Passion for chocolate: a long circuit from producer to consumer

the essential
This weekend marks the return of the long-awaited Salon Chocolat, wines and gourmet products, in Villefranche-de-Rouergue. After three years of absence due to the health crisis, the Lions club has invited 41 exhibitors for the reunion. Among the newcomers, Benjamin Bazoge, who roasts his own cocoa beans in Najac. Portrait.

30.5°. Not one more, not one less. “It’s the ideal temperature to work this bean from Peru,” explains Benjamin Bazoge, as he pours his preparation into the molds of the small Easter eggs that will decorate his stand at the Villefranche-de Chocolate, Wine and Gourmet Products Show . – Rouergue. His recipe, 77% cocoa – i.e. 72% grains, 5% cocoa butter “to thin” – and 23% whole cane sugar.

The nib is the brilliance of the cocoa beans that Benjamin roasts at Jeanne’s every Sunday from 9 to 2 in the morning, and which he then grinds himself in the laboratory-boutique that he opened in June 2022, rue Bourguet, in Najac. Guaranteed artisan method and a winning partnership with Le Fournil de la chouette. “When Jeanne has finished her batch of bread, I take advantage of the inertia of the wood-fired oven. It’s a refractory brick oven with a rotating hearth. It offers a very gentle heat, perfect for roasting, and it’s environmentally friendly,” says Beniamino. Ecology, a constant concern for this 31-year-old artisanal chocolate roaster. He even ships some of his beans from the Dominican Republic by sail; “It takes three months, the cost of the bean doubles. But it’s a question of ethics,” he says. So, inevitably, the rest is in line with the Nature of him and progress certified “Chocolaterie du Nouveau monde”.

Less sugar, more aromatic density

“For the pralines I divided the sugar by two. So I’m at three quarters of dried fruit and a quarter of sugar where the producers are at 50-50. But it’s normal, sugar is the cheapest. This is where the producers make their margin”. None of this to Benjamin, “an ultra-glutton who can’t stand the disgust associated with sugar.” For him, taste comes first. And that’s fine, «lowering the sugar gives the chocolate an incredible aromatic density».

Arrived in Aveyron in November 2020, he had never had the opportunity, until now, to show his know-how in a large salon like the one in Villefranche-de-Rouergue. “I started small with my workshop at home. I only made the Najac market”, confides the one who studied pastry in Blois, in the Loir-et-Cher. But it was in Framche-Comté that he had the click, “seeing a peasant baker preparing his chocolate in his bakery”.

It remained to find where to implement his project. Benjamin first thought of Quebec before looking for “a village in the southwest. Najac hit the jackpot. Eighteen months later, the young father of the family invested in a small 55m2 premises… looking forward to better.” I started in self-financing, with few tools. But it’s getting better and better. I’d like to find a bigger place next year.” Last year, with an apprentice and a partner, he sold 1.5 tons of chocolate, which is still modest. “It would take 4 to 8 tons to live decently “. There is therefore no question of playing the small arm, therefore, for him. Because otherwise the ax falls quickly. And you know the penalty, “no arm, no chocolate”!

In the program of the 9th edition

This year, the Lions Club of Villefranche has chosen to donate the benefits of the Salon Chocolat, Wines and Gourmet Products to the “Tous le monde contre le cancer” association. It is therefore at stand 39 that you will find the chocolate fountain by Didier Boutonnet who plans to sell almost 10 kg of liquid chocolate in two days. A spade, fresh fruit and all you have to do is take a dip to enjoy. After this obligatory step, don’t forget to go around the naves of the town hall of Treize-Pierres. You will find no less than 41 stands, i.e. 8 chocolate producers, 15 wine and champagne producers, but also 18 gourmet products. The icing on the cake, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning workshops for young and old.
The show is open on March 18 from 10:00 to 19:00 and on March 19 from 10:00 to 18:00. Admission: €3 with a glass of wine offered to over 18s, free for children.

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