This week the luxury French chocolate company Valrhona opened a new school and hub for their brand in the U.S., L'École Valrhona Brooklyn. Though the school has hosted a couple of confectionery classes already, this week it hosted a two-day conference with parties for visiting chefs and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school.
Frédéric Bau, a famous French pastry chef who mentored under the macaron-famous Pierre Hermé, opened Valrhona’s first school in 1989 in Tain-l'Hermitage, France. There are now four, including one more in France and one in Japan. Bau was here for a couple of days to celebrate the occasion, along with the Valrhona crew from other schools and pastry chefs such as Stephanie Prida of Manresa, and William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves, who ran a pastry pop-up earlier in the day.
“I wanted a glass of red wine, but water will have to do!” Bau joked, gliding between the black curtains in the converted warehouse space in Dumbo, a neighborhood on the waterfront between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Wearing square-rimmed glasses and a gray suit, he was about to address a room full of soggy chefs in rained-on T-shirts and sneakers and talk about building a successful brand.
“We have, some of us, a big ego,” Bau said, as the drizzle came down behind him. “But we can build bigger things together than we can alone.”
The work of pastry chefs is often undervalued in American restaurants, so much so that many restaurants don’t even have full-time pastry chefs anymore. But Valrhona considers pastry chefs the stars of the show. And top pastry chefs at Per Se, Daniel, and Le Bernardin value Valrhona chocolate in return. With those restaurants among its clients, the company intends to grow its American business in addition to its education efforts.
The Brooklyn location will soon offer baking classes to consumers as well, focusing on topics like macaroons and petits fours and traditional viennoiserie in June, chocolate bonbons in September, and French yule logs in October.
L'École Valrhona Brooklyn is at 222 Water St., Brooklyn (Dumbo); valrhonaprofessionals.com.