Chris Mirams is our pastry chef at The Picnic and he’s in charge of all our chocolate work. He always says that quality work comes from quality ingredients. When it comes to chocolate that means using Valrhona.
Valrhona has a long and interesting history and it’s an outfit that’s set a benchmark for not just quality of product but for how we think about chocolate. Valrhona was the first chocolate maker to label their product with its percentage (of cocoa solids) and its origin. That origin has become all important and specifically in ensuring chocolate comes from a single origin rather than a rag-bag assortment of where ever was cheapest. Single origin chocolate links the product back to the growers and the plantations, meaning authenticity of product, trace-ability and accountability are all paramount.
The chocolate industry suffers in the way many luxury, high end industries do from exploitation and corruption. Valrhona was the first company to extricate itself from that and begin talking about their product in terms similar to wine and coffee, where it comes from, its credentials, the year it was grown, it’s ‘vintage’.
The iconic black bags of couverture, pellets and pearls are labelled with exotic names like Xocopili 72% and Araquani 72%, Guanaja 70%, Caraibe 66% and Tanariva 33%. They come from plantations in places like Ecuador and Madagascar. There’s a great respect for the people who grow the beans and the places that rely on the chocolate industry as an important part of their economic sustainability.
Valrhona was established in 1922 in France by pastry chef Alberic Guironnet. It’s been through a number of owners since then, taking its most recent name from a blend of Valley and Rhone where it originated. It’s a company with a strong tradition and with quality as its driving value. At The Picnic we choose to use it because of that quality. It means we can make the very best chocolate work. But also we support and respect the way the chocolate we make can be traced back to the people who grew the bean. When you taste our chocolate work you are validating a long history of quality craftsmanship, but also paying homage to the all the people and all their various skills that have worked so hard to make that mouthful possible.