The Academy of Chocolate held it’s first conference on 8th October at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. The day was a great success with a mixture of people who work in the chocolate industry and pastry chefs attending as delegates.
Craig Sams, founder of Green & Blacks kicked off the proceedings with a fascinating talk on the foundation and basis of cacao. Tony Lass, an expert in agronomy of cacao was next, talking about cacao farmers and how 95% of cacao is produced by smallholders on family farms. Tony also covered cacao as a commodity. Richard Perks from Mintel covered the worth of the industry, in the UK and around Europe mentioning that the premium end of the market is the fastest growing sector. Sophi Tranchell from Divine talked about fairtrade and the wonderful work that Divine have been doing to support their farmers. Lynn Cunningham from Hotel Chocolat talked about their work in St Lucia on Rabot Estate.
The afternoon’s talks moved onto the final product with chocolate tastings and talks on running a chocolate business. Highlights included Tastemakers – a seminar on creating flavour combinations with Chantal Coady from Rococo, Keith Hurdman from Thorntons and Paul a Young all talking about their experiences, sharing their knowledge and sampling some of their creations.
Dr Baukje de Roos from the University of Aberdeen talked about the health benefits of chocolate and how her study over the past year has proved that chocolate is indeed good for us, particularly for our hearts. William Curley demonstrated creating chocolates and desserts. Duffy Sheardown hosted a tasting, demonstrating how different conching times significantly affect the taste of chocolate. The day finished with Angus Thirlwell of Hotel Chocolat and Anne Weyns of Artisan du Chocolat talking on commercial without compromise and their experiences running a successful chocolate company whilst still producing a quality product.