The main purpose for my visit to NYC last week was to visit the NYC Chocolate Show at Pier 94 in Manhattan. I was pleased to receive an invitation from Deborah Kwan, the Valrhona publicist, to attend the event. I had the opportunity in the afternoon to check out Valrhona USA corporate pastry chef, Derek Poirier, put together the final touches of the costume he designed for Valrhona. The theme of the fashion show was "Super Heroes" and he decided to do Lara Croft, the comic book character that was portrayed in the cinema by Angelina Jolie. Poirier's reasoning was that the Lara Croft character "embodies the epitome of the modern woman as super hero...she is independent, intelligent, beautiful, wealthy and strong...the type of woman who I would imagine would enjoy eating and being clothed in Valrhona chocolate." It would also be a nicely skimpy and sexy costume.
I arrived at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) as Poirier was finishing and packing up to bring the costume uptown to the pier where the show would be held later that evening. I managed to get an up close peek at the costume and discuss the making of it with Chef Poirier. Originally from Vancouver, Poirier now lives in Arizona and works at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. No stranger to pastry competitions, this was Poirier's first foray into the world of creating chocolate fashion.
Chef Poirier explained that the chocolate is handled differently than chocolate made simply for eating. To help stabilize the chocolate he took the couverture and mixed it with liquid glucose to make the chocolate more pliable and easy to model. He used a a 60/40 ratio of chocolate to glucose to achieve the malleability he was looking for.
Prior to this meeting, I was under the impression that the fashions were made entirely out of chocolate. While that had a certain appeal, it would simply not be practical in a public situation with models strutting under bright lights. The chocolate would likely melt if exposed directly to the heat of the body making it difficult to maintain any semblance of a costume. Instead, the chocolate used is applied to a backbone of real cloth, leather or other material. For the Lara Croft costume, Poirier applied pounds of several varieties of Valrhona chocolates on real clothes and props, adding glitter and sparkle for effect. He had real work boots coated in chocolate as was a bra and miniskirt. In addition the guns, whip and other props that would be held and carried were covered in chocolate. Other designers would use similar as well as some different techniques to those used by Poirier.
Yet to come are the Chocolate Fashion Show itself as well as some backstage views. For more photos see the Chocolate Fashion Show Photo Album.