<b>Valise en cuir </b>
The house of Chaudun specializes in custom-cast chocolates, a little-known craft catering to all-consuming passionshorses among them.
Like Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house, the place makes your mouth water as soon as you set eyes on it, with its fun window displays and the tantalizing smell of chocolate once you push open the door. But inside, no witch; only magicians who dip slices of candied orange in chocolate, compose little bags of treats andmore surprisinglywork their magic with food-grade silicon.
And that’s because it’s the molded figurines and the high-quality chocolate that have built the fine reputation of this house founded by Michel Chaudun 30 years ago. In his small shop, the passionate, ever-curious, ingenious chocolate maker started reproducing just about everything that came to hand: a chicken bone, a drill, African masks, handbags, shoes, sunglasses and the like. He has fashioned nearly 800 molds, which he recently handed down to his successor, Gilles Marchal. “There are chocolatiers who specialize in sculpture, or in coating; we are chocolate casters,” says Marchal.From an existing object, we can make just about anything.”
Among the favorites of the house’s loyal customers (who often discovered the place by word of mouth), horses rank high. The complex molds are sometimes created by a sculptor, but most are made in-house by a team that is expert in both the use of modeling tools and the art of tempering chocolate. “We have to stay creative, and we try to offer things that no one else does,” explains Marchal.
There’s an eye-catching display of pieces in the small museum at the back of the shop, giving an idea of the range of possibilities: small horses inspired by chess pieces, a striking horse’s head, a lifesize horseshoe and a proud thoroughbred on a stand. If a customer wants something that hasn’t been made yet, custom orders can be placed: “We like challenges.”
Indeed, every new creation poses difficulties: the end result will suffer if the mold’s form is too rough, or the chocolate is not poured properly, or the turning out done too quickly or the assemblage (when the model is divided into several pieces) not done with care. Marchal is adamant: no flawed piece is presented to the customer.
For Marchal, aesthetics are as important as tasteful reproductions, and he refuses to use artificial colorings. It’s plain, unadulterated chocolate that is showcased here, made from blends of carefully selected varieties of cocoa beans. “All this creativity fuels a spirit of emulation in the studio,” enthuses the voluble owner. He hates routine and loves showing visitors around; they can talk to the chocolate makers or simply watch them calmly going about their various tasks. “We can’t stay in our own little corner; we have to pass on our expertise,” Marchal insists. You come to realize that here is a place where almost anything is possible; that what tastes good must also look good; that first of all you feast your eyes on the works of this house, before savoring them, blissfully, on the tongue.