there are far fewer ingredients to work with, making production a far more streamlined process. Through slight variations, you can alter the product drastically. It becomes more about mastering technique than anything else. It’s minimal in its equipment requirements as well. I am currently in the contemporary cakes class, which requires the use of every tool in our kit. For chocolates, I didn’t need any more than 3 tools. As long as you know how to use the material, it is an extremely clean process.
The Chef is definitely one of the top I have worked with at the school. He is honest, brutally so at times, but a master of the subject and an excellent teacher. You put the effort in and show him the respect he deserves, and he’ll show you respect in return. He tells you when things are trash and acknowledges when things are good. Above all else, he knows he is an educator. In his opening lecture, he gave us a speech about how many chefs don’t realize they aren’t chefs anymore once they become teachers. This is something I have come across far too frequently during my time at The CIA. I am here to learn how to produce things. This requires production pace to be slower than it is in the real world, and that’s something many teachers have yet to grasp (despite years on staff). We pay to learn, not to be yelled at for working too slow. In chocolates, we were graded less on the final product, and more on how we worked throughout the class. I have great respect for the teacher, and would love the opportunity to take another class with him.
Chocolates was my favorite class. I learned a ton of information that will certainly be of use to me both personally and professionally. For anyone taking this class in the future, do the reading, be prepared, volunteer to answer questions, and work hard. Keep it clean, keep it professional, and enjoy yourself .