Anissa Talbi-Dobson has just this week opened L'Atelier Chocolat, a boutique chocolate store in Hastings. The French chocolatiere tells Mark Story ethical chocolate-making is at the core of what she does.
1 Tell us about your beginnings in chocolate making.
I was trained by a chocolatiere who was in his early 80s, he was an extremely passionate chocolatiere. I thought I would learn a few things about the world of chocolate and see how it goes. I became more and more interested and discovered the potentials in terms of creativity. Also the political aspect of it was quite a shock when I discovered the reality of unfairness, abuse and exploitation behind the scene. I knew from then that I will exclusively work with products that are organic and fairly traded.
2 How do you come up with flavour combinations?
Through a lot of mistakes and errors. But experimenting is what happens right after every idea I have.
3 What's your favourite kind of chocolate?
I love both dark and milk chocolate depending on the kind of mood I am in. I love the sweetness and creaminess of the milk chocolate. My milk chocolate especially, it is 37 per cent and comes from the Dominican Republic and contains no lecithin. You get the real deal. As for the dark chocolate, I am very broad in my tastes but I prefer low-acidity dark chocolates, they're more my thing.
4 Do you have trouble sourcing ingredients?
I work the other way around: I see what amazing ingredients are available and start from there.
5Do you consider chocolate a sweet treat or a food?
Chocolate is definitely a sweet treat. People need to understand the luxury product it is, especially in these times of scarcity: The price of cacao on the stock exchange market has exploded in the last few years, because of high demands coming from China, India and Brazil.
Equally, the quality of chocolate is getting better because of a better knowledge in the field and closer relationships between growers and customers.
We should consider ourselves very lucky and privileged to have even a square of chocolate in a day, as most people on this planet , including the cacao growers, sadly, have no idea what chocolate means, let alone tasted it.