Whilst many of the ingredients used by the chefs at The Merchant Hotel are locally sourced, the passion to create fine, high-quality dishes and desserts has, upon occasion, taken the hotel’s chefs further afield.
In the quest to uncover the practices of luxury chocolatiering, The Merchant Hotel’s Executive Chef John-Paul Leake travelled to Tain-l’Hermitage to visit the hotel’s chocolate supplier Valrhona and learned first-hand the delicate art of chocolate making.
Just as The Merchant Hotel are passionate about showcasing their finest ingredients, so too are Valrhona committed to creating a partnership with its professional clients since its establishment in 1922. Not only do they limit their clientele to a small, handpicked collection, they also work closely with each client to understand their needs and expectations.
However, what sets Valrhona ahead of other opulent brands is its dedication to creating exceptional chocolate, by combining the world’s best cocoa beans with carefully considered flavours, and traditional chocolate making techniques. It was these techniques that were discovered and explored by John-Paul on his two-day trip to the development lab, otherwise known as the Cité du Chocolat.
Much like a fine wine, a chocolate can be defined by its tasting notes, ranging from scents of coffee to subtle floral notes. These notes are a result of both their cocoa content and the techniques used to produce each unique flavour.
During his visit to the École du Grand Chocolat, which was established in 1989 by Frédéric Bau, John-Paul was immersed in the fascinating business of chocolate production and uncovered the intricate processes that take place in the journey of a cocoa bean. In a blind tasting session, he discovered the distinct characteristics of each variety of Valrhona chocolate, bringing the theory of chocolate production to life at the hands of expert chocolatiers.
John-Paul’s experience not only invigorated his taste buds, but also offered a deeper understanding of the nuances attributed to this luxury brand, which will undoubtedly come into practice when it comes to creating new and innovative recipes for The Great Room.
Valrhona’s creamy and luxurious chocolate is used daily in The Merchant Hotel, both in The Great Room’s famous Afternoon Teas and throughout the lunch and dinner menus.