Joy and the Chocolate Factory: local pastry chef studies at prestigious Valrhona

Plus three tips for making better chocolate desserts
Strawberry Blonde made with Dulcey (blond chocolate) panna cotta, lemon-scented shortbread, strawberry sorbet, and fresh strawberries

When it comes to chocolate, Valrhona is king. The French brand is used in desserts at our city’s finest restaurants, and recently the company invited nine American pastry chefs, including Sarah Koob of Canoe and Joy Jessup of Kevin Rathbun Steak, to attend a week-long training program at its prestigious academy, Valrhona Ecole du Grand Chocolat. “I’ve done classes there before, but not since the late ‘90s,” Jessup says. “I was excited to do it again. It’s hardcore class training, but it’s really fun.”

Classes ran from morning through evening for three days. Attendees were split into two groups and given recipe books.

“You learn better ways to work with chocolate—temperatures, times, things like that,” Jessup says. “While you’re working, they stop to show you certain things. You never really sit down.”

Since she’s been back, Jessup has tweaked the dessert list at Kevin Rathbun Steak to showcase her new skills. She recently composed a dark milk chocolate bar with chocolate almond streusel, dark chocolate coffee sauce, and almond brittle garnish using her new emulsion techniques. “You can now eat the whole thing, even if you’re full,” she says. “It’s delicious but not heavy or sickening.”

Jessup also revised her smores baked Alaska to have “better mouth feel” and better texture. “I pipe a chocolate sauce into the parfait and put it on a crunchy base, then coat it in marshmallow meringue,” she says.

Below, Jessup offers three tips for making better chocolate desserts at home.

  1. Melting thoroughly is key: If the cocoa butter in the chocolate isn’t completely melted, it can change the final texture of your dessert.

  2. Emulsions are important: When making any type of chocolate cream or filling, step 1 is to always make sure you have an emulsion before continuing with the recipe. An emulsion is a mixture of two substance that wouldn’t naturally mix, such as milk and cocoa butter.

  3. Don’t over whip when using whipped cream to make a chocolate mousse. Properly whipped cream has a shaving cream-like texture and consistency.