Here, we interview chef chocolatiers Philippe Daue, Jean Apostolou and Yannick Chevolleau about their exciting role in creating exquisite Godiva chocolates to delight customers in China, Belgium and Japan.
CHOCOLATE NOTES: How would you describe the kind of tastes unique to the region you’re based in?
PHILIPPE DAUE: Asians – particularly Chinese consumers – prefer chocolates that are less sweet, preferably with nutty and fruity flavours. Creamy fillings are popular and strong cocoa is also well received nowadays.
JEAN APOSTOLOU: What characterises Belgium is variety. As chefs, we have the chance to operate very close to the chocolate workshop, which allows us to deliver innovation while preserving the spirit of the tradition that surrounds us in Brussels. Belgium is a paradise for foodies: a cultural melting pot with a diversity that is really inspirational. At least 136 nationalities are represented in Brussels.
YANNICK CHEVOLLEAU: There are many flavours and tastes in Japan that match our chocolate perfectly. For example: matcha green tea from the Uji region, varieties of citrus such as yuzu and mikan, one special roasted black bean called kinako from the Tamba region, and Kuromitsu, a type of brown sugar. Customers like it when we use ingredients from around Japan that are unique and found in small quantities.
CN: What ingredients work well in chocolate in your area?
PD: Roasted nuts are favourites, as well as Asian fruits. Spices are popular in South East Asia, but not that much in China – except for vanilla – where they are more associated with traditional medicine. Ginger, on the other hand, is a winner throughout the whole region.
JA: Nut-orientated flavours are still favourites, but because of the diversity of Belgium’s population, preferences are very open. People are becoming more educated in chocolate, so the quality of the product is essential.
CN: Conversely, what ingredients aren’t as popular?
PD: White chocolate is generally considered too sweet in Asia.
YC: Spices are not popular in chocolate in Japan because they are associated with salted food like curry. Of course, you can add ginger or cinnamon and some people will like it, but many others don’t – spice is a polarising flavour.
CN: Where do you source inspiration for new recipes?
PD: Mostly from visiting local wet markets – which specialise in food and fresh produce – every time I travel to a new city or country – and of course by keeping abreast of new trends in the industry.
JA: Brussels’ diversity is a huge source of inspiration, as well as art, design and travel. A natural curiosity for ingredients and gastronomy in general is also important.
YC: Most of my inspiration comes from my career history, but I believe the success of a specific recipe or idea is also rooted in the customer experience. Understanding what people are looking for is key.
CN: What are some of the region-specific chocolates you have created for Godiva?
PD: The Sichuan Pepper piece for the Chef’s Collection 2015, ginger hot chocolate, caramelised sesame milk chocolate tartlet and lychee chocolixir, as well as the yearly Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival collections.
JA: G by Godiva – single-origin Mexican chocolate bars – the Égérie Noire with raspberry and rose ganache, and the Reserve Privée chocolate collection.
YC: The Japanese Dark Sugar Ganache, made using intense Kuromitsu sugar molasses – it was very popular here.