VALTER BOVETTI: INNOVATIVE CHOCOLATIER
He was born in 1958, Boves (Piedmont, Italy), into a family of cooks. He took over the family hotel-restaurant, then - as a chef in a luxury restaurant in Switzerland - met Marie-Estelle, whom he married and followed to France in 1986. Production manager of the oldest madeleines factory, he settled in Brive (Limousin, France) and decided in 1992 that he would become a chocolatier.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST VOCATION? Cooking was my first profession. The pan and the knife. My only sweet tooth is (already!) chocolate. I make it alone in my corner, I am self-taught. I try to understand the temperature curves, the changes of its aspects. I am passionate about it, I dig in. And one day, I want to do nothing else. I went to Montpellier, to CIRAD, a research center on tropical plants, before learning at a large company. Later, as soon as I could afford it, I visited the plantations. I brought back beans - plants that would spend 2 years in my bathroom, the time I have a greenhouse. I still haven't produced a pod, but I don't despair!
WHAT KIND OF A CHOCOLATIER ARE YOU? I didn't want to make chocolate bars or candies, I didn't want to be like the others. My first bar took me 8 years of reflection! I first designed and built my own machines. It is in my garage that I created my chocolate factory.
We started by making chocolate nails and tools. It marks the spirit of the gourmands and the handymen. We will be the first to banish aluminum foil packaging - which deprives the chocolate and the gourmet of magnesium. The first to use transparent packaging, which shows the decoration of the bars with inclusions of fruit, hazelnuts or spices.
When I created my spread, the whole world only liked Nutella. I would have found it offensive to copy. Instead of defatted cocoa, I used chocolate. And definitely no palm. Our organic spread will conquer tens of thousands of fans.
Then I created the "apéritif chocolates", aniseed, Espelette pepper, rosemary or pink pepper coated with chocolate. I went back to the thousand-year-old Central American tradition. Chocolate was a tonic, a spice that was combined with 13 others. Sweetening chocolate is a modern heresy.
All this made me want to use chocolate in a dish, a salad or fish. We brought out chocolate with caviar, with seaweed from Brittany, as we had done with foie gras from Périgord. I am attached to this new way of looking at the material, and using it endlessly for curiosity and pleasure, always.
YOUR DEFINITION OF A GOURMET? A gourmet is someone who wants to taste everything. A curious person, but a demanding one, who sorts out the products he tastes very well. He won't make a salad with mediocre tomatoes. I am like that. I eat everything as soon as it is good and well done. I have been known to experience mediocrity while traveling. After two or three days, I get depressed.
OUR FIRST MEMORIES WITH CHOCOLATE? As a child, I was already eating it, but my mother still tried to block the drawers to stop me. I remember she had a recipe that was both economical and delicious. A chocolate cake mixed with cookie pieces, butter and dried fruit. It looked like a big, ugly sausage, but the mix had a funny texture.
The chocolate never left me. In the province of Cuneo, where I was born - and as far as Turin - there are many chocolate factories. As soon as I worked in a cookie factory, I touched chocolate. I always wanted to understand this material.
SPEAKING OF CHOCOLATE, WHAT DO YOU LIKE, WHAT DO YOU EAT FIRST, WHAT DO YOU NEVER EAT? It depends on what I am doing. When I'm in the factory, I eat milk chocolate because I need to eat a lot of it, up to a kilo a week. But dark chocolate saturates my palate. Dark chocolate while at home, or at breakfast - just a square to wake up the taste buds. My job forces me to taste all the time. It is important to nourish and fix my memory. I don't do tastings anymore with lots of chocolates and especially lots of people. I get bored, I don't enjoy it anymore. From now on I taste only one chocolate and I do it alone. I take it fresh, I let it melt slowly in my mouth, which allows me to see the tastes pass and detail them. If it is already hot, the cavalry arrives suddenly, I appreciate it less.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE CHOCOLAT-E ADVENTURE? Eric came to me. He wanted to make his own bars. He met someone in Spain who knew me and said to him, "It's Valter that you should meet". We met right away. Then I met Jean-Yves by video. I understood from his conception of the “look” and the graphic design that this man was not normal, he was great: immediately it was yes! He advocates for quality, and finishing down to the tiniest details. He and I have duels over a simple tab on the tablet case. He's picky and I'm persistent. But I give in most of the time, because he is right.
WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY CARE ABOUT CHOCOLAT-E? We share the same values, we are on the same wavelength - I don't need to be a guardian of ethics or taste! I am happy to bring them my experience in manufacturing, in industrializing a high quality product. I will have great pleasure in sharing my tastes with them moving forward.
VALRHONA, WIZARD COCOA MAKER
Valrhona was a natural partner for us. Guided by four pillars: Quality, Innovation, Sustainability, Ethics and Respect of the environment, they too prioritize people and planet, over profit. They are committed to establishing strong, long-lasting ties within the communities they work, ever-improving techniques and crop strains to produce some of the best products on the market. From Belize to Madagascar, Valrhona is leading the way in corporate social responsibility - and great tastes!
PHOTOGRAPHIES: LAURENT VU FOR VALRHONA