An orange mist escapes from the atelier to the front shop where patrons wait for their take away coffee. The candied fruit is simmering in a large pot in the back while one of the employees cuts chunks of candied papaw for the tropical chocolate speciality. One of the clients laughs: “Are you preparing the orange chocolate ones ?”. Peter Edmunds, the chocolatier laughs back, pride sparkling in his blue eyes: “Can you smell it !”
The place is nestled in a vast green park outside Canberra, in an almost secret haven at the end of a no through road you wouldn’t imagine going to. The shop is crowded at this time of the morning, even though Peter Edmund has moved his atelier there less than one year ago. Lindsay&Edmunds produce quality gourmet chocolate with organic Belgian and fair trade cocoa whose origin you can track back to the local producers in the Dominican Republic. And now, the name is starting to spread throughout Australia.
About 60 hotels, restaurants and gourmet retail shops buy chocolate specialities from them. Peter is negotiating with a gourmet retail chain and expects his production will increase even more. But, small is beautiful. « There is no way I am going to distribute into big supermarkets. I believe it will depreciate the value of the product I am trying to make special and different. »
Back in Normandy
The story started in the small French town of Caen, in Normandy. At that time, Peter, the Australian who was once a cook in Sydney was now a yacht skipper, delivering boats to owners from South of France to London, from the Caribbean islands to Europe. With his wife, he loved the street markets where you could chat with producers. That’s where he and his wife caught the bug, buying those exquisite chocolate from the local artisan and sharing them after dinner with a cup of coffee. “The idea in Europe is to praise quality over quantity. I wanted to bring this philosophy here.”
He started in the kitchen of one of the boats he was in charge of. There, he conducted his first experiments in the simplest way, with a pan and a bain-marie. “The challenge is to work quickly when your chocolate mass reaches the right temperature. To check this, you just put a little amount of the liquid just below your lower lip”, he describes, emphasizing word with gesture. “You can’t add moisture or the chocolate will spoil. So you use fat to get the right smooth texture. I use butter in order to complement the flavour of chocolate but not to dominate it. The I add ingredients, for instance, I like the sweet and spicy ginger taste mixed with dark chocolate.”
After 6 months of taste and texture research, the first 4 kilos he made to sell were gone in less than two hours at the Sydney market. That was four years ago. In 2010 he won a gold medal for his caramelised chilli and macadamia chocolate, and in 2011, 2 silver medals, for the milk honey-almond praline chocolate, and the roasted coca slab.
12 February 2012