Buzzing with energy and creativity, Godiva’s famous chocolate workshop in Brussels creates enough chocolate to supply boutiques internationally. Magic happens as Godiva's craftsmanship and artistry unfolds, under an expert team. Combining a hands-on chocolate-making tradition with the latest technological methods, Godiva's workshop is at the very forefront of chocolate innovation.
Across the entire chocolate workshop, there is a real sense of community and friendship – some of the team have worked together for up to 35 years. One exceptional chocolate artisan is André de Rijck, who is celebrating an incredible 40 years with Godiva this year! We caught up with André to find out more about his unique story.
CHOCOLATE NOTES: How did you start out working with Godiva?
ANDRÉ DE RIJCK: I already had a background in confectionery, yet, when I arrived at Godiva I followed all the stages of an apprentice. In the first few months I grilled the hazelnuts used in pralinés (pralinés are a specialty at Godiva) before I learned how to roast them. Later I learned how to create the whole artisanal collection developed by Pierre Draps, which was made by hand with lemon juice we squeezed on site, along with pure butter – which was so good that people at the factory would eat it!
CN: What are some of your most special memories at the company?
ADR: I have many! Once, we did a presentation for the King of Belgium and made nine chocolates for him. Another time, I worked with Pierre Draps himself on a product mould called The Tennis Ball, which was produced for a special occasion – Wimbledon, I think, in the 80’s.
CN: What was it like working with Pierre Draps?
ADR: He was an incredible person who knew chocolate extremely well. Even though I was very experienced in chocolate by then, I still learned lots of things from him, for example cooling and retraction of chocolate. It was a privilege to work with Pierre.
CN: Tell us a bit about the chocolate making process.
ADR: There are many ways of working with chocolate, but essentially it is made by crystallisation. When you cool chocolate, it creates crystals which are both stable and unstable – to complete the process, after it cools you need to give it a hit of heat to eliminate the unstable crystals. Otherwise the cocoa butter can come out and the chocolate will whiten, which is not what you want! Chocolate is very much ‘alive’ – air temperature, humidity and even light can influence it. Some days the process works well, and other days it doesn’t. Summer and winter can also affect the chocolate.
CN: How has the company changed in the 40 years you've worked there?
ADR: When I started it was a small family-run business. Now, Godiva is much more productive, selling to an international market rather than a small national one. There is a still a family feeling with a good sense of fun and humour present; I’m a guy who likes a lot of ambience, it’s amazing to have this joie de vivre for Godiva even after 40 years! I gain a huge amount of pleasure from my work. Working at Godiva is life... it has been 40 years which is almost my whole life. My best friends are from Godiva too. I almost feel more at home here than I do at my actual home.
I gain a huge amount of pleasure from my work. Working at Godiva is life
CN: What's a typical day's work like for you these days?
ADR: I start by touring the ateliers to see that everything is running smoothly, before going to my office to check productions for the next day. I look after a lot of information and training these days, as well as communications between offices and the contacts, testing new machines and overlooking security. I do a little of everything.
CN: And finally - what's your favourite Godiva chocolate?