Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bernachon - Chocolatier Extraordinaire

With Easter weekend coming up, I felt it necessary to take a stroll down Cours Franklin Roosevelt and take in the display at Bernachon. Every year they have an enormous molded chocolate sculpture in the window, and every year I am astounded at its monumental proportions. Who gets to eat that chocolate egg? I wondered, as I tried in my mind to calculate the weight of the enormous single edifice of chocolate before me. Knowing Bernachon, the thing might actually be solid, I thought, as I pushed the door in and allowed the heady, rich and deep aroma of cocoa everywhere to envelope me and permeate my senses.

Outside, the window was shining glitz and glass, with stately polished bronze letters spelling out the family name mounted on the marble shop front. Indeed Bernachon is an institution worthy of the pomp, but one that has held on to its humble beginnings, remaining a family run private business for the last 48 years. They sell from their shop only. Any chocolates you find outside of the shop are from re-sellers eager to capitalize on their reputation. You won't ever see a Bernachon boutique outside of the Lyon shop on Cours Franklin Roosevelt (although you can purchase by mail order), because they firmly made the decision to control their quality this way - to maintain their impeccable reputation.

I entered the shop, where on a Wednesday afternoon there were no less than a dozen well heeled clients, thoughtfully working their way around the indoor display windows all containing seasonal molded chocolates dressed with ribbons and bows along the outer periphery. Dear plaid winter-woollen clad Mamies were making their decisions and calculating numbers, plotting the candy hunt for Sunday, followed by obedient shop keepers with silver trays and tongs. The Mamies indicated with their determined stodgy gestures which pieces they desired, the shop keepers delicately placed the required pieces on the trays, following behind them as they knocked along. I turned to the counter and gazed longingly at the beautiful cool blue and rich brown retro fabric cushioned boxes that just screamed “I’m full of gorgeous chocolates!” and ran my gaze down the case over the amazingly diverse selection of chocolates to choose from.

Since 1958, the Bernachon family has conducted on site torrefaction in their workshop, roasting specially blended formulas of raw directly imported cocoa beans from 8 different countries to produce 62 different kinds of chocolate on site. For their base chocolate, they have a simple recipe, it's no secret. Pure roasted cocoa beans, sugar, and whole vanilla beans where vanilla is required.

They only supply one chef in the city, Mr. Paul Bocuse, since Jean-Jacques is married to his daughter, Françoise. This legendary chef is known for taking his breakfast often in Bernachon's tea salon, which boasts in addition to the full array of chocolates, a full spread of the highest quality house made pastries and brioche. He was a good friend of Maurice Bernachon, father and founder of the business, who passed away at the ripe old age of 80 in 1998, and chef Bocuse maintains his close relationship with their mutual grandchildren, who are being carefully prepared to continue in the family tradition.
Artisanal torrefaction is overseen by Jean-Jacques Bernachon, and the boutique and tea room where the public can relax and enjoy the pastries and chocolates on site is managed by Françoise. Today Bernachon chocolate enjoys legendary status as one of the best chocolatiers in France and their reputation for impeccable quality rings throughout the world. Members of the family are present at every point of the business. In fact I was greeted by Stephanie Bernachon today, graciously received, and allowed to open cases and snap my way through the shop like paparazzi, despite the din and busy Easter preparations underway. As I left the shop and passed by the bustling tea room, I already had plans to return - once I've made my decision about what the bells of Easter will bring to our house.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy - what a lovely blog you have! I've tried their chocolate recently (got them in Paris) and absolutely loved it :) I've been to Lyon a few times, it's such a beautiful place - look forward to reading more of your gorgeous posts.

3:54 PM, May 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this year I'll make it to Cours Roosevelt to buy a Bernachon Easter Chocolate. That's a terrific idea !

Happy Easter !

Teddy B.

11:03 AM, March 18, 2008  

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