Salon events are held around the world, but the Paris show is still the biggest, attracting around 130,000 visitors. It’s far bigger than anything we have in the UK, and the really exciting news is that Salon comes to London for the first time next year.
In Paris, the event hosted 160 exhibitors in a 135,000 square foot exhibition hall. That’s a lot of space, but with tens of thousands of people in the hall at any one time, it was busy to say the least. In fact, at one point, I was crushed in a crowd to the point where my feet were lifted off the ground and I could no longer breathe. I genuinely feared for my safety, and I think this is a major black mark against an otherwise amazing event.
Back to the show and Chocolate makers and chocolatiers from all around the world are there, although the majority of exhibitors are French. Many of the continent’s best known chocolate companies such as Pralus (who devote half their stand to a brioche production line), Jean-Paul Hévin, Sébastien Bouillet, and Pierre Marcolini were out in force, along with big names like Nestlé and Leonidas, but the majority of the show floor is taken up by smaller chocolatiers from around France.
Along with the chocolatiers were a number of bean to bar chocolate makers, including Akesson’s, Vietcacao, Pacari and the only UK exhibitor in the whole show, Willie’s Cacao. But the most memorable of the bean to bar makers were Sam and Vincent from Marou. These two Frenchmen met in Vietnam and decided to make chocolate from the bean. They are amazing, passionate people and their chocolate is wonderful. I’ll be posting a review shortly.
One of our favourite French chocolatiers, Sébastien Bouillet had a couple of interesting new products to show. First was a range of chocolate lipsticks, designed to be kept in your bag and give you a small chocolatey boost through the course of the day. Bouillet was also showing a new range of single origin chocolate ‘records’, that look exactly like an old 7 inch single, complete with sleeve. Skeuomorphism is clearly alive and well in the chocolate world.
The bulk of the smaller chocolatiers were using Valrhona chocolate in their creations, so it was a little odd that Valrhona, France’s largest chocolat maker weren’t there themselves – particularly as they can be found exhibiting at almost every UK chocolate show. It was a little disappointing to find so many people using the same chocolate, as it means there’s very little to differentiate a lot of the French chocolatiers.
That might be why I found the Japanese contingent more exciting. Sadaharu Aoki, who I reviewed last year was back, but even more interesting was Es Koyama, who had some wonderful flavour combinations. Chief patiessier Susumu Koyama guided us personally through a tasting of his wonderful chocolates. Again, I’ll be posting a review of these soon.
We spoke to Salon organiser Sylvie Douce, who said she’s very excited about coming to London for the first time. They have worked hard to get the best location at Olympia, and even Salon’s trademark chocolate fashion show will be making an appearance next year.
I’m really looking forward to Salon du Chocolat in London, but I hope they can resolve the overcrowding issues, rather than just trying to cram as many people into the space as humanly possible. It will also be interesting to see which exhibitors they attract too. With just a single British company showing in Paris, this is new territory for British chocolatiers.
Salon du Chocolat London will be at London’s Olympia from 18th – 20th October 2013.