“Chocolate – the very word excites the taste buds,” proclaimed Waitrose Food Illustrated editor, William Sitwell, and whilst accepting an invite to preview La Maison du Chocolat’s Christmas collection, I couldn’t have agreed more.
On a sunny summer’s evening, nestled in the heart of London’s Piccadilly, the company’s flagship UK store had displayed all sorts of festive goodies, ranging from the Duo of Pears chocolates (pears with beautiful, soft milk chocolate ganache – sounds like it shouldn’t work, but really, really does!) to the astounding artisanship of the Midwinter’s Night Dream – a 45cm high, handmade wheel of chocolate, depicting reindeer dashing across a flurry of gold and white chocolate stars.
Launched in 1977 by Robert Linxe, La Maison du Chocolat was one of the very first luxury chocolatiers. Linxe retired in 2007, but the reigns of the business were already in the control of its charismatic CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan, whom I was privileged to be able to speak with (his hectic diary had him preparing to depart for an early morning start in Paris, following which he was off to New York). D’Anglejan has been at the helm since 1995, but when I asked whether Linxe is still involved in the business in any way, he laughed. “Each weekend, I call him!” he reveals. “He is an exceptional man.”
D’Anglejan is truly passionate about his business, but more importantly, he’s passionate about chocolate. “The quality of the brand is important,” he tells me, “but we are here for three main reasons – one, the creation of the company. Two, creativity, because in the luxury market, our customers want new things all the time, so we have to adapt and create new things. Three, the relation with our customers – if you love the product, then the customer will love the product.”
Helping d’Anglejan achieve his vision is Master Chef Nicolas Cloiseau, who, it turns out, initially refused the job. “He is exceptional, but modest,” d’Anglejan says. “Nicolas said no to the job because he didn’t think he was so creative. It took six weeks for me to convince him!”
Cloiseau is clearly an artisan, especially if this year’s Christmas collection (“best one yet!” says d’Anglejan) is anything to go by.
For those who can’t wait until November for when the Christmas collection goes on sale, La Maison du Chocolat currently sell their seductive summer range, The Isle of Beauty, with zesty citrus flavours. Randomly enough, the collection was inspired by a trip Cloiseau took to Corsica, from where the ingredients are all derived. “The best raw materials are important,” d’Anglejan tells me. “So we go and find the best.”
Everything La Maison du Chocolat sells, however, is all made in France. Surely it would be easier to make chocolate – something that is essentially a very fragile commodity – in the country in which you intend to sell it? D’Anglejan appears somewhat horrified at the suggestion. “The ingredients must all be the same – and they are different in different countries. So we make and produce everything in France. Using specific ingredients means you can control the quality. The chocolate is flown abroad, but the packaging is shipped, as we have more time for that.”
Which means that wherever you are in the world, when you present a delicious box of chocolates to your loved one, or count down the days to Christmas with an exclusive advent calendar in the shape of a festive tree, the chocolate within is as good as the day it was made. Now, who’s pinched the last hazelnut praline?!
To see the full range of products, visit www.lamaisonduchocolat.com. La Maison du Chocolat have also announced their new late-summer, limited edition macaron flavour, the Népita, a delicious combination of dark ganache with an infusion of Corsican Népita mint with fresh herbs and peppery mint.