Chocolatiers and their job
They are specialists among confectioners – the chocolatiers. As their name suggests, chocolate products are their handicraft. Although chocolate had arrived in Europe after the discovery of the Americas, the chocolatier profession first emerged around 330 years later.
The art of making chocolate
Up to that point, people only knew chocolate as a drink. In 1828, the Dutchman Coenraad J. van Houten succeeded in pressing cocoa paste to produce two useful raw materials – cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Chocolate could be thinned using cocoa butter and poured into molds to form different shapes. People started experimenting with chocolate and even began using cocoa painting as a way to decorate cakes. Chocolate making enjoyed increasing popularity among confectioners. In 1832, Franz Sacher set a milestone in the history of chocolate making. He was a second-year apprentice standing in for his head chef, who had fallen ill, when he took over the task of creating a special dessert for the House of Metternich. Today, Sacher Torte enjoys ever greater popularity and is an exemplar of classic confectionery.
Those who want to become chocolatiers usually begin as confectioners; chocolatier itself is not a profession one can get a qualification for. Many years of experience, deep knowledge of confectionery and pastries, craftsmanship, a creative streak, and a passion for chocolate are the qualities one needs to specialize as a chocolatier. Those who have perfected their craft have what it takes to become master chocolatiers.
From gingerbread maker to confectioner
And how did the confectioner’s profession develop? It began in the 15th century when some bakers refined their pastry with spices, honey, and dried fruits – gingerbread bakers, as they were called. Later, gingerbread bakers became sugar bakers, who often also worked as pharmacists. This may sound strange, but at that time the sale of valuable, exotic goods such as sugar and spices, which came to Genoa and Venice from the East through sea trade, was reserved exclusively for pharmacists. Even marzipan, which came to central Europe from Venice in the 14th century, was at first only sold in pharmacies. Marzipan quickly established itself as the perfect ingredient and modelling paste for creative cake design.
As time went by, the role of sugar baker slowly turned into that of confectioner. The term confectioner stems from the Latin word cōnfectiō, which in turn is related to the word condīre, which means seasoning, preserving, and preparing delicious food and spices.
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