Chocolate sculptures: when art and craftsmanship align for Easter14-04-2017
Easter is always a time when French specialist patisseries and chocolatiers enter a frenzied state of chocolate euphoria. It’s also the perfect occasion to meet two expert chocolate-sculptors who have transformed their passion into an art form.
The French love chocolate. They manage to eat 6.85kg every year – per person! – and Easter is the best time to see this passion come alive. Everywhere you look, in French bakeries, cake shops and on supermarket shelves, chocolate is available in every shape and form. And with Easter just around the corner, French chocolatiers are getting ready for one of the most important events of the year, second only to Christmas. In fact Easter represents 4% of annual chocolate sales. With decorated eggs, moulded chocolate shapes, simple chocolate eggs and innovation a-go-go, the entire industry at every level are showcasing their creations to satisfy sweet tooths, big and small. And while the French are the biggest consumers of dark chocolate, Easter is a time for milk chocolate to shine. Consumers have a soft spot for chickens, rabbits and eggs, while all manner of special Easter-themed sweets are also popular. At Easter, moulded chocolate shapes account for 72% of sales (Syndicat du chocolat).
Patrick Roger – flying the flag for sculpture.
Beyond individual whims and fancies, some chocolate specialists inject serious artistic flair into the world of chocolate. Meet Patrick Roger. In his boutique in the 2nd arondisssement in Paris, shoppers admire his works in wonder like in an art gallery, admiring an eclectic array of elephants, chicken and eggs, a rounded sheep, and even a sprig of lilly of the valley, perfect for 1st of May. “There is also a chocolate hedgehog eating a fried egg, it’s about going back to nature” adds Patrick Roger. Inordinately large and yet intricately refined, Patrick Roger’s chocolate masterpieces cannot help but attract passers-by and visitors from all over the world wanting to savour a piece of the action (and a piece of the chocolate!). This artisan-chocolatier excels in the art of sculpture, with the emphasis firmly on originality and surprise. “Chocolate is not really intended for sculpture. Anything over 2mm thick and it begins to break, crack and lose its shape. I decided to work with all these challenges. Over time and after a lot of hard work, I started to get results. Every piece of chocolate is a work of art and must be treated exactly as such.” explains the artist who started out by creating sculptures for Jean-Paul Gauthier and Serge Gainsbourg. For Easter, the chocolate-maestro has created a collection of chocolates ranging from ducks to chickens, even chocolate sea-shells.
“Easter is great fun and a stark contrast to the more artistic works which keep me occupied for the rest of the year,” concludes Patrick Roger.
And for a few more days, feast your eyes on his latest stunning works at the very cool Elephant Paname gallery.
Made by the chocolate maker Patrick Roger, some from old molds . Photographs taken at Sceaux on December 15, 2016
Eric Thévenot: chocolate for thought
One of the finest initiatives for Easter this year is all down to the work of one of Patrick Roger’s friends, a sculptor in his own right, and a chocolatier too.
“Patrick and I are brothers-in-arms. We started out around the same time. We competed in the same contests. We know each other well. He’s an extraordinary guy and I love what he does”, confides the owner of a boulangerie-patisserie in Nogent-sur-Marne.
Eric Thevenot has sculpted a life-size rhinoceros, but not just any rhinoceros. This is a tribute to Vince, a white rhino recently shot and killed for his horn by poachers, an incident that happened close to home at the Thoiry zoo near Paris. It’s a story that has deeply touched the French nation, including Eric’s customers, who were only too aware of his passion for threatened species. “The more we talked about it, it took on a life of its own and the idea was born. I did some sketches and photos, and I started the construction”, explained Eric Thevenot. And the result is astonishing. The chocolate rhinoceros takes pride of place in the window and seems more real than nature itself. “It’s quite an impressive sight for my customers. I can’t sometimes believe it myself. People are surprised by the result and touched when I say that in some ways it’s down to them”. For Easter weekend, the artisan-chocolatier is selling baby chocolate rhinos for 10 euros a-piece, and all proceeds will go straight to Thoiry zoo. And if you are wondering about the real-life version, Eric concludes, “He will stay in the shop window until it gets too hot, around 30 degrees, or more. After that he will join the others and maybe one day I’ll have an exhibition”.
An Easter message of mammoth proportion…