During a recent visit to Brussels for Art Brussels, I met one of my favourite young Belgian chocolate makers, Laurent Gerbaud, in his shop opposite the cultural hub BOZAR. His store is like his chocolates: authentic, seductive and pleasant.
Packaged chocolates are displayed on a big central table for those who are in a hurry. For others who take the time to select their favourite, there is a proper “comptoir“ with a view onto the workshop. What I love about Gerbaud’s chocolates is that they are simple – almost basic – and at the same time unique in their combination of very fine 75% chocolate with exciting and unusual products. Gerbaud exclusively uses chocolate from a Turin maker, Domori, which creates exceptional quality products using fine cocoa varieties from renowned single origins.
Gerbaud’s grandparents were already in the pastry-making business, creating chocolates for special occasions. After studying medieval history, he decided to train at the CERIA school in Belgium. He later went to visit friends in China and stayed a few years in Shanghai, becoming fluent in Mandarin and beginning to create chocolates with a less sweet taste to meet the taste of local consumers. It was here that he started to combine chocolate with acidic and fruity ingredients, such as kumquat, bergamot or yuzu, as well as salty products such as salted nuts or even pepper. From his time spent in China, he also kept his current logo, which means “chocolate” in Chinese.
Following his return to Belgium, Gerbaud continued his experiments and produced his new range of chocolates in his grandmother’s basement. These were distributed in several countries including the UK in Waitrose. In 2009, he opened his shop in the historical centre of Brussels. The shop includes a tasting salon and he regularly organises tasting sessions comparing different chocolates of same cocoa percentage. He also takes part in many corporate events and incentives and he is regularly invited to exclusive resorts to give workshops.
His chocolates can be divided into three main ranges. The first category consists of various ingredients such as grapefruit, fig, pear, prune, ginger and orange, covered with pure chocolate. One of his new ingredients is physalis. The fruits are carefully selected, aged and stored to reach a certain consistence when covered with chocolate.
The second category consists of individual round “caraques” finely covered with a single ingredient such as coca beans, roasted Piedmont hazelnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts or pistachios. Some of these are also offered as chocolate bars. My favourite is the Yuzu bar, with the Japanese yuzu delivering a light, refreshing taste that fits perfectly with the bitterness of the Domori chocolate.
The last range consists of a variety of “ganaches”. The highlight is speculoos (a Belgian specialty similar to the ginger biscuit). Laurent collaborates with Biscuiterie Dandoy, a family owned company famous in Belgium for its range of speculoos.
This is the work of an artist: Laurent works intuitively and always explores new combinations. I can’t wait for my next visit.
Rue Ravenstein 2 1000 Brussels, Belgium
02 511 57 02
For other chocolate addresses in Brussels, Paris, Lyon and London, look at http://frommycity.com/?p=529.