During Chocolate Week 2011 I attending a chocolate tasting by Chocolate & Love and was delighted to be introduced to a man whose reputation had preceded him. Geert Vercruysse (yes, it’s not easy to say or spell) is a Belgian chocolatier who trained with Wittamer in Brussels and then moved to Kortrijk 23 years ago with his wife to start his own chocolate shop and a family. I learnt from him then about his patisserie and chocolaterie, how it was attached to his house and he experimented with different chocolate and different patisserie recipes all the time and opened six days a week except for a few weeks in the Summer. I tasted some of his chocolate ganaches he had brought along and was thoroughly impressed. I asked if I could visit some time and help him in his kitchen and he told me I would be welcome to come and stay as long as I liked with his family and he would love to show me what he makes. This man’s enthusiasm for chocolate is unadulterated glee. When talking about fine chocolate he wears the same expression you see when you tell a child they can have as many sweets as they like (though I don’t recommend you do that! That was not a fun aftermath…).
Last Summer I reached out to Geert to see if his offer was still open. Dom and I had been invited to Pierre Marcolini‘s factory in Brussel’s so I thought I might go a day or two earlier as it was only an hour’s train ride from Brussels. I was welcomed and so I arrived on Saturday evening and was picked up at the station by the younger of Geert’s two daughters who is studying at university nearby. His other daughter was on holiday abroad so I was to have her bed for the next two nights. Geert and his wife were incredibly hosts and it was such a treat to spend some of Saturday evening and all of Sunday with Geert in his kitchen, making truffles and a chocolate dessert and baking off the viennoiserie. Even getting up at 5am to do so!
Geert in his chocolate-filled basement
I took a lot more pictures and if Geert will allow me to have the recipe I’ll do a post of the chocolate dessert we made too. It was incredible.
Dom let me take his camera out with me and I had my tripod too so I shot some of the making of the Marou chocolate truffles (more on Marou chocolate in a post to come). I handed the very long video back to Dom on Monday and he turned around this very fun edit. What a talent.
Making chocolate truffles with Geert Vercruysse…
The only place you can get Geert’s fresh chocolates outside of his shop is in a single chocolate shop in Amsterdam. I highly recommend a detour to the town if you are in Brussels. What makes his chocolates so special is he uses couveture that no other chocolatier would consider using as they are sold in bars that retail at around £6 for a 50g bar. More than 2.5 times the price of Valrhona which is more expensive than Barry Callebaut that many chocolate shops use to make their confections. This is the blessing of having been in business for more than 20 years in the same place that you now own outright. Low overheads and a loyal following. If you are visiting, Friday through Sunday is when you can taste the viennoiserie that Geert makes from scratch as well. Mondays are closed. Every other day you can see into his kitchen from the shop and watch him at work. It’s amazing that most of his equipment is over 20 years old. As the only one using it (Geert has no staff in the kitchen though his family help out from time to time) it shows how well things last if they are treated with care. There’s definitely a lot of care taken here. This is absolutely a man who loves his work. Or, as Geert puts it, “I haven’t worked a day in the last 23 years”.