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A date with chocolate

Leela Palace's French patisserie chef, David Ducamp, shared the art of the chocolatier with an enchanted crowd of chocoholics



The chef's expertise had everyone craving for more. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

DID YOU ever long to star in a film titled Chocolat? Did you curse fate when stunning Juliette Binochet beat you to it? A second chance for Bangalore's chocoholics arrived in the shape of a date with the Leela Palace's French patisserie chef, David Ducamp, hosted by the Alliance Francaise as its first gastronomic workshop on May 4, titled Symphony of the Chocolate Maestro.

Ducamp shared the art of the chocolatier before an enchanted audience of 50-odd, ending with a gourmet offering that seduced the eye and the palate alike. The chef — who earlier worked in France and Cyprus — shared homespun wisdom as he created culinary wonders. His final spread included a mousse chocolat noir et lait (with dark chocolate and milk), a crème brulee chocolat (what a divine version of burnt cream!), chocolat chaud aux epices (luscious hot chocolate spiked with cinnamon, cloves and — bite your tongue — orange zest), delicate petit fours topped with chocolate ganache and sliver-slim chocolate garnish. But there was more in store — lashings of dark chocolate ganache that you could not have enough of, and petite chocolate mounds enclosing ganache centres. It was a hardcore chocoholic's dream come true.

As Ducamp demonstrated what separates a chef from mere cooks, he brought alive the patisserie art. It lay in spontaneous finger play with chocolate-friendly red food colouring over a plastic sheet before a drizzle of pale chocolate acquired a marbled darker overcoat. Held gently with a dab of cellotape, it emerged from the freezer as dainty curls that garnished the mousse and the petit fours. A four-wheeled bicyclette cutter rolled over a poured sheet of chocolate, to turn into delicate squares atop the crème brulee.

The chef's expertise was spellbinding at every turn. As his balloon whisk amalgamated chocolate and heavy cream with dexterous clockwise motions. As he tempered melted chocolate ambidextrously on a marble slab with a palette knife and a broad-handled blade till it thickened visibly to the eye. "One drop of water, and your chocolate is gone," quips Ducamp. "You can't do anything with it. It's like a paste." To drive home the point, he pulls out some "plastic chocolate" and rolls it into a nest for a white chocolate egg festooned with edible gold foil stars. To the touch, it feels like putty, an amalgam that will not set because of its liquid glucose content!

Ducamp stuns us by spraying chocolate sheets with icy air to make them set easily or to peel them off plastic. He blasts canned fire at his marble work surface to ease off set chocolate. He tests a dab of chocolate, declaring: "Our lips are the best thermometer. That's why they are a different colour."

By tasting time, we are awed by Ducamp, who soon leaves for a Moscow assignment. He adapted his recipes to the sultry air of the Alliance courtyard, unlike his 18 degrees Celsius patisserie room at the Leela Palace, which generously provided all the evening's quality ingredients. He worked with minimal props of the nearly 250 kg. of equipment he flew into town with.

It mattered little that our written recipes were exclusively in French. Or that Ducamp's charming wit occasionally eluded us because of his unusual accent. Maureen, a participant who makes homemade chocolate for friends, observed: "Ducamp was exciting because of the unusual ideas he offers."

True. For observers are unlikely to forget Ducamp melting the edges of a white chocolate half-egg with a hot blast on cold marble, so that the whole could be fused together. Or the gasp that met the red-plumed chocolate curl as it peeled away from paper.

Any thoughts as garnish? I still love chocolate that's rich, dark, bitter, and mysterious. But I'm not sure I enjoy the experience of it demystified.

ADITI DE

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