Definitely Not a Measured Evening
When you are told you’re meeting a chocolate genius who measures his words with the same precision as his craft you expect a reserved professional to greet you. All hearsay… Well, not the part about him being a genius though. The morning spent with Chef Vikas Bagul – winner of World’s chocolate masters, was a delightful surprise. Did the grandmaster of chocolate educate me on them? He couldn’t stop!
Two years at the bakery section of the catering college did not satiate his appetite to learn. His friend from the chocolate department who worked on the same floor as him played catalyst. His colleague worked during the day and Vikas used that space at night. Delicious chocolates and their engulfing aroma kept beckoning. He would sneak into the department and try his hand at making chocolates. It was like the forbidden fruit. You needed a bit of it!
A couple of times he was reprimanded. Had this chocolate enthusiast stopped we would not have been surrounded by this yumminess. His accolades duly and rightfully deserved.
The chocolate cookie that I ate was proof enough. Never had I eaten a chocolate chip cookie so delicious. As I chewed on the biscuit, the chocolate chips burst into my mouth. The cookie melted, unlike the tough ones you grind your teeth on. And yet I experienced the crunch of the biscuit.
Would you believe me if I said this man can’t make a whole meal? Chocolate is his prana. It’s fascinating to know that its making is a process as laborious yet exciting and detailed as winemaking.
Cocoa beans need a specific terrain, a specific climate, and specific region. Depending on where the cocoa beans come from the chocolate absorbs that flavor. The processing of chocolate is different in different regions. He moves on to talk about how chocolates are thought of in India, dark, bitter and sweet’. As understood by us…..the darker the chocolate, the more flavorful it is! “Well, that is not so!”,says he.
Coffee beans if over roasted become bitter and lose flavor. So, you need the expertise to know how much to roast it; so also with cocoa beans. The temperature and the length of the time you roast it at plays an essential role in retaining the flavor of the chocolate.
Information just flows.
Apparently, the cocoa fruit can come in different colors… red, purple, yellow, mint and the same color reflects in the chocolate when melted, and spread on a sheet of plastic or white surface, and looked at in the sunlight; you will see a hue of all the colors that were present in the cocoa bean.
When making chocolate we need to stick to the beans from a particular region, beans from different regions cannot be mixed when making chocolate.
In my head pops ‘Belgian Chocolates.’ World famous! “Marketing Gimmick,” says he. I am confounded now. Belgian chocolates are supposed to be the best and are spoken of all over the world. So, what is this?
Not a single bean of cocoa is grown in Belgium. The cocoa beans come from Africa from some of their best cocoa plantations.
Cocoa beans are grown in a tropical climate and not in European terrain.
“India is a tropical terrain so why don’t we have chocolates from India?”
“We don’t have a manufacturing company that can actually specialize and take it forward,” says Vikas Bagul.
Then he goes on to dispel the misconception that higher the cocoa content the bitter the chocolate. “It is not true. It all depends on where the chocolate comes from, and on the flavor wheel;
Fruity, Acidic, Cocoa, Earthy and it goes on. Which-ever note the chocolate is higher on it will take that flavor.”
By this time my brain was swimming in chocolate. I asked him how long it took to garner all his knowledge. “I know only 5% of what there is to know”; and here I was thinking he had a Ph.D. in chocolates. We spoke of puff pastries then and how not every place can make them as light and flaky as they should be. We then discussed his future plans. For now, he is happy at the JW Marriott. They give him the free hand to indulge his talent and vision which he showcases beautifully on all occasions. We give you here a little sneak peek at an Easter display he put up earlier this year. Should be enough for you to rush to ‘patisserie’ this Christmas!
And as for Dr. Chocolate, creativity just flows. He lives in the flow!