Saturday, November 18, 2006

Utah Chocolate Show Report: Day 2

I just got back from the second day of the Utah Chocolate Show, and boy was that awesome. I spent almost no time on the floor today. In fact, I spent almost the entire day in Lab A, either taking classes or helping out with them.

I started the morning at around 9:30, helping Chef Raymond Lammers set up for his second chocolate showpiece class. His assistant yesterday did next to nothing, but he wasn't about to let me get away with that today. He told me that he planned to use me a lot more today, and he sure did.

I started by drying the dishes he had just washed, and before long I was cleaning out chocolate molds. I felt a little like an apprentice, peeling potatoes. That's okay, I was just ecstatic to be there. When the class started, he let me know that after he demonstrated each technique, he would hand it off to me to finish up anything that was left with that technique. He had me filling tubes with chocolate, brushing colored cocoa butter on acetate sheets, and cutting half-dried chocolate sheets into long triangles. As he built the various components and started assembling them into a showpiece, I got to work the freeze spray.

Freeze spray is awesome. It's just like the compressed air that you use to spray the dust out of your computer, except that it's food-safe. The computer stuff is made from recycled air. The food-grade stuff is a lot cleaner. It's useful for sugar and chocolate alike. When you attach two pieces of chocolate or melted sugar, you have the option of either standing there for half an hour, waiting for the pieces to set, or you can spray it with freeze spray and be able to move on in a matter of seconds. Of course, it gets a little cold for the digits holding the pieces in place, in this case, Raymond's fingers. But as he said, "that's okay, you get used to it."

Something I noticed was that a lot of people in today's classes were more interested in the basic composition and physics of chocolate, whereas yesterday's class seemed more interested in the artistic and structural information. I quickly realized that there seems to be a lack of public understanding of what pastry chefs consider to be the basics. I'm thinking I may write up something to explain it a little better. Hey, maybe you'll see me teaching a class next year, who knows?

I ended up getting suckered into helping out with the free Candymaking class too, which was packed. I got to hand out a lot of samples, of candied almonds, hot fudge with vanilla ice cream, things like that. Fortunately, I was still able to just sit and enjoy Ruth Kendrick's advanced candymaking class. As it turns out, it was the same class I helped her out with a couple of years ago at the Orson Gygi Culinary Center, so she didn't really cover a whole lot of content that was new to me. But it was my first break all day, so it was still nice.

My day at the show ended with a chocolate tasting, also run by Chef Lammers. Almost all of our chocolate was either Callebaut or Felchlin (don't worry, I've never heard of Felchlin either). Some of it was really good, some of it was so-so, and some of it barely tasted like chocolate at all. A couple of the single-bean varieties were described by a couple of class members as tasting "like dirt". Personally, I thought one of those two was slightly fruity, but they both had a lousy finish. I was pretty impressed with Callebaut's honey milk chocolate. It had a little of that honey aftertaste we're so familiar with, but it wasn't bad. In fact, I managed to con Raymond into letting me steal a small cup of pieces after the tasting. I also managed to score some little pieces of Callebaut that were like little M&M-sized marblings of white and dark chocolate.

This was a good chocolate show. I'm looking forward to next year, and I'm already trying to figure out how to con the director of the show into letting me participate more next year. Utah's chocolate community is growing stronger. It's an exciting time to be here.

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