The Secrets of Chocolate | Review
The Secrets of Chocolate
by Franckie Alarcon
NBM Publishing, $19.99
Subtitled A Gourmand’s Trip Through a Top Chef’s Atelier, The Secrets of Chocolate is a delicious book. The author spent a year back in 2013 working with and observing chocolate chef Jacques Genin’s creations. (The chef clearly establishes early on that he is not a chocolatier, as he doesn’t make the chocolate itself. Instead, he melts it and makes candy or pastries from it.)
Alarcon’s excitement and enthusiasm is a pleasure to read. He takes the reader through Genin’s kitchen and shop, showing us procedures and creations. There’s so much thought that goes into the chocolates, balancing flavors and evoking memories with traditional French influences. It’s also clearly hard work, as the various kitchen assistants speak about what they do and how they got their jobs.
The open pages are not paneled. Since there are no borders, the images and descriptions scattered across the pages give the book the feel of a scrapbook. The reader can almost smell the dark, rich scent coming off the images. It’s mouth-watering.
One particularly affecting image is a page where Alarcon first tries a ganache that includes cinnamon. His open-mouthed face is surrounded by his reactions and the influences he tastes. It’s a visual montage of how flavor carries memories and evokes such a variety of reactions.
Plus, there are recipes. Readers can learn how to make simple truffles, chocolate tarts, and hot chocolate, among other things. Techniques are also demonstrated, including how to use a pastry bag, and the many things the author learns when he works as an intern. As the book continues, Alarcon visits a chocolate factory, where he sees cocoa beans processed, and a plantation in Peru. He also explores chocolate made for Valentine’s Day and Easter gifts.
This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in gourmet desserts or how much can be done with chocolate. It’s remarkably detailed, but the conversational approach makes it seems approachable as well. It’s one of the best kind of educational comics: the kind where the reader learns a lot without realizing it. It’s an excellent suggestion for any aspiring foodie.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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