Masters of French Chocolate: Patrick Roger
Thu 2 May 2013
Patrick Roger is hard to miss in the world of French chocolate. He has six boutiques in Paris, all of which have serious curb appeal. I love the stainless steel and glossy eau-de-nil. It is a change from the ubiquitous chocolate brown, and is a great backdrop to the undeniable beauty of his chocolates. The boutiques also play host to the astonishing works of chocolate sculpture to which M. Roger treats his customers. The in-boutique displays are legendary.
Patrick Roger in his development kitchen.
It is this wildly creative streak that makes me particularly delighted to be meeting M. Roger at his atelier on the outskirts of Paris in Sceaux, as that is where he creates his masterpieces.
Patrick Roger is one of my chosen masters of French chocolate because I truly believe he is at the top of his game. His name is consistently mentioned in hushed tones and listed among the finest chocolatiers in France. Everything I have ever tasted has been immaculate, a fine balance of pleasure and intensity, sweetness and complexity.
Some finished chocolates.
He arrived in Paris at the age of 18 and started his career in pastry. Having found that it wasn’t his thing, he was relegated to the chocolate section as a punishment. Here he found his “ticket to the world! I could work with it, I could build with it!” he says.
The rest is now history. He was awarded the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2000. He has been in his enviable workshop for four years. His pleasure palace of a boutique in the Place de la Madeleine is his latest achievement.
The workshop is a gloriously calm and productive environment, filled with impressive-looking machinery and precisely skilled craftsmen. To my delight the central hall appears much like a sculpture studio. Indeed many of his large-scale chocolate creations are later cast in the more durable medium of bronze, and he has a fantastic gallery space above the workshop in which they are displayed.
The workshop at Sceaux is like a chocolate sculpture studio.
When Patrick Roger himself arrives, he instantly starts plying me with chocolate, and we eat our way around the building to my evident pleasure. He is a fascinating and energized companion, and exceptionally trim, despite his admitting to me that he can be far too much of a foodie! He confessed that when he was 21, he had to stop for a year, as he was eating so much chocolate it simply wasn’t good for him!
Patrick oversees finished chocolates being packed.
As a medium for sculpture, the fluidity of chocolate is evident in all his work, his love of which is clear from the passion with which he talks. When I asked him whether he brings the same trials to his creation of recipes he said that he doesn’t labor them at all, that he has an instinct for a taste and it appears to flow readily from him. His own favorite chocolate is appropriately called Instinct.
The rue de Rennes boutique.
Later, looking at a list of his products online, I see that many are named after human traits or moods, which says a lot about the man. He told me that Instinct was the first chocolate recipe he ever made, at home, for his parents. It is like a first love that has deepened and remained. Its description, “a roasted almond praline cluster,” does little to prepare you for how sublime it is. A texture both crunchy and smooth, rich with almonds and hazelnuts, sweet, caramelized and toasted, all combined and wrapped up in the indulgent warmth of chocolate. A first love worth the adoration in my opinion.
In sum, this is fine French chocolate created by an artist in a boutique that doubles as an art gallery!
3, Place de la Madeleine, in the 8th Arrondissement. 01 42 65 24 47.
Metro: Madeleine (lines 8, 12 and14)
Branches in Saint-Germain, Victor Hugo, Village Royal, Faubourg and Rennes
Editor’s note: Ooh, French chocolate, what could be better? If you’re headed to Paris, download our chocolate and pastry trip today—Patrick Roger’s shop is on it!