World Chocolate Day 2023:Experts Share Love For Food Of The Gods
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There is a reason why chocolate, in its many avatars that we have so come to love, is known as the ‘food of the Gods’. Forever associated with adjectives like luscious, delicious, scrumptious and so much more, chocolate is today seen as an integral part of all celebrations—so much so that since 2009, this planet has set July 7 as the day dedicated to celebrating this incredible ingredient that has not only given us sweet joys but also some savoury and spicy ones. 

When it comes to celebrating chocolate in India, our own culinary traditions—especially India’s knack for relishing and creating sweets—have helped assimilate this South and Central American-origin ingredient in way too many desserts. From chocolate sandesh to chocolate kheer to vegan chocolates, Indians have taken to chocolate confluence dishes just as much as they have taken to chocolate cakes, truffles and more. But what is the reason behind India’s love for chocolate and what future does this ingredient have in this nation? 

On the occasion of World Chocolate Day, Slurrp caught up with India’s leading experts in creating chocolate delights—from chocolatiers to pastry chefs and authors—to understand why chocolate is so popular in India, what their experiences with chocolate are, and how bright and delicious the ingredient’s future looks here. Take a look. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Pooja Dhingra

Pooja Dhingra, Pastry Chef & Founder, Le15 Patisserie 

Explaining how Indians have now adopted to chocolate consumption, this pastry chef extraordinaire says that the variety on offer in the Indian market today is proof of how far the love for the ingredient has come. “At one stage only mass commercial chocolate was available and while that has its own space and nostalgia, the chocolate industry today looks very different,” she says. “There are so many different categories and varieties that different people are attracted to different characteristics of chocolate.” 

But what are her personal favourites when it comes to chocolate? “While working in a chocolate shop in France I had the opportunity to see and experience many chocolate creations,” Dhingra explains. “The best ones for me have always been about their simplicity.” In India, she points out, the hot and humid climate can make working with chocolate quite difficult though. “Over my career, I've witnessed many chocolate mishaps- most related to the tempering of chocolate,” she says, while adding that despite this, she believes that Indians today know and understand chocolate much better than ever before.  

“People understand the complexities of bean to bar and are excited to try unique flavours,” she says. So the future of chocolate in India looks bright, she says: “Chocolate has become such an integral part of all celebrations and gifting. I see it growing in not only the gifting space but the personal consumption space too. From small-scale home-grown brands to larger commercial setups - there's room for everyone.” 

Sheetal Saxena, Founder, Colocal 

As the brains behind one of India’s leading bean-to-bar, single-origin, handcrafted chocolate brand, Saxena believes that chocolate appeals to all which is why people across the world today are so open to experimenting with it. “They are creating all kinds of sculptures, miniatures, fountains, paintings, proving that chocolate is really versatile,” she says. “When we opened Colocal, we wanted to capture this spirit of artistry and experimentation and provide chocolate in each and every course, including drinks, starters and main course. We made chicken and lamb shanks in chocolate sauces, and while the former was well-loved, the latter wasn’t. So, we see these ups and downs as well, but that doesn’t stop us from creating more chocolate creations.” 

This, she believes, is partly thanks to the fact that Indians now have a better palate for chocolate. “We had never been fed chocolate, but a lot of sugar with very little chocolate and no cocoa butter,” she explains. “For me, that doesn’t qualify as chocolate. So, our palate has been very rough, but it has evolved in the last 7 years. So, chocolatiers like us have a lot of responsibility in developing the chocolate palates of Indians. The chocolate industry in India is also matching this pace.” 

When it comes to homegrown brands like hers, Saxena believes that the time for Indian chocolate is now. “We are coming to the forefront now,” she says. “If we compare to the coffee industry, we are today where the coffee industry was 10 years ago, where people were discovering craft coffee. We have a long journey to cover, but I’m really happy that more people are coming in and increasing visibility, access and awareness.” 

Video Credit: YouTube/PassionateAboutBaking

Deeba Rajpal, Baker, Food Blogger & Author 

For this amazing blogger who has given Indians chocolate temptations for years through her creations, India’s love for chocolate is all about nostalgia. “I think it's nostalgia, memories of childhood, that chocolate and love are interchangeable and mean the same thing almost,” she says. “There's chocolate for everyone from milk, to dark to bittersweet! There are also a million flavours from the simplest to the most complex, so chocolate is a love affair!” Her personal favourites range from coffee chocolate cake and dark chocolate tart to dark chocolate panna cotta and Irish cream chocolate mousse. 

When it comes to chocolate fails, Rajpal believes that no experiment with chocolate can go wrong. “There's so much you can do with a failed chocolate experiment, so it's always a win win!” she says. And this is partly thanks to social media. “I think Instagram has opened a whole new world of chocolate that carries us beyond ice creams and bars. The Indian palate has become adventurous, is hungry for new experiences and we're happy to trot down the unknown path if there's chocolate at the other end.”  

The future of chocolate consumption in India, Rajpal says, will only get better especially with conscious consumption. “As the consumption trends with Gen Alpha, a generation that has grown up in a digital environment, their choices will always be a click away! Sustainability will probably play an important part in their decisions.” 

