Laurent Vals Handcrafted Chocolates are almost too beautiful to eat, yet their purposefully clean, ornamental designs tempt tasting. The smooth, luxuriant chocolate melts over your tongue after the initial snap of the glossy shell, tantalizing taste buds with varying flavors, from juicy fruits to calming lavender to rich hazelnut. It’s no wonder why just six months after the French chef’s collection launched, Rhode Island Monthly Magazine named his artisan confections Best European Chocolate of Rhode Island 2008.
Tempted to taste? Visit http://www.laurentvalschocolates.com/ or Newport Chocolates, 82 William St., Newport, Rhode Island
Bre Eaton: What led you to refocus on pastry when you moved to Rhode Island in 2001?
Laurent Vals: I first enrolled in the cooking program at l’Ecole Hoteliere du Moulin a Vent in France, but after graduating I also enrolled in the pastry school. That made me able to do both. When I got to Newport, I took a pastry chef position. And now, that’s what I do!
BE: What has been your greatest experience over the last 10 years in Newport?
LV: While working at The Chanler, I had a team of three to five people to manage. I challenged myself to learn new trends and techniques, to come up with better desserts, to manage the team. The department was a perfectly oiled machine by the end.
BE: What about being named Rhode Island’s Best European Chocolates 2008?
LV: Actually that was surprising. The idea of the chocolate collection started at The Chanler since I started to make truffles for the hotel and restaurant guests. People started asking for them. Things picked up pretty fast and I thought, This is something I could do. So I started the project on my own in January 2008 and six months later, I won the best of Rhode Island.
BE: How did your relationship with Newport Chocolates begin?
LV: The first year, I was on my own. And then Oscar called me and asked me to work with him, and we found a good partnership. I’m the truffle specialist.
BE: Which flavor do your customers rave about most?
LV: People like the passion fruit, the hazelnut, and the raspberry. I’m putting out new ones that are a bit more avant-garde, like caramel-rose and basil-lemon. When I started picking my flavors, I got feedback from people through tastings. I would think, I’m not so crazy about that one, and then people would like the one I thought I was going to kick out of the collection!
BE: Which one was almost dropped?
LV: Actually, the banana-caramel. I wasn’t sure about that one and the raspberry.
BE: How can chocolate lovers learn some of your techniques?
LV: We do classes by reservation only, for a minimum of three people. For the first class, we do the classic hand-rolled truffle. The class lasts 1½-2 hours. They leave with chocolate they made that night, the recipe, and some advice.
BE: Any exciting future plans?
LE: I don’t know. One day at a time!