In the spirit of Valentine’s Day at Di Bruno Bros. we asked our favorite chocolatier, Christopher Curtin of Éclat Chocolate, to give us the inside scoop on all things chocolate. And, of course, we couldn’t resist a cheese question!
1. How did you get into Chocolate?
In the early 90’s I was ready for a change and wanted a different professional path than what I was ever going to get in the states. I decided on a sabbatical year over in Europe. The planned one year away turned into 14 years of working in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. In 1996 I became the first American to become a Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier in Germany. After this, I chose to specialize in all aspects of chocolate manufacturing. I chose very carefully where and why I worked in each country. From chocolate manufacturing from the bean, to industrial manufacturing of 100,000 truffles or more a day, to artisan style techniques. I was very fortunate to experience it all.
2. How is your Cocoa sourced?
We work only with single origin chocolate. This gives us the possibility to work only with countries that don’t have political or working conditions that we do not want to support. For example, we stopped using known sourced ingredients from Cote d’Ivoire a long time ago.
3. What are the ingredients that you can’t live without?
Besides chocolate? We love to work with fresh herbs and different dried peppers. We also work with local organic suppliers when the quality allows us. Chester County has some amazing things going on with small farms with some really interesting people. It’s a habit I picked up in Europe and we have been doing it since I first moved back. I realize it’s hip at the moment, but it’s the right thing to do whenever possible and it adds another dimension to our product. This has been popular in Europe for quite some time and hopefully it will not be a passing trend here in the U.S.
4. What is your stance on Cheese?
If I am in the mood for some cheese I normally go down to Rittenhouse and get some brilliant Epoisses and some good bread with a little salad and I’m good.
5. Tell us what you love about Philadelphia!
Hmmm I don’t think I have enough time to tell it all. One of the things, and it may sound corny, is just to walk by Independence Hall; it still gives me a thrill. The museums are also amazing and of course the Phillies. Becoming friends with some of the great kitchen chefs in town has been a really great experience as well. It reminds me of my time in Brussels where all the chefs, even with different disciplines, worked together to get better, while at the same time a little friendly competition was going on. Philly has really become an amazing food scene which continues to grow.
6. What can we expect from Éclat in 2011?
We will be coming out with a few new products in the fall just for Éclat. We are also trying to put together a “Friends of Éclat” pastry and chocolate series, where friends of Éclat in the industry will give a half day pastry and chocolate course. We are also working with a certain “Iron Chef”, which has been another great experience. Besides that we will continue with some really interesting collaborations with other local artists, chefs and small scale organic farmers with a few surprises that we don’t even know yet. We will continue just having fun with new and creative products.
Don’t miss a special sampling from Éclat at our store located at 1730 Chestnut Street! On Saturday February 12th, Christopher Curtin himself will be sampling his caramel and chocolate confections from 11am – 2pm!