Mathilde Giard - 2013-02-12
Cooking classes are the latest trend to hit the mountain resorts. Patrick Laroche, artisan chocolatier at Grand-Bornand in the Haute-Savoie, has opened his laboratory to budding gastronomes.
Tempted by the sound of Crottes de Marmotte (Marmot Droppings), Alpine snowflakes or Mountain Ibex Teardrops? These chocolate specialties were created by Patrick Laroche, Grand-Bornand’s very own artisan chocolatier. He originates from the Vosges region and has never mounted a pair of skis. He spends his time in his laboratory with a view over the Aravis Mountains and the Bouchet valley. Despite his failings with the ski poles, he nevertheless initiates amateurs into the arts of turning spoons, especially on days when the weather is disappointing. The introduction lasts roughly two hours, is free and is open to four people per session.
“Foodies always want to know what the secrets are! Mine is simple - the right temperature!” he says whilst plunging his thermometer into a pot of melted chocolate. That morning, he prepares his "Aravis crystals" He melts a kilogram of black, white or milk Valrhona chocolate squares, to mix with 100 grams of cocoa butter. "To work the chocolate, I then warm it to 32°," he describes. He prepares a container with 1.6 kg of ready to use almond flakes imported from Spain. "Another important detail - the weighing must be very precise," he insists. The assistants for the day help him to finalize the small crispy bite-sized delicacies, sold at 14€ per 200 grams in the window of his chocolaterie "Les Gourmandises d’Antan” (Gourmet Delicacies of Yesteryear.) All they have to do is try it out again when they get home. Among his specialties include the Savoy biscuit coated with white chocolate or the "Grand-Bo" which look like mini-Reblochon cheeses!
Elsewhere in the Alps
Patrick Laroche forms part of a trend that has won over the mountain peaks. Chocolate finds itself at the heart of other introductory sessions launched this winter in Mont Blanc. Novelties at the Gets resort includes Isabelle offering "the Art of Tasting Chocolate," where participants observe, smell and break it for an hour and a half every Wednesday (Chalet du Chocolat, from 12 to 20€). At Saisies, in the Hotel Calgary belonging to ski champion Franck Piccard, a programme combines skiing in the morning and a foie gras and chocolate workshop in the afternoon. You learn to mastery its fabrication and cooking with the chef patissier Didier Vidal and Michel Decroix. While in Courchevel, at le Chabichou, the two-star MICHELIN restaurant, the chefs Michel Buron Rochedy and Stéphane give classes to children, teaching them how to make cakes on Wednesday afternoons (25 €). Without doubt cocoa will find its place there too!