Travel inspiration and insider tips


4 years, 5 months ago

It’s Salon du Chocolat Season

The world’s awash with stuff worth questioning but if you ever doubt the Parisian commitment to chocolate we’re happy to point you in the direction of the Richart flagship store on Rue Bonaparte – you don’t need a street number, just follow your nose. When you get there, ask to see ‘The Chocolate Vault’ – a hand-crafted wooden safe filled with chocolates sealed in their own temperature controlled environment. Ridiculous? You think? Even if you wanted to pay a small fortune to possess this treasure, you couldn’t, it’s Sold Out. Depending on where you stand on chocolate, that either says, people are mad or they really know their priorities.

If you’re firmly in the latter camp, we probably don’t need to tell you the season of Salon du Chocolat is now upon us. Born 20 years ago in Paris out of the same passion that inspires connoisseurs to cosset sweets in a micro-climate today, Salon du Chocolat has now taken over the world. There are annual events from NYC to Lima, chocolate haute couture is the stuff of legend – how does that even work? – and The World Chocolate Masters competition has been known to bring out bloodthirsty warrior spirit in even the most sweet-natured artisan.

Salon du Chocolat, London Olympia, 16th to 18th October

It might only be celebrating its third outing in London, but Salon du Chocolat is wildly popular here and expected to pack Olympia with over 14,000 visitors this year alone. If a mere two days seems mean, we can promise the only issue you’ll have is trying to taste, try and see everything in such a short space of time – even the most ardent chocolate lover has a saturation point.

For the cocoa cultured who’ve spent months cleansing their palate in preparation, over 100 of the world’s finest chocolatiers are showcasing confections at the London event. ‘Bean to Bar’ is a voyage through chocolate guaranteed to make you think twice next time you casually throw a few squares down your throat. And if you’ve spotted the term ‘Dessert Bar’ popping up all over recently, the flawless combination of London’s Belle Epoque and Valrhona Chocolate at Salon du Chocolat will clear up any confusion about the difference between ‘cakes’, ‘patisserie’ and ‘died and went to dessert heaven’.

But it’s not all cocoa solids and couverture, children love chocolate too and nobody’s forgotten that for a minute. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory: The Musical is serving up enchantingly messy chocolate workshops and kids can get close to the original Great Glass Elevator. And so far there hasn’t been a country anywhere disappointed by the incredible Salon du Chocolat ‘Chocolate Fashion Show’ – again we ask, how does that even work?

Salon du Chocolat, Paris Porte de Versailles, 28th October to 1st November

The original isn’t always the best, but we think Paris could quite easily argue the case for Salon du Chocolat. It’s a massive event in Europe’s largest exhibition centre and over 200 masters in the art of everything from chocolate making to chocolate sculpture will be working the room (all 20,000m² of it) at the end of this month. The Paris event is one known for innovation, so it’s where to expect very unexpected tastes, astonishing revelations and incredible new ideas – you think all chocolate’s the same, Paris will convince you otherwise in a second.

Haute Couture on the runway here has had twenty years to perfect the art of getting models into designs and keeping them icy cool, so the evening fashion show in Paris is the one to see. If you’re interested in more than merely eating chocolate. Education and environment are a big part of the Parisian experience and there are several fascinating experiences, exhibitions and workshops dedicated to getting to know the stuff we all think we know, even better. And once again, Chocoland is impossibly cute. Kids in huge aprons and traditional toques making their own chocolate? Not meltingly sweet? Sorry, did you get lost on your way to the Catacombs?

But for aficionados, one of the main reasons to pick Paris before all others, is the final of World Chocolate Masters. We’d be the last people to ever suggest – even in the privacy of our own minds – that earth’s greatest chocolatiers ever bring less than their A-Game, but nothing quite matches this stellar showing. And for two days visitors get to see the ‘Masters’ in action in the Competition Space before a final decision is made and the Chocolatier of all Chocolatiers is crowned.

If by some horrible oversight you miss Salon du Chocolat in London or Paris, Lyon is hosting the event on the 6th and 7th November – another excellent reason to visit a city that’s fast becoming another one of France’s foodie capitals.

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