“Chocolate Consultant” sounds like a dream job, but what exactly does the job involve and how do you get to be one? I caught up with Louise Thomas after her talk at the London Chocolate Festival to find out!
Update: Louise Thomas no longer runs her consultancy, but if you do find yourself in need of a chocolate expert, Chocablog Editor Dom Ramsey is available for chocolate consultancy work!
How long have you been a chocolate consultant and what does the job involve?
“I started the company last August, but I have been working in the chocolate industry for 2 years and been passionate about chocolate for 6 years. I became frustrated by the lack of education and awareness regarding fine chocolate, so started my company to share my love of fine chocolate. I do events and tastings, similar to wine tastings and several pairings (chocolate and tea, wine, rum, cigars, cheese, whiskey) as well as consultancy for hospitality and retail, so to find a particular chocolate for a client, extend their range or create and work on chocolate recipes with my clients. My favourite work, unsurprisingly, is working with chocolatiers and chocolate makers to help develop their product, I love seeing the evolution of a product over a few weeks or months. I also review fine chocolate products.”
What were you doing before becoming The Chocolate Consultant?
“I previously worked as a pastry chef where I discovered Valrhona. I lived in New York and my mum would bring two suitcases back home to the UK when we visited, one for her clothes and one empty one. When we came back to New York, this spare suitcase would be full of Flakes and Crunchies, which we kept in a special cupboard in our basement. So when I discovered Valrhona, it was completely different, so new and exciting. I never realised chocolate could be like this.
I moved to London to continue my kitchen work, but in my spare time I would taste, read, talk, watch, listen, smell, dream chocolate. It was only when I had an argument with a head chef about the finer points of chocolate that I decided to leave the kitchen and work in the chocolate industry.”
Do you have a favourite chocolatier or type of chocolate? Do you prefer beans of any specific origin?
“I have over 700 chocolate bars at home, and a specially tinkered with fridge (which has a constant humidity and temperature of 16C) for storing chocolate. They have become like good friends, I know which to turn to for which mood I am in, if I want something to excite and tempt my palate or to soothe and comfort me, and then I have old faithfuls which I will always return to, especially Manjari by Valrhona. This was the chocolate I found as a commis-pastry chef in Wales and changed my life (without any exaggeration).
I am really excited by small Artisan bean to bar producers, I have finally found a good white chocolate I can eat, the White Chocolate & Salted Pistachio Bar by Askinosie (available in Selfridges), though they have some fantastic dark chocolate bars and admirable ethos and morals, Amano’s Dos Rios bar (available in Fortnum and Masons) is really exciting as they are experimenting with the fermentation technique applied to the beans.
I can’t forget the single origin Madagascan bar from Mast Brothers (available at Paul A. Young, London), 2 young boys in Brooklyn making bean to bar mostly by hand.
I’m very excited, though yet to try Duffy’s chocolate from Red Star Chocolate, our new bean to bar producer in the UK. I do not have a favourite bean from a specific location, that is not important to me, what is important is the quality of the bean, how it has been cared for by the chocolate industry to develop its flavour, how much love has gone into it.”
Is there anyone you’d particularly like to meet or work with?
“I would like to meet Raymond Blanc, he seems honest and genuine and passionate about his food and I admire that. I was lucky enough to meet Art Pollard from Amano earlier this year and that was like Christmas, again, another man driven by his passion. I’d love to meet Darren Williams, the confectionary buyer at Fortnum and Masons.
Twitter has been a very useful tool since starting my business, it makes it 100 times easier to communicate with people I admire and respect and I think bridges gaps of communication (though there have been obvious cases where it has been mistreated and abused). Through Twitter I have learned about at least 10 companies I wouldn’t have heard of and attended many great events I might have missed.”
If you’d like to communicate with Louise yourself, you can find her at twitter.com/TChocolateC.