Many vintage chocolate moulds are being displayed in the showroom.
Special orders for corporate or social events can be created by the company. The showroom displays some of the products that have been recently created such as this lush clutch.
La Chocolaterie de Puyricard has been a partner of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival for the last 5 years. Here is one of the many presentation cases created for the movie stars participating to the event (Robert de Niro, Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, etc..), a portrait of the actress Marion Cotillard. These luxurious portraits were engraved on a chocolate plate covered with a 22 carat gold leaf.
Some handcrafted items specially made for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival include a Brigitte Bardot sculpture and a painting named "Cabaret", both made entirely with chocolate by the company's Maîtres Chocolatiers.
The tour then continued with the visit of the workshop. A word of warning was giving before entering this chocolate emporium that produces over 8 millions of precious candies every year. The chocolate essence present in the workroom is so pure and dominant, that some people can be really incommodated by it, and even faint. If that's the case, only breaths of fresh air will cure the problem. The workshop covers 3,200 square meters (34,500 square feet) which is fully used during the peak production periods. Twenty polyvalent Maîtres Chocolatiers are applying themselves around the many work stations that are needed in the fabrication process: the calisson room, the "fillings" room where ganache and pralinés are elaborated, an area for chocolates made in moulds as well as one for covered chocolates and finally, the hand dipping room. All these rooms are being visited during the 2 hours workshop tour, giving the visitor a chance to see how one the French finest chocolates are being created.
Freshly made apricots marshmallows or guimauves as we called them in France. Following the huge success of this classic childhood delicacy, the workshop will soon have a room completely dedicated to the fabrication of guimauves.
Tasting some newly made Calissons Blancs handcrafted by two seasoned "Calissonniers", is one of the many treats that comes with the workshop visit. The calisson room is separated from the other chocolate rooms because chocolate is very sensitive to heat, odors and vapors.
Calissons Blancs is a typical provencal delight, traditionally associated with the nearby town of Aix-en-Provence. They consist of smooth, pale yellow paste of candied melon and orange, and ground almond, topped with a thin layer of royal icing (Sugar and egg whites).
Like most chocolate makers, Puyricard does not produce its own "couverture" chocolate (high quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter - between 32-39%). In order to make great chocolate, beans from several origins must be blended together and cocoa plantation in Africa, South America or even Asia must be regularly inspected. This is a rather difficult task for a small company focusing on irreproachable quality.
Puyricard farms out the fabrication of their “couverture” chocolate to Barry Callebaut, a renowned Belgium company which follows their strict specifications including fair trade practices and a complete traceability on each ingredient. The supplier will select the best beans harvested twice a year, roast them, remove their shells, blend, conch and crystallize them. Puyricard will then receive chocolate in the form of 5kg blocs, free of any type of preservative or artificial flavoring, in several proprietary blends according to how it will be used. From there, over 100 types of chocolate candies will be created, mostly through a skillful moulding technique (70% of the production), the rest being hand-dipped. Needless to say that only a handful of dedicated employees know the secret recipes of each composition. Over the year, the company has found a natural fit in a specific niche we could describe as "mastering the classics". As we know, there is a trend among Maîtres Chocolatiers and Chefs, especially the newest generation, to venture into new territories by trying new exotic combinations, some being successful while other, not so much. Although the company elaborates new products every year, classic combinations do remain an important part of the Puyricard offering, for the greatest pleasure of a large number of traditional chocolate aficionados.
The different chocolate candies interiors used by Puyricard include: Ganache : A blend of hot chocolate with a dairy product (cream, milk or butter). They pasteurize their own “crème fraiche” then mix it with liquid chocolate. Butter is brought up to a foam the mixed with liquid chocolate.
Pralines : A blend of suger and roasted nuts (almond, hazelnuts…). Butter and liquid chocolate are added to praline to obtain a smooth interior.
Caramels : Old fashioned toffee, salted caramel, nougatines , nougats
Marzipan : Made with almonds from Spain and bitter almonds from Provence and sugar.
Liquor : Chocolates filled with liquid alcohol* and wrapped in colored foil.
* Chocolate and water are not compatible, therefore, Puyricard has to use brand name liquors such as Grand Marnier, Poire Williams… that are not watered down like less expensive brands. The alcohol content is very small, under 2% for most of their recipes.
Mendiants au lait (Milk).
Every operation is hand made to ensure the best quality. The workshop as well as the products follow HACCP rules (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) which is recognized as the highest control method in the industry. The products are also being analyzed by an independent laboratory each and every week.
Some chocolates such as the "Palet d'or dark" or the "Palet d'argent dark", are topped with 22 carat gold or real silver in small dedicated room called "L'atelier d'or et argent" (The gold and silver workshop).
Chocolate shells are made in moulds, then filled with interiors and covered with a thin layer of chocolate to seal the bottom. This shell is one of the few components being prepared in advance as everything else is freshly made to order every week. A good Maître Chocolatier can produce 20 kg of moulded chocolate a day or 120kg of coated chocolate in the same time period. Since 70% of Puyricard production is being made of moulded chocolate shows to the discerning gourmet that for the company, quality and tastes are definitely more important than cost.
