If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a chocoholic. In fact, I even eat chocolate for breakfast. I can’t recall with exact certainty when my obsession with chocolate began, but I do remember my experience as an intern in a French kitchen, some many, many, moons ago. Excited by the opportunity to step behind the scenes and learn the mysterious art of pastry, I eagerly donned the toque as the pastry chef’s assistant. But don’t let the title fool you. I was nothing more than a glorified scullery maid, peeling baskets of pears for tarts, apples for Tarte tatins, rolling miles of puff pastry, chopping hundreds of pounds of chocolate, whipping mountains of whip cream, and stirring gallons of creme Anglaise. All of which the chef viewed as character building while I saw it as indentured servitude. Eventually, I graduated to dipping truffles and chocolate banding cakes. A decorating technique that requires a scant amount of skill, but the effect is quite impressive. Like plastic surgery, it can transform the fugliest looking cake into a show-stopping masterpiece. All that’s needed is melted chocolate and a strip of wax paper measured to the height and circumference of the cake or object.
Left on my own—while the chef took his break—I was determined to prove my mettle. But my inexperience quickly turned the kitchen into a crime scene. Unexplained trajectories of chocolate splatters found their way into the most obscure places: the ceiling, under counters, and atop shelves that seemingly defied the laws of physics. At the risk of being caught red-handed, I immediately went about scouring the kitchen to cover-up my crime before the chef returned. And yet even today, as a wiser, more experienced chocolate enthusiast, I still haven’t totally tamed the beast. At best, I’ve managed to keep it contained to one corner of the kitchen.