Making chocolate for a living is every bit the dream job is sounds, according to Ilse Wilmots.
The Godiva chef chocolatier is the first woman to hold the post in its research and development department and is in charge of creating tempting treats for it’s branches across Europe, including its Jubilee Place store in Canary Wharf.
Here she reveals what goes into producing new flavours and why she never eats chocolate at work.
How long have you been a Godiva chocolatier?
Since August 12, 1991– almost 25 years. My plan was to stay for six months.
What was your training?
My chocolate story began in September 1986 at the culinary school at the Coovi – Ceria in Anderlecht. After four years’ technical school I worked as a chocolatier in a pastry shop and a year and a half as chocolatier at Valentino. When I joined Godiva I started out in production, worked at several places in the factory and, in 1999, I became the first female chef chocolatier of the research and development team.
Why did you become a chocolatier?
My love for chocolate has grown stronger and stronger over the years. At first I found it intimidating because it is a complex ingredient to work with and things can go wrong very easily. It requires a lot of patience. With time and experience however, I have come to value chocolate’s complexity. To me, it will always be a little mysterious and that is what makes it so alluring.
What inspires you?
My interest in cooking has always come from the heart – I love food and to discover new ingredients. Tasting beautiful food is one of life’s great pleasures. My own interest in food and the world around me has been a stronger source of inspiration that any one person, or external stimulus. I just love the magic of blending a few ingredients together and create something wonderful.
What’s the best part of your job?
The development process, it’s like creating a child. There is the dream, the conception, the anticipation that goes into the preparation, the love you have for the project along with the belief that it is going to be wonderful. Finally, after months of work, you give birth to something that will bring joy and pleasure to many people. When I see people coming out of a Godiva store and see them smiling, that’s the best part.
Your first memory of chocolate?
When I was 11 I often made chocolate cakes and small pastries on the weekends. But I didn’t like working with chocolate at all when I was at school, probably because there’s so much that can go wrong. Yet ever since I left school, I’ve always worked in the chocolate industry and I’ve never regretted it one bit. I wanted to do something where I could be creative and use my hands. I’m really not made to sit at a desk.
How long does it take to design and create a new chocolate?
From concept to final chocolate piece takes about a year. At Godiva we pay a lot of attention to the selection of ingredients and have then chance to select the finest and sometimes the rarest available. All chocolates that we create in our kitchen are hand-crafted. Our work consists of exploring the wide range of chocolate tastes, textures, profiles and continuously creating new recipes with interesting and surprising combinations that will then inspire and seduce chocolate lovers.
How much chocolate do you eat?
We do not eat chocolate, we taste it – a lot like tasting wine. We allow it to melt in the mouth and consider the smell, the feelings it invokes or anything that could be done better but we do not usually swallow it. I taste chocolate or ingredients every day and I find that unlike most people, whose senses are more alert in the morning, I am better able to judge taste and smell in the afternoon.
What is your favourite chocolate?
Some favourites from Godiva are Tourbillon 85%, Liberty, Rosace, Perle Noir and Croustine. Ironically, when I started my career, I adored white chocolate. Now it is very rare for me to choose to eat it.
What are the chocolate trends for 2016/17?
Dark chocolate with a cocoa content above 60% is an overall trend. But we try to make our own trends. Godiva is the only chocolatier that makes seasonal collections specific for local seasons. We have five chef chocolatiers based all over the world – from Asia to Europe to North America who create chocolates that cater to local tastes and trends. For example, for Chinese New Year, we will try to use Chinese ingredients that are known for having medicinal benefits or fruits traditionally associated with the season.
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