Feasting in France with Valrhona

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The Moodie Report has been fortunate enough to feast in France this week, courtesy of luxury confiserie house Valrhona. This writer greatly enjoyed the fabulous hospitality of Eric Carlier and his team, experiencing not just a full immersion into the Varhona universe, but also an amazing voyage gastronomique of the wider Tain L’Hermitage region, where the company was born back in 1922. Reader, I gained two kilos in as many days. Given the suitcase of chocolate I returned with, that could well be the, er, thin end of the wedge.

The Valrhona version of a business lunch

My visit began with a drive from Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport to the local Le Quai restaurant overlooking the river Rhône. After a most convivial, ahem, working lunch (hey, the desserts were made with Valrhona chocolate, so we were there on official business), we pointed our ventres to the Valrhona offices where I was treated to a full marketing presentation, new product reveal, tour of the company’s École du Grand Chocolate and a comprehensive chocolate tasting.

Sampling the extensive product portfolio in the Valrhona offices

In the late afternoon we headed to the hills to drink in the spectacular scenery and observe the various vineyards (I have been completely converted to the region’s Saint-Joseph appellation), before installing ourselves at Le Chaudron restaurant for a most enjoyable team dinner. My sleep that night was sated, to say the least.

Heaven on earth: The Valrhona Boutique in Tain L’Hermitage

Day two began with me channelling Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with visits to Valrhona’s Dodet and Guironnet production sites, to witness first-hand how the company’s chocolates are made. This was followed by a visit to Tain L’Hermitage’s flagship Valrhona Boutique, which contains the most jaw-droppingly exquisite selection of confectionery I have ever had the good fortune to encounter. I’ve always thought my spiritual second home was Louboutin’s Mount Street store in London, but I am reconsidering fast.

Such a civilised setting for an interview…

After being forcibly removed from said Boutique, we drove back to Lyon for another splendid lunch, this time on the terrace of the Michelin-star Tetedoie Restaurant, where we were personally greeted by chef Christian Tetedoie. Again, the desserts featured Valrhona chocolate, so for research purposes, I was compelled to sample. Suffice to say, The Moodie Report sent the right Mann for the job.

Lunch was followed by a visit to Lyon’s Les Halles Paul Bocuse, billed as France’s finest covered market, where many stall-holders use Valrhona products. (I type this Blog with a fistful of exquisite Sève – a Valrhona client – Panettone in one hand.) A tour of Valrhona’s retail locations, in partnership with Aelia at Lyon airport, concluded the trip.

The Valrhona/Aelia partnership, as showcased at Lyon Airport

I returned physically heavier but mentally enlightened. My Valrhona visit expanded my mind as well as my waistline, because the company’s story is about much more than making chocolate. It is the partner of choice of the world’s leading professional chefs. It is a planter, selector and blender. In 2006 it created the Valrhona Taste Foundation. It has a clear and proven commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

As it embarks on a new wave of international expansion, Valrhona is looking to further develop its travel retail presence. Keep an eye on The Moodie Report.com for a more in-depth examination of how this next chapter in the company’s history will unfold. It’s food for thought, I promise.

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