An absolute peach of an assignment this week to go and interview the charming, brilliant and infectiously enthusiastic “shock-o-latier” Dominique Persoone at his chocolate coated factory/test kitchen in Bruges.
Persoone is one of only three chocolatiers in the Michelin Guide, he supplies all Belgium’s three star Michelin restaurants with chocolate and he’s on Fat Duck’s freakish panel of weird ass food science types. He made a chocolate snorting machine for the Rolling Stones and he’s a bit of a star in Flanders, with his own TV series where he treks off intrepidly through Latin America finding out about the origins of chocolate and seeing panthers and riding horses and getting tattoos. He imports coca leaves in his socks and collects machetes.
What he’s best known for, though, is his completely outlandish chocolate flavours. Fried onion with almond praline. Soy sauce. Cauliflower. White chocolate with basil ganache, sun dried tomato chutney and black olive marzipan. OH YES.
Reader, I tried them. I tried the Wasabi and the Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar with pine nuts and the soy sauce and the Coca Cola and the parma ham and melon. I snorted the ginger and mint chocolate snuff and popped the Chocolate Pills.
By the time I left my head was spinning with chocolate and some of them were absolutely AMAZING. My favourites were a caramel coriander ganache with salted peanut peanut praline, the passion fruit, lime and vodka and a wonderfully pure, acidic raspberry juice ganache with hardly a hint of sweetness. Jesus, this man knows his stuff. You can tell he’s worked with the world’s best chefs (René Redzepi sends his pastry chef to Dominique for training and he’s doing a session at Madrid Fusion at the end of this month): it’s not just shocking for the sake of it, there’s real skill and science and passion there.
Also, he has great wallpaper.
You can try his chocolate for yourself at his Chocolate Line shops in Bruges and Antwerp (the beautiful, gilt and frescoed Antwerp store used to be Napoleon’s palace on the Meir and Dominique is producing chocolate in Napoleon’s actual kitchen) and I really can’t recommend it too highly. Not everything he does is out there – there are plenty of quite conventionally delicious pralines – but try and least one of the weird ones, you might surprise yourself.
The Chocolate Line, Simon Stevinplein 19, Brugge and Palais op de Meir 50, Antwerpen.
Tru the Atlanta: bitter Coca Cola ganache and almond praline with popping candy.