Saturday, April 24, 2010

Three Days With Guittard Guest Chef Andrew Shotts

We made more than 20 different kinds of bonbons and confections during the three days of E. Guittard's "Artisan Chocolates and Confections" course, taught by chef Andrew Shotts. One of the most important things I learned was something that wasn't on the formal curriculum: how to align artisan chocolate making with the making of money. This is so valuable to someone like me, who right now has no way to make an income from chocolate work, but who will want to in the future. Now is the time for me to take a business approach to my chocolatiering: I need to calculate the cost of making each piece of candy I create, the cost of each piece of packaging I use, and think about how I would price the finished and packaged products if I were a shop owner or wholesaler. Later, when I set up a business, this way of thinking will be natural to me.

The space we worked in was everything a small-time chocolatier could want - The Chocolate Studio, run by Donald Wressell, who I think is executive chef for Guittard. He hosts the Guest Chef series there in Culver City, and the kitchen is set up for baking as well with a multilevel commercial oven, a proof box, a convection oven, and a bunch of other baking equipment. Chocolate equipment abounds as well: there's a temperer-enrober, a few Chocovision machines, a bunch of MoldArt melters, an industrial four-burner stove, an induction burner (want! want!), dozens of molds, and much more. There's a walk-in chiller, a huge freezer (essential. I suffer from lack of freezer space), and more counter and slab space than I have ever experienced. There's an upstairs office area as well. I'm still writhing with envy over that space. The days consisted of both lesson time and work time. We broke into three teams of four people and each had several recipes to set up in mise en place for the chef. Then, by turn, he went through each recipe, demonstrating how to successfully complete each step and ways to achieve efficiencies in the work. Day 1 was all about making slabs of ganache. Day 2 was pates de fruits, rochers, and marshmallows. Day 3 was popcorn confections, enrobing,  decorating and packaging. On each of those days, chef Wressell cooked while we worked, and served us the most delicious gourmet lunches.

A major advantage of this class over the online one I took was the chance to meet other chocolatiers from all over the country and even the world. We had two participants who came from Mexico, two from Washington State, one from Utah, and the rest were from California. Some were hobbyists, some hope to open their own operations very soon, others have had new or longstanding family businesses. It was wonderful to hear their perspectives, learn from their experiences, and make new friends. Another wonderful thing was the chance to work once again with industrial chocolate making equipment. Even small-sized enrobing equipment makes a huge difference in the amount of product a person can turn out in comparison to hand-dipping each individual piece. In the photo above at left, the a 40-piece rank of enrobed centers have come down the enrobing belt and have just been covered with a transfer sheet patterned with colored cocoa butter. Chef Shotts smooths the sheet down over the wet chocolate that covers the bonbons. The chocolates will be transferred to a countertop to cool, and later the sheet will be removed and will leave the edible design behind. I also drooled over all the guitar cutter, which in a trice cuts a slab of ganache into 120 uniform pieces. It's a huge labor saver, and makes bonbons look a lot cleaner and more professionally made. I could go on for hours about this class, but I think what I'll do instead is post a bunch of photos and let you browse at your leisure. My summation is that I couldn't recommend any more highly the Guest Chef series from E. Guittard.

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