Entering La Manufacture de Chocolat Alain Ducasse is to enter a very special world indeed. At this bean-to-bar chocolate maker in central Paris, everything is done on-site. The sacks of beans are transformed though roasting, winnowing, conching and then tempering, before being made into a sublime range of bars, pralines and filled chocolates. Alongside the workshop sits a boutique where the public can come and directly buy some of the best chocolate in Paris. Alain Ducasse’s many restaurants are also supplied from this site, including his recently reopened Le Meurice. But sales direct to the public are proving so popular that there is now also a concession within the Galeries Lafayette Maison.
The industrial-chic boutique.
La Manufacture sits among the quirky retail outlets on the rue de la Roquette near the Bastille metro station, and it’s a symphony of industrial chic. Pared-back metal and wood displays showcase chocolates of the simplest unadorned beauty—no colors or extraneous decorative flourishes here. The lights are large metal domes, the packaging is crisp uniform brown paper and cardboard, the simplest of materials somehow managing to be the ultimate in luxury. The wall on the right side of the boutique is glass, looking onto the atelier itself, a workshop of friendly looking machines and quietly diligent chocolatiers. This is a very stylish outfit. But this is not merely style: it is style and substance, and what substance! It is the content of those neat brown boxes that makes this one of the most exciting new places for chocolate in Paris.
That must-have brown package.
The brainchild of Alain Ducasse, whose lifelong love of chocolate has finally been given full vent, Le Chocolat is in the highly capable and talented hands of Nicolas Berger, whom you could call chief chocolate maker. A pâtissier by training, he kept finding himself spending most of his time with chocolate. This venture, in the planning stages for many years, has allowed him to fully immerse himself. During my entire visit he carried a timer and kept popping back and forth to tend to his beloved cacao beans. He is well aware that the devil is in the details. The precision of his roast stops for no one, certainly not me. And I was more than happy to go along for the ride, thrilled to be able to view, smell and witness the process of making fine chocolate.
Cacao beans awaiting transformation.
The result of this focused and personal vision by Ducasse and Berger is the production of something exceptionally clean and focused. The chocolate truly is the star. It is worth buying bars of their plain chocolate, to experience and compare the flavor notes of each. The boutique’s other products are all of fine quality and lifted further by this exceptional couverture. The filled chocolates are precisely made squares and rectangles of full-flavored gourmet heaven. They are divided into three types: single origin, which allows you to savor the pure chocolate in a different format; flavored ganaches; and pralines. Of the flavored ganaches, the prune and Armagnac brilliantly delivers this classic combination, while the caramel has a light, almost mousse-like texture. The pralines are a standout, perfectly pitched marriages of cocao-rich chocolate and deeply toasted nuts.
Nicolas Berger with sacks of cacao beans. Photo: © Pierre Monetta.
Only open since February 2013, La Manufacture already has a fearsome reputation and has garnered reams of press. There is little doubt that this in now a must-visit destination for chocolate in Paris.
In a nutshell: A rare and exceptional gourmet chocolate maker and chocolatier rewriting the rules of fine chocolate in central Paris.
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Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse—Manufacture à Paris
40, rue de la Roquette, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 48 05 82 86. Open Tues–Sat, 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse at Galeries Lafayette Maison
Read more about the masters of French chocolate