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Chocolate-making classes at Qzina Institute teach cocoa basics

At the Qzina Institute, people are put in charge as they learn to make top quality chocolate from professionals.
June 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's no shortage of top-notch chefs in Southern California, and that makes it easy for all of us to get fun and flavorful food.

But at the Qzina Institute, they put you in charge to make top quality chocolate. Chef Francois Mellet's lessons involve whipping milk chocolate ganache on amaretto cookies with hazelnut Carmel crunch and dark chocolate candies with dried fruit and nuts.

The newly opened institute of chocolate and pastry also offers a "Bean to Bar" workshop, where foodies and experts alike learn cocoa basics, starting from the pod to creating chocolate itself.

"We roast the beans, we know the beans, we make the liquor, after that we grind those beans, and then we refine and conch," said Mellet.

For 30 years, Qzina has been working with chefs and the hotel trade, but it's now expanding to chef wannabes.

"We want to make it accessible for the consumer to come here," said Mellet.

And the consumer is taught by the best. Chef Stephane Treand has earned the prestigious MOF, which stands for "Meilleur Ouvrier de France," or best craftsman, which he likens to the Olympic games of pastry.

He recently created a reusable mold to use chocolate as show piece sculptures. With the help of a machine that keeps chocolate at 90 degrees, it's poured into molds for cooling, then uses warm chocolate as glue to stick. But Treand has another trick up his sleeve.

"I've got another magic tool which is very easy to get. I call it cold spray, it's just air under pressure," he said.

The blasts of cool air help the molded pieces become a sugary sculpture. Adding texture to molded pieces and an edible dusting of sugar powder, chocolate and cocoa powder are the finishing touches.

Cooking classes cost about $100 and the daylong "Bean to Bar" workshop runs $495 and includes lunch.

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