A visit to L'École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona

We’ve been to Tain l’Hermitage, to see the workshops where their delicacies are born. And for children there’s also the Cité du Chocolat...

26-06-2019

Tain l’Hermitage is a small village in the Drôme region. We’re in France, halfway between Valence, the city of Anne Sophie Pic and her Maison, and Lyon, where the unforgettable Paul Bocuse created a system of restaurants, brasseries and comptoirs starting from L’auberge du Pont de Collonges, the family restaurant that has been holding 3 stars for 50 years now. Placed on the left bank of the Rhein, among vineyards and fields of lavender, Tain l’Hermitage is also the home of Valrhona. It is here that in 1989 Frédéric Bau and Paul Bernard Bret founded L'École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona which year after year has become one of the most important training centres for chocolate worldwide.

Cité du Chocolat

Cité du Chocolat

Inside this low, almost featureless white building, hidden from view by the Cité du Chocolat since 2013 – a real heaven for old and young lovers of the food of the gods – Valrhona’s new chocolates, recipes and innovations are born. It is here that maîtres chocolatier and chefs pâtissier from all around the world come to perfect their knowledge of the chocolate world.

Rémi Montagne

Rémi Montagne

Rémi Montagne directsthe chef pâtissier at L'École Valrhona, ex World Ice cream champion in 2018 with the French team, and since 2011 part of the school’s staff. He was the one who guided us in the discovery of the secrets of L’École. A place, as he points out with a smile, «where the changing rooms and offices are much smaller than the spaces dedicated to research and development, the true heart of the building». At the time of our visit, there were two groups of professionals training. In the first room, they pastry chefs from Africa who came to learn the secrets of Valrhona chocolate; in the second, the director of L’École Christophe Domange was at work with some American professionals. «Our training courses are based on the participants’ knowledge. In this case, since the knowledge of the two groups differed greatly –Montagne explained – we designed different courses».

The throbbing heart of L'École du Grand Chocolat, however, is made by the workshops where the new chocolates, pralines and the entire Valrhonarange are born. «We work as a team. Here arrive the different types of chocolate and we work together on new products», says Montagne showing the other rooms (including the plonge) with chillers, refrigerators, and pantries in which the unmistakable aroma of chocolate fills the air. Another crucial centre is the workshop where one can find Selmi’s Tuttuno,«an Italian machine that in just one process makes filled chocolates in different shapes with different moulds. It’s a revolution when you think that we used to make them by hand, one chocolate at the time, totalling some 20 chocolates per hour, while now in those 60 minutes we can make as many as 6000 pralines».

Those pralines are then sold in the boutique of the nearby Cité du Chocolat. A place where everyone can dive into chocolate culture, from cocoa plantations to tasting rules

Group photo of the équipe Valrhona

Group photo of the équipe Valrhona

The director of the L’École, Christophe Domange

The director of the L’École, Christophe Domange

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Previews, personalities and establishments in the sweet side of the food planet