October was a busy month for chocolate lovers with an array of shows, festivals and conferences going on. The highlight for me was Salon du Chocolat in Paris, but it was proceeded by the inaugural London Salon du Chocolat at Olympia.
Seeing Salon come to London was bittersweet for me. The French organisers of Salon du Chocolat took over ownership of Chocolate Week in the UK and with it, our much-loved annual chocolate show Chocolate Unwrapped. Salon in London replaced Chocolate Unwrapped and moved the whole shebang to Olympia’s National Hall.
Some of the feel of Chocolate Unwrapped was present in the new show, with some previous exhibitors opting to take smaller tables rather than more formal trade show stands. Some aspects of the French show were incorporated too, with a gala evening and fashion show, showcasing dresses made from chocolate by top chocolatiers and designers.
The show also saw the launch of Cocoa Runners, the new bean-to-bar subscription service that I’m involved with, so I got to see it both from the point of view of an exhibitor (a lot of hard work!) and a visitor (a lot of fun!).
Overall, the show was great. A few exhibitors came over from France, along with a good mix of familiar names. If I had one criticism, it would be the venue. Olympia lacks soul and personality, and that was tangible walking around the show. At times, the space felt more like a business trade show rather than an exciting chocolate experience. I’m sure Salon du Chocolat have plans to expand into the space next year, but personally I think it would do a lot better at a more interesting, intimate venue.
That said, it’s great to see a chocolate show that has so much potential to grow, and what it lacks in intimacy, I’m sure it will make up in sales for the exhibitors – and that, ultimately, it was the UK chocolate industry needs.
Oh. And there was a woman in a chocolate bath.
Over To Paris
Two weeks after Salon in London, the show moved to its spiritual home in Paris, where it’s both much more established and significantly bigger. To put that into context, Salon Paris was divided into three halls (main hall, confectionery and trade), each of which were 4-5 times the size of the London show. On top of that, it also hosted the finals of the World Chocolate Masters, a prestigious event where chocolatiers and pastry chefs from around the world compete for the title of the best in the world.
The show can be both awe-inspiring and a little stressful. There’s far too much to see in a single day, so if that’s all you have, you really need to be smart about planning who you want to see and successfully navigate through the tens of thousands of visitors.
Highlights for me included Pralus, where they bake their famous “Praluline” praline brioche on the stand (above) and Pierre Marcolini, where they had installed a mini chocolate factory and were making chocolate from the bean. It was also great to catch up with our old friends from Marou, and have the chance to sample some fabulous chocolate from the Pacari range that isn’t currently available in the UK.
With so much to see, everything quickly becomes a blur, but one chocolate did stand out – Cacaosuyo from Peru were selling a 70% chocolate made with fine Piura beans, and it was absolutely wonderful – bursting with sweetness and cherry notes, it was almost like eating the fruit in chocolate form.
I always question whether it’s worth the time and expense of visiting Paris for Salon du Chocolat. It’s hard work, and often changes little from year to year. This year however, there was a noticeable improvement in the organisation, and there were lots of new things to try. Next year can only get bigger and better!
- Filed under salon du chocolat.