“Paris is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.” Henry James
If you feel inspired to embark on a major chocolate journey, here is a list of must-visit-in-your-lifetime places for true chocolate lovers.
Most are in Paris (mais bien sûr!) some further afield in France.
1. Patrick Roger
“L’enfant terrible de la ganache…” Figaroscope (2010)
Visiting Patrick Roger’s website is perplexing – no explanations, only amazing photos, and a navigation menu that includes the phrases ‘Radioscopy’ and ‘Genetics’ (what?! why?!). His ambitious creations incorporate unexpected flavors like lemongrass and Sichuan peppercorn into the classic pralines.
A visit to his boutique on the boulevard Saint-Germain is also an overwhelming experience. It is an absolute must – your perception of what a Chocolate Sculpture is will change permanently, because Roger’s style is exceedingly bold and playful.
Patrick Roger | Address: 108 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris
2. Jaques Génin
“His chocolates are displayed like jewels” Vogue (2015)
Génin supplies chocolates, caramels and petits fours to more than 200 top French hotels and restaurants, including the Le Meurice. The self-taught top chocolatier began his career in food in a slaughterhouse – would you believe that? He opened his first restaurant when he was 28, and at age 33 worked as La Maison du Chocolat’s Head Pâtissier. In 2010 he opened his own chocolate factory, which the New York Times described as “a holy site for connoisseurs”.
At his Salon in the northern Marais you can taste the most exquisite pralines, as well as a legendary millefeuille. Treat yourself to his pot of decadent chocolat chaud, too.
His caramels and pâtes de fruits are probably the best you can find in Paris. The same is true for his Paris-Brest pastry, Ika says. Génin was the first chocolatier Ika apprenticed to in Paris, during her long professional training in France.
Jaques Génin | 133 Rue de Turenne, Paris [Salon] | 27 Rue de Varenne, Paris
3. Gilles Marchal
This Pâtisserie in the Monmartre is Ika’s favorite place in all of Paris, and she considers as her teacher and inspiration.
When you wander down from the Sacre-Coeur you will be immediately drawn inside, by the display of exquisitely beautiful pastries. His incredibly fresh and delicious madeleines have gained fans all over the world. The madeleines come in flavors like pine honey, grand cru dark chocolate, and pistachio. Marchal’s tarte aux framboises and baba au rhum are equally fabulous.
Gilles Marchal | 9 Rue Ravignan, 75018 Paris
Photo credit: Lucky Miam
4. Paris Salon du Chocolat
This annual exhibition is the leading international chocolate trade fair. Definitely add it to your bucket list, if you haven’t been yet.
Every autumn, the Salon du Chocolat welcomed over 100,000 visitors.
5. Paris Chez Sharon
While you’re in Paris Ika recommends treating yourself to a very special gourmet experience: going on a pâtisserie tour with Sharon Heinrich.
Sharon is a food journalist and local expert. Sharon will give you the inside story of each chocolaterie you visit, and introduce to you the trendiest and most wonderful pâtisserie artists and around the city. Check out Paris Chez Sharon on Instagram and feast on her amazing Paris finds.
OUTSIDE OF PARIS
6. Le Cité du Chocolat Vhalrona
Headquarters and Visitor Center of the leading French premium manufacturer is based in the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage near Lyon.
The company was founded in 1922, and has been a constant favorite among gourmets and chefs worldwide. Today they have over 60 distribution centers worldwide and also runs a highly respected gastronomic school – the École du Grand Chocolat. Ika has taken many of their professional courses, and insists on using the Vhalrona first-rate ingredients in her creations.
The visitor center offers a “multi-sensory interactive chocolate experience”: featuring knowledge on cocoa plantation and harvesting, and the complex processes that transforms the cocoa from bean to bar. The visit includes tasting many types of chocolates, including the The Grands Crus de Terroir collection – single origin chocolates made from the highest quality terroirs around the equator. Activities for children, restaurants and boutique serve families who take the day trip from Paris or Lyon.
Le Cité du Chocolat Vhalrona | 12, Avenue du President Roosevelt 26600 Tain l’Hermitage, France
7. Vincent Guerlais
“Je suis un agitateur de papilles (taste-bud agitator)”
proclaims the chocolatier from Nantes, a lovely town in Western France.
Guerlais is celebrated as one of France’s most innovative chocolatiers. His work is highly creative, and full of humor.
Feast your eyes and taste buds with his pastries and chocolate treats, such as Criollo, Absolu, Féerie, and colorful pralines he calls Guerlingots. Behold the 1-meter-long box of shaped chocolates – it can serve as a fabulous souvenir! Same for his brilliant artisanal version of the Petit Beurre biscuit – make sure you get at least one box.
Like many chocolatiers from around the world, Ika has attended Guerlais’ workshops, learning from his mastery.
Vincent Guerlaishttp | 1, place Saint-Félix, Nantes, France
Bon Voyage & Bon Appétit!