The Secret of Belgian Chocolate
Short Description :
How a local speciality became a brand and a reference product on the European and global market. With pictures filmed in chocolate production factories (Pierre Marcolini and Neuhaus) in Brussels, and interviews with reference chocolate producers. The transcript is immediately available in Serbian, and will be available in English very soon.
Transmission on EBS: in international version, Friday 13 April at 20:30 CET on Europe by Satellite.
Full transcript of commentary and interviews (Transcript available also in Serbian on request to email@example.com)
Most of the outside world sees Brusselsas the capital of the EU. For most Belgians, what’s even more important is that Brusselsis the world capital of chocolate. If they are right, then this small square with shops selling exquisite chocolate is the true picture of Brussels.
Vox pop, Grand Sablon Square
« It is one of our national products we are proud of, one of the key products giving a good name for Belgium.”“Its quality and taste is fantastic; it’s natural. Belgian chocolate is unmatched.”
Everything you need to know about chocolate can be found here. This is where you will find Godiva, which has achieved world fame ages ago. Then there’s Neuhaus, the best selling chocolate in Belgium itself; Wittamer, well- known for supplying the Royal Court; and Marcolini, currently very much “en vogue”. How come that all those brands are made in Belgium?
Jacques Mercier, journalist, author of the book « Belgian Chocolate »
«We love food, we love life, but since this is a small country, we love small things such as a tiny bite of chocolate, or a small beer. In Germanythey drink from large bottles, but in Belgiumwe drink small beers. The same with chocolate – it’s a small, instantaneous pleasure.”
That « small instantaneous pleasure » has achieved global success a long time ago. Today, people are coming to Belgiumfor its chocolate. Everything began right here in 1857, when Jean Neuhaus opened his first chocolate shop. One hundred and fifty years later, on the same spot, you can still find some of the best chocolate in the world. Neuhaus’ grandson later came to the idea to wrap a mixture of almonds, nuts and cream in the finest chocolate. That’s how pralines were “born.”
Veronique de Clercq, Neuhaus
« There are two elements of the tradition we are still using today: pralines and ballotine, a special wrapping for pralines – and we have 80 different types of them. The principle is the same; it’s a bite-size chocolate candy, wrapped in white, black or milk chocolate, with or without decoration.”
One of Neuhaus’ « chefs » performs a small demonstration of the 150-year old chocolate-making skills. Two types of pralines are prepared before our eyes and we are about to discover the ingredients of the third.
Interview – the « Chef »:
« Beneath we have a tiny layer of melted chocolate and on top of it is chocolate mousse which is bitter, with a small amount of sugar to achieve a balance of tastes. It is all wrapped into black chocolate and finally, the letter “N”is added for Neuhaus.”
Our next stop in the quest for the secret of Belgian chocolate is Pierre Marcolini, reputed as the very best in the trade. The final preparations are underway before the morning opening of the shop. Here, the design and décor are equally important as the quality of the product. This is an important period for each manufacturer – the preparation of the Easter Collection.
In order to demonstrate to us his chocolate philosophy, Pierre Marcolini takes us to the birthplace of his creations. The first state is cocoa frying, in order to better develop the aromas. Marcolini chooses cocoa himself and tests it for taste and quality.
« This is Brazilian cocoa, we call it Karenero, and it has a mild hazelnut flavor, well rounded, with a slight flowery note in its taste. You can feel it’s the finest cocoa around and that it will yield good chocolate.”
Marcolini claims to be one of only five producers in Europeto process cocoa from the beginning to the very end.
« What makes us different from the others and allows us to personalize chocolate is the fact that we are starting our journey from the very grains of cocoa. »
But the definition of chocolate is precisely what the EU and Belgian producers are at odds about. In some European countries, producers replace cocoa with vegetable fats, making mass production cheaper. In order to resolve the dispute between them and those who solely use cocoa, the EU has brought about the Chocolate Directive, according to which vegetable fats are permitted, if they don’t exceed five percent of each chocolate’s content.
Jacques Mercier, author of the book « Belgian Chocolate »
“It’s as if we said – we have a class with good students making good chocolate and bad students making poor chocolate, using different ingredients. We decided to make good students work less and put up less effort in order to be at the same level as their less gifted peers.”
The European Chocolate Standard is a compromise – on the common market, everyone has to play by the same rules. But in Marcolini’s “kitchen,” different rules apply: here, chocolate making is an art.
The top of the art has been arranged for this year’s Easter – 250 Easter eggs made of a special selection of cocoa from Venezuela. The final touch is a fine layer of gold on the chocolate egg – to mark the exceptional production of Marcolini.
“A thin sheet of gold – this is what accentuates the uniqueness of chocolate. At the very end, when everything’s finished, I put a golden sheet over the chocolate, as a kind of signature. That’s the idea.”
The signature of the artist is now exhibited in the shop. Belgian chocolate does not need gold to be exceptional – this local specialty has already achieved global fame.