Preetanjali Pasari, Pastry Chef & Founder, Butterfingers by Preetanjali 

For Pasari, one of the leading pastry chefs in Kolkata, chocolate is not just a great gift for kids but for all. “It’s that little pick-me-up that every person enjoys and it’s not only for those with a sweet tooth,” she says. “I think chocolate is that one ingredient which is so easy to sculpt, to mold, to transform and to innovate with. I saw Janice Wong in Singapore hand us chocolate crayons and rice paper to draw on, and it brought out this childlike joy and was one of the best chocolate experiences of my life.” 

But chocolate experiments can often go wrong too. “The humidity and heat in Indian cities like Kolkata makes it very difficult to temper chocolate, but there if you have the technical knowledge, it really does help,” she says, adding that access to more knowledge about chocolate has certainly helped move things along. “We now have a wide range of chocolates available now and producers across the world are now more open to sharing,” she explains. “So, yes, the Indian palate has become more nuanced and experimental.” 

And when it comes to the future of chocolate consumption and creation in India, Pasari believes there is one factor that motivates it all. “Because of the happiness quotient it really brings all of us when we eat it, I think the Indian love for chocolate is only going to grow,” she explains. And what about her personal favourites? “I grew up eating Dairy Milk and watching Willy Wonka, so a simple bar of chocolate always evokes nostalgia for me,” she says. “But I do love cooking chocolate barks, which I feel are the purest form of chocolate gluttony.” 

Sanjana Patel, Creative Director & Executive Chef, La Folie

The pastry chef behind the tempting creations at La Folie, Mumbai, Patel believes that chocolate represents more than just sugar cravings today for Indians. “This is because a lot of people have started becoming passionate about the finer nuances, the finer details about and points about chocolate,” she says. “A lot of people are now consuming darker chocolate not just because they have a sweet craving, but also because of the high antioxidant levels.” And yet, chocolate fails are bound to happen for chefs and cooks, she says.  

“I think people sometimes just stretch it way too far off and it comes to knowing how chocolate can be utilized,” Patel says. “A lot of people do not know how to use chocolate so sometimes people, for example, burn chocolate in the oven directly while trying to caramelize it.” Despite these, she believes that the future of chocolate consumption and chocolate brands in India looks quite bright.  

“I think the Indian taste has evolved because of the whole craft chocolate movement,” she explains. “A lot of people are now understanding what a bean to bar is and what Indian origin cacao is. I mean it's still in the tier-1 and tier-2 cities but with a lot of chocolate makers coming in, the future looks great. I think there are now more than 35 chocolate makers in the last 3- 4 years and people are going beyond ice creams and bars for sure.” 

Vasundhara Kochar & Stuti Saraf Jain, Pastry Chefs & Founders, Cheeserted

For these incredible pastry chefs who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, London, chocolate is an emotion. “It has a warmth, and its mouthfeel is something that I think attracts foodies to it. It can boost anybody’s mood,” says Jain. “Since there are so many different flavour notes, aromas, textures available I feel there is something for everyone, with or without a sweet tooth,” Kochar says. But there are plenty of pressure points with creating chocolate delights in India, the duo shares, that people should be aware of.  

“We need to be very careful in packaging, using and storing chocolate,” says Kochar. “Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and weather changes and blooms if stored incorrectly.” And when it comes to bizarre chocolate trends, Jain says that while some work, others she simply doesn’t get! “Combining something absolutely savoury with chocolate is something I don’t get. Like potato chips for example,” she says. 

But things look good for the Indian audience, they both believe. “Indians have actually always loved chocolate. The best-selling cakes of any baker will always be chocolate. Hot chocolate is such a crowd favourite and ganaches and truffles are also gaining popularity,” says Jain. “We have started to appreciate good quality chocolate and mostly moved over from the compound version which I think is a great step moving forward,” Kochar says. 

Chef Bhaskar Chakraborty, Executive Pastry Chef, JW Marriott Kolkata 

For this pastry chef with decades of experience, chocolate is not just a delight to eat, but all about artistry beyond compare too. “In the realm of confectionery art, one captivating aspect that has caught my attention is the creation of Chocolate Sculptures,” Chakraborty explains. “These masterful works showcase the exceptional and imaginative utilization of chocolate, making it one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring forms of artistic expression in the confectionery world.” 

And when it comes to chocolate trends that have not stood the test of time, he explains, one experiment has stayed with him: the recent viral phenomenon of the Pinata Cake. Despite these trends, Chakraborty says that the future of chocolate in India is very promising. “India is witnessing a surge in the emergence of numerous homegrown chocolate brands.  

“It is expected that we will witness a continued growth and evolution in the industry,” he says. “One prominent trend is the emergence of boutique-style French pastry shops, which are likely to proliferate further. These establishments will offer an exquisite range of chocolates and pastries, catering to the discerning tastes of Indian consumers. Additionally, there will likely be an increased emphasis on unique flavor combinations, innovative presentations, and experiential elements in chocolate products.”