A World Of Chocolate
Food & Home Entertaining|February 2019

Having opened its doors on 8 May 2018, Chocolate Academy South Africa is the first of its kind in Africa and the 21st in the world. A Barry Callebaut initiative, the centre is run by a small, dynamic group of people who are passionate about innovation, chocolate, education and creativity

Susan Reynard

The first thing that rises up to meet you as you enter the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy South Africa in Johannesburg’s suburb of Fourways, is the mouth-watering aroma. The second is the warm, welcoming and knowledgeable team – that’s when you realise you’re at the heart of chocolate innovation, inspiration and education on the continent.

This is a safe space for both culinary professionals and enthusiastic home chefs to explore the world of chocolate solutions, be inspired by the latest trends and learn everything from the basics right through to the advanced skills of working with chocolate in confectionery, pastry and beverages.

But let’s not kid ourselves; it’s a chocolate lover’s dream! Your inner Willy Wonka will be itching to come out and play in this version of Roald Dahl’s delicious world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory come to life.

Sharing this mix of possibilities and passion are head of the Chocolate Academy South Africa and technical advisor for South and East Africa, Minette Smith; sales and marketing director for South and East Africa, David Bowrin; sales manager: gourmet division, Chris Coetzer; sales and marketing administrator, Noluthando Letsoalo; and academy support, Mary Msuthwana.

The team represents three great brands of chocolate – Mona Lisa, Callebaut and Cacao Barry – from the Swiss-based company Barry Callebaut, the largest chocolate and cocoa producer in the world. Founded in July 1996 with the merger of Belgian chocolate maker Callebaut and French chocolate producer Cacao Barry, some of the brands date back to the early 19th century – making it more than 175 years of chocolate heritage!

Barry Callebaut is a bean-to-bar company; therefore, you’ve definitely tasted its products, albeit under another brand name. It’s also a business-tobusiness company with three divisions: gourmet (the food service industry), food manufacturers (companies that convert Barry Callebaut products into the chocolate bars you see on supermarket shelves) and cocoa (cocoa powder and cocoa butter).

Bringing these together is Chocolate Academy South Africa, which is part of a global movement to guide, coach and support chefs through education and inspiration in premium chocolate and its many uses. “The academy is not a culinary school, nor do we sell chocolate from here; instead, we offer short courses for everyone from chocolate professionals and chefs to beginners and enthusiasts,” Minette explains. “We also provide technical support and training to the gourmet and food manufacturing industries, as well as our clients in South and East Africa, helping them troubleshoot and develop recipes, and use our products to tap into new trends and markets,” she continues.

Chocolate Academy South Africa, also called The Chocolate Lab, boasts striking imagery and words on the crisp, white walls. There are many reflective surfaces – white subway tiles, gleaming stainless steel surfaces, equipment, wheeled racks and trays, and sparkling glass and windows. Other features include wooden boards, polished floors, black ceilings and marble table tops, and industrial-feel lights. There is also an abundance of products and paraphernalia on display, enticing visitors to explore the space.

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