Pierre Cluizel, Creativity and Chocolate at Un Dimanche à Paris
In a corner of the city bursting with character and charm is to be found a veritable world of fine chocolate. Pierre Cluizel, a man whose experience and knowledge of chocolate is deep and lifelong, has created his special destination for chocolate in Paris. This is somewhere to buy the finest filled bonbons and bars; eat and drink gourmet treats in the restaurant, bar or café; take your time over the unsurpassed velvety indulgence of the chocolat chaud; or attend one of the chocolate courses and learn more about this glorious foodstuff.
Over one of the options among Pierre’s extensive selection of fine teas, I talked to this passionate chocophile about his life and work. Scion of the market-leading French chocolate maker Michel Cluizel, he began by helping out in his father’s atelier from the age of six years old. As he puts it himself: “When you are brought up in a world of champagne, wine, tea or chocolate, I think there are two options. You could hate it, because it is there all the time and you have too much of it, or you fall in love with it. Me, I fell in love with it.”
His childhood passion was only intensified during decades of adult hard graft as Pierre grew up within the Michel Cluizel brand. He also became hungry to push boundaries, to create something that was his own. He is inherently creative, and driven in the pursuit of excellence. As he puts it: “I have dreamt for a long time of making a brand of my own, starting with a completely blank canvas, and building it up from scratch.”
Un Dimanche à Paris is the result of this desire. Everything from the tempting menu to the clean and calming design is personal to Pierre. He wants to please, inform and delight, to bring new ideas to fruition in our chocolate experience, while still retaining the reverence and classical excellence for which Paris chocolatiers are world renowned. He is in the ideal position to do so with his unparalleled knowledge and drive. Pierre sniffs out the best chocolate to use for each recipe from the finest in the world. “The couverture used depends on what product you are making. In the kitchen my philosophy is to work with pure, single-origin chocolate,” he says.
Of course December is the perfect time of year to give chocolate, or indeed indulge yourself! During my visit to Un Dimanche à Paris, they were just putting the finishing touches to their seasonal specialties. They have bûches de Noël in three flavors and a stunning couronne that would be a wonderful centerpiece for any party table.
There are four delicious new filled chocolates that I was lucky enough to taste. The dark Ecuador ganache is gloriously full of the fruity brightness of this fine cacao. The milk chocolate praline is a delight of warm nuttiness, caramelized to its full flavor with a perfectly light, crunchy texture. The dark praline is equally good, but with the deeper notes of dark toffee, smoke and more cocoa in evidence. The coffee ganache beautifully marries a toastier dark chocolate with roasted coffee. All the bonbons are among the best chocolates in Paris, impeccably made, the smoothest ganache, the finest shells and the balance of flavors expertly judged.
The ultimate present for the chocoholic in your life must be one of Pierre’s courses. A couple of hours spent learning how to re-create bonbons de ganaches, moelleux au chocolat or tartelettes au gianduja under the expert guidance of a maître pâtissier or chocolatier would be the start of an even deeper love and appreciation of chocolate. It may even mean a steady supply of wonderful treats way beyond the holiday season.
What is on my wish list? My treat came early. It was the greatest pleasure to meet a man with such energy, to get behind the scenes of his elegant and delicious temple to my favorite food and of course to eat such truly fine chocolate.
Un Dimanche à Paris
Cat Black on chocolate
Cat Black is a food writer specializing in chocolate, a sometime chocolate judge and an all-around chocoholic. Visit her at Chocolate Couverture.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking tour, check out our DIY downloadable Paris tours.