- Published on April 19, 2013
- Written by Ashleigh Papp
Pastry Chef Elaine Smyth, of New York’s famous restaurant Per Se, recently joined TCHO’s sourcing team on a trip to investigate the origins of chocolate. Usually she can be found creating chocolate-inspired culinary masterpieces, but when an opportunity to explore her interests in chocolate through the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group experiential scholarship, she knew there was no better way to learn then seeing where it all begins, enter TCHOSource. I had the chance to learn about Elaine’s adventures while in Peru. Between visiting cacao farms, spending time with co-op leaders and even leading a truffle making class with fresh chocolate – it sounds like she had quite the learning adventure!
While many talented professionals incorporate chocolate into their creations, seldom do they take an interest in learning where the chocolate actually comes from. What inspired you to learn more?
For as long as I can recall I have had a fascination with chocolate from baking chocolate cakes with my mother as a little girl to the first time I tempered chocolate. I have always wanted to explore it further, to know more. I was eager to explore the journey from the cocoa farm to our kitchen by investigating the various links in its supply chain.
TCHO as company interested me because of their focus on growing the best beans possible through partnering with farmers. I admire the way the company strives to make the world a better place while making the best possible chocolate. With its distinctive focus on flavor profiles, true innovation and TCHOSource program, TCHO seemed like the ideal partner- a chocolate company as obsessed with chocolate as me.
Tell us about an experience that left a lasting impression!
Meeting the farmers and visiting their farms was particularly special- listening to their stories, seeing the fruits of their hard work and sharing the baba fruit right off their trees was the opportunity of a lifetime. I think one of my favorite moments was during the truffle class held at Oro Verde’s chocolate lab. The General Manager of the cooperative who had excitedly participated in the class said to me that he felt he understood so much better how to move forward and improve their cocoa beans now that he saw the end product and how we were using it. Likewise for me I now have a much greater appreciation and understanding of the chocolate and how to use it because I have seen where it comes from. Now I have experienced each step in the process and the hard work of those who make it all possible.
Elaine grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and has worked for Gordon Ramsay and Michelin star restaurants in London and Paris. She is currently responsible for the production of all chocolates at Per Se. When not playing with chocolate, she takes full advantage of living in The Big Apple: exploring new neighborhoods, restaurants and its many museums.