Automated machines are available for this process but Puyricard refuses to use them, knowing that the hand of a Maître Chocolatier is essential to control the thickness of the shell. There nothing quite like the human touch to obtain a crisp chocolate shell around a rich interior.
The majority of the chocolate moulds were given a specific name, often after a family member or a dedicated employee. Employees stays with Puyricard an average of 11 years, which shows their faithfulness and attachement to Puyricard.
Grain de café noirs (dark).
Chocolate bars are delicious to enjoy by themselves and a premium ingredient to bake with. Indeed, I have created two amazing chocolate ice-cream using them (Article coming soon!). These chocolate bars comes in 9 different compositions: 100% dark chocolate, 73% dark chocolate, 54% dark chocolate, milk chocolate, milk chocolate and almonds, milk chocolate and hazelnuts, white chocolate, dark chocolate and dried fruits, dark chocolate with Versinthe. (From €3,60 to €4,20 the 100g bar)
Anne lait (Marzippan - milk). During the tour, I learned to recognized a moulded chocolate that should have a shiny coating like that "Anne Lait" from from a dipped chocolate that has a matte coating like the "Palet d'or".
The fine chocolate business revolves around three key notions: best natural ingredients (for example, Puyricard will only used Tahitian vanilla beans, considered to be more fragrant and fruity than its Bourbon cousin), skillful Maîtres Chocolatiers (the company's first and foremost tool is the human hand, automation is nonexistent), and freshness (the optimal shelf life, referred as DLU or Date Limite d'Utilisation, is around 3 weeks) Having just a few days between the fabrication and the sale creates a huge logistical challenge. To ensure proper stock management, Puyricard and its point-of-sale network are working on a “tight flux” pattern.
Each Saturday, managers of each retail store has the difficult task to order exactly what they will need for the coming week. They are allowed to take small orders to maximize their inventory. The production of the requested items will take place from Monday to Wednesday. To ensure superior quality and taste, Puyricard limits the quantities produced each day, and does not produce in excess of what is being ordered, stock nor freeze. Then the company will deliver its 14 point-of-sales on Thursday and Friday, using their own refrigerated vehicles. The freshly made chocolate candies and treats will be available for sale on Saturday. This is freshness as its best!
As you would probably have already figured out, Puyricard sales are very seasonal and 45% of the yearly sales take place in December. For that reason, the workshop cannot be visited during November and December as additional seasonal workers are hired to reach a total of 100 persons for the workshop alone. Even with such a team, they barely meet their customer’s chocolate demand.
The Puyricard store located a few miles away from the workshop.
The chocolate candies boxes that are being sold through the Puyricard point-of-sales network come in 4 sizes: 1kg (€82), 750g (€61.5), 500g (€41), and 250g (€20.5).
Laurence Milk (Cream and salted butter caramel) enjoyed with a coffee.
Puyricard marshmallows (or guimaves in French) are available in 7 different flavors:Red poppy, Pear, Apricot, Raspberry, Strawberry, Coconut, Banana and Pomegranate. (€56 / Kg or €8.70 the bag of 150g)
Excellence is in details. If Puyricard is taking great pride in handcrafting the finest chocolate there is, the company is also making sure its product is presented to perfection. Every season, les ballotins (Chocolate boxes) are dressed in colorful papers and ribbons, and embellished with some dazzling accents. A feast for the eyes and taste buds.
During my visit, I learned that the workshop has a room filled with beautiful wrapping items that will make any respectable gift shops green with envy. The company is always testing new combinations to make sure the next packaging collection will be as elegant and fashionable as the previous one was.
Chocolaterie de Puyricard
Av. Georges de Fabry 13540 Puyricard
Tel: +33 (0)4 42 28 18 14
Schedule a visit of the Chocolaterie de Puyricard workshop through the company's Website or by email. Visits are available twice a day, Monday though Thursday, at 9H30am and 2pm - Except in November and December, the busiest period of the year. The tour is about 2 hours long, and cost €10 per person (which you will definitely eat thanks to the many samples that are being offered during the visit). Groups are limited to 24 people and do fill up rapidly. For security reasons, visitors must be at least 10 years old, and pictures are not allowed during the visit. Three different classes (Initiation, Moulding & decorating technique, and chocolate desserts) are also offered on the premises where you will learn the "tricks of the trade" directly from the company's Maîtres Chocolatiers. (Fridays and saturdays except in November and December, 9am to 1pm or 2pm to 6pm - €80) For a complete list of the company's retail stores, please visit the company's
I would like to extend a special thanks to Mrs Christine Diaz, director of communication for Puyricard, who gave us a corporate permission to take pictures during my visit of the workshop.
Check out our interactive map of Provence to see where the Chocolaterie de Puyricard is located.