The Genteel
November 19, 2017
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Glass Chocolates & CupCake Truffle. Photograph courtesy of Hulet & Hulet.

Art can take a number of forms, yet some are more delicious than others. From elaborately crafted constructions to indulgently intricate designs, chocolatiers have turned to cocoa beans as their malleable medium of choice since the first chocolate bar was created in the mid-19th century. Tempering and melting, moulding and crafting, the works of the traditional chocolatier exhibit a skilful creativity entirely deserving of the art world's attention.

Vanilla Truffle Chocolate Utopia

Vanilla Truffle at the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Chocolate Utopia

Thanks to chocolate academies such as the Ecole Chocolat School in Canada and École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in France, as well as international competitions like the World Chocolate Masters, a light has been shed on the artful dexterity demanded of the chocolatier. 

Many companies have attempted to replicate such edible intricacy en masse with mixed results. Yet there remain a number of authentic and independent chocolateries across the globe that are continuing to make and sell handmade chocolates in store.

One such place is Chocolate Utopia, a small family run chocolaterie set in the heart of Nottingham. Speaking with The Genteel, its owners, husband and wife team Chris and Helen Forster, explained how originality and creativity remain essential ingredients in their chocolate making process. "We strive to make our chocolates as beautiful as possible [...] All our chocolates are made in the kitchen beneath our shop and we have complete control over our flavours and designs."

The Forsters have been designing traditional Belgian chocolates for 10 years, and like all artists their processes have evolved over this time. "We create our chocolates in many different ways - some are shaped in moulds, some dipped in chocolate and others rolled in cocoa powder or hand rolled. Well tempered chocolate can be moulded to almost any shape. It can be sculpted to create 3D models and can be used to create a number of different textures," Helen explains.

Best of all, if it all goes wrong you can melt it down and start again, or better still - eat it..

"Best of all," she continues enthusiastically, "if it all goes wrong you can melt it down and start again, or better still - eat it." Of the many artists striving to achieve multisensory results within the design realm, the chocolatier is surely at an advantage. With taste and smell, the chocolatier is afforded additional platforms on which to flex their creative muscles and appease their wildly diverse audiences. "We are always open to ideas and keen to experiment with flavours and discover which chocolate compliments which tastes."

Audience awareness appears all the more central where personal taste is actually sampled. Cally Higginbottom, the self-taught chocolatier behind web-based business Chocally, swears by it. "I mainly focus on selling my products online from my website but alongside that I do attend farmer's/craft markets from time to time [...] It's a great way to see my customer's reactions first hand and [allow people] to put a face to my business." A personal touch with authenticity, given that Chocally - though shipped all over the world - are each handmade in Chocally's home kitchen based in Derbyshire, England.

Having completed a degree in Graphic Design, artistry is detectable in all that Chocally creates. "I see chocolate as an artist's material and I adore creating special shapes and sculptures with it." Yet Chocally is more than comfortable working in the traditional mediums of fine art: "I welcome the chance to utilise my original illustrations within my packaging designs."

Chocally Chocolate Snowman Truffle

Chocally snowman truffles.
Photo courtesy of Chocally

Her unique flavour combinations further highlight the young designer's creative flair. From Parma violet fondant creams and orange poppy marzipan truffles to milk chocolate fig and sesame shards, experimentation is key to Chocally's unique chocolate making process. Mulled wine, mince pie and Christmas pudding truffles are united to form aesthetically pleasing selection boxes, whilst luxuriously crafted snowmen look simply too good to eat.

A phrase of admiration to most, 'too good to eat' also underscores the entire ethos of Hulet & Hulet Art Glass Confections. Working together for over 28 years, Californian sisters Patty and Dinah Hulet design and create a menu of lavish gourmet chocolates created entirely from glass. "My sister and I have been inspired by our childhood love of all things chocolate," Patty explains. "Our work is created from colourful glass utilising flame-working, casting and pate de verre techniques."

Elaborately designed with a ludicrously realistic attention to detail, these inedible non-perishable treats prove that the aesthetic appeal of chocolate alone is an art form, and one that is worth preserving. The Hulet's glass creations may not tantalise taste buds in the traditional melt-in-the-mouth manner but each piece is meticulously designed to capture the precise colour, texture and form of their customers' favourite treats. Created to tease, seduce, tempt and delight, the collectibility of their art work proves advantageous to many. I'm not so sure though; surely art that can be tasted is a much sweeter idea? 

Related: Menu Whispers: The Power of Design

Related: Pop Appeal

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