Patrick Roger is not a typical chocolatier, he’s actually considered one of the rebels of the chocolate world. He not only produces an exceptionally good variety of chocolates, with unusually delicious fillings but also creates magnificent sculptures out of chocolate! That’s a first one for me. And there is something more, he carries the Guiness World Record as the creator of the biggest Christmas tree ever made out of chocolate!
So I became very excited when I discovered his shop in the Sablon, at one of my favorite areas in Brussels. When I entered into the shop someone could have knocked me down with a feather because of its interior. Seeing my enthusiasm the shopkeeper gave some explanation saying that the chocolate maker (and sculptor) Mr Roger decided to keep the store in its original state. For instance the paintings in the wall which blend well with bricks. In the middle there was one of his own creations, a 7 meter long “chocolate” sculpture-boat that served as a table to display his chocolate products (but when I knocked it it was made of bronze). One more interesting fact was what I observed immediately that the decorations of his store were inspired merely by forests (the contrast between brown and green colors).
And the shopkeeper kept talking zealously. She recalled the event when Patrick Roger opened that shop in 2010 Christmas time, so he wanted to make a special entrance by appealing to one of the most loved Belgian traditions: Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas). He created a chocolate sculpture from the Sint, which was displayed at this shop window. But all of his creations are lifetime investments-she added-and you can actually notice here all the dedication that goes into his work.
The ingredients he uses in his chocolates are so varied, have so many different origins and are rich in creative combinations. Finally by favor of the shopkeeper I had the pleasure to try out some of them and I have to admit my favorite one was a Chimay-based truffle, quite thoughtful since Chimay is a very well known Belgian beer.
When I returned to Bruxelles again in early June 2012, I couldn’t resist to visit Patrick Roger’s. I didn’t “regret” at all because I had the opportunity to take pictures of the two huge hippos in the shop window gaping their jaws enormously. It was spectacular. And also among the phosphorescent green chocolate boxes I’d found Mr Roger’s recently published book (appeared in April 2012): The Desert is creeping in.
Patrick Roger’s love story with chocolate
Patrick Roger started as a confectioner, (his father was a baker) and had worked in Paris at the age of 15, as a pastry student. At that early age he was already approached by famous designers to create them various chocolate compositions. But when two years later Patrick Roger moved to Paris, he realized that the cake-making was not at all his cup of tea. Fortunately, a month later, the same company, where he started to work, had opened a chocolate shop. Thus the chocolate had found Roger!
On the very first day of his work, he had already realized that he would be able to create anything from this “medium”, including his own life. Soon he discovered that the chocolate is a sensational medium, gives a lot of freedom regarding the creativity. At the age of 18, he mostly had to create artistic compositions for prominent events in Paris, for the French fashion dictator, Jean Paul Gaultier, or for the singer Yannick Noah, and many others, (in the early 2000s, he attended in a lot of such parties, in Paris).
His debut in the world of chocolate was a chilli-chocolate combination, which he discovered much earlier than the chocolate industry. Same happened to his basil, lemon grass, lime-flavored chocolates. Easy enough to explain the glorious success since in that time nobody had heard of that ingredients regarding to mixing with chocolate. So he opened his first shop in Sceaux (south of Paris) and however it was located not in the center of Paris, people observed immediately.
Since the beginning, his shop windows has always been in the news in France. Because depending on the season and the event he always finds out fascinating new things and themes. His most spectacular chocolate status have been created so far: the eatible Berlin wall, the huge polar bear, the elephants, monkeys, hippos, gigant eggs etc. I have to admit his display windows are often surprisingly, defiantly daring. When I was in Paris before Easter in 2011, his shop window was dressed in rat chefs, surrounded with broken egg shells. At Valentine’s Day sexy chocogirls were luring male chocolate lovers or my favorite one was the redolent of Easter Island giant eggs, at this time in Brussels. Amazed by his fantasy I always have the feeling that he is deliberately provoking, especially the oh-me-the most important artists working in snooty Paris luxury sector people. But his sculps has never been vulgar, just opposite they always remains classy. Besides each of his status has an important message: for instance about the melting icebergs and the global warming for that we should be worry. Or the polar bear -if we do not enter into action, the polar bears will soon be brown bears-. All his works monstrous and time consuming (the oliphant was four meters in height, and took him one month of work approx. 400-500 hours).
About the quality of his pralines there is only one fact: he purchases to source the raw materials from 30 countries. Say no more! He is an experimental type of person and like to challenge himself with new combinations such as the apple-chocolate parline. He also created a new split-flavored bon-bon for St. Patrick’s Day, (a celebration of the patron saint of the Anglo-Saxons, not the French), but since his name is Patrick it was a good gimmick. In Belgium he was inspired by the Guinness beer and combined with chocolate. The guests loved it. That means he is not only a chocolate maker but also a flavor whizard! But before we glorified him he would answer the next: it’s not me, these are my products they speak for themselves!
Patrick Roger’s chocolate sculptures so far: the edible Berlin Wall, from cocoa butter, and with coconut flavor, the giant Christmas tree, monkeys, elephants, rats, hippos, gigantic Easter Island’s eggs, pistachio flavor necklaces covered with bright plated for Mother’s day
His popular praline types, and fillings: apple, caramel, pumpkin, salted butter- caramel cream, cucumber, honey, rosemary, Japanese yuzu (lemon kinds of fruit), lemon, limettes, Prunella- plum liqueur, Sichuan pepper-flavored, Earl Grey tea, raisins, nougat etc..