Last weekend I was fortunate enough to get to Paris for Salon du Chocolat, the world’s largest chocolate show.
Salon is split into two shows, the ‘Professionnel’ trade-only show and the spectacular ‘Grand Public’ show which runs for four days and features hundreds of exhibitors.
The center of the exhibition floor was occupied by a large stage that hosted regular entertainment events and a fashion show featuring dresses made from chocolate – not all of which survived their journey down the catwalk!
Salon is huge with exhibitors from around the world, although the vast majority were French chocolatiers and chocolate makers. France has many more bean-to-bar chocolate makers, and we managed to chat to quite a few of them, but one thing that was striking was just how similar a lot of the chocolates were.
Most French chocolatiers use Valhrona chocolate for their creations, which combined with a French preference for quality over taking risks with unusual flavour combinations meant that we ended up trying a lot of chocolates that were very similar. One of the things I like best about the UK chocolate scene is the creativity and individuality of the relatively small number of chocolatiers we have.
But the sheer number of chocolatiers and chocolate makers in attendance more than made up for that. It was striking to see the scale of the fine chocolate market in France compared to the UK. We’ve still got a lot of catching up to do when it comes to steering the public toward real chocolate and away from cheap confectionery.
Of course, the French are also big on patisserie, and there were all kinds of stunning creations on display. But once again, there was a certain lack of creativity from the bulk of exhibitors, with most being limited to macarons in different flavours, colours and sizes. I’m not the greatest fan of macarons myself, but the French public clearly still love them.
The stand outs of the show for me were Pralus, who transformed half their stand into a bakery, turning out amazing brioche, Abanico, whose chocolates are as beautifully presented as they are delicious, and Pierre Marcolini, who took us to the VIP lounge for share champagne while we interviewed him. You’ll be able to find that video and many more on the World Chocolate Guide blog soon!
Downstairs, the Professionnel show was much quieter as it wasn’t open to the public. It was probably only really truly interesting if you’re in the market for chocolate making equipment. But it was host to the World Chocolate Masters competition and some truly amazing chocolate sculptures made by the contestants.
Many thanks to Mathilde & David whose hospitality allowed us to stay in Paris for three amazing, chocolate-filled days.