“A shop like ours is a living place of heritage. Our challenge is to be able to rigorously pass on these tastes.”
Why did you choose to be a confectioner? What was most appealing to you?
This trade wasn’t my first calling, but I wanted something where I would work independently, and I was fascinated by jobs where you can work with your hands and use the five senses. I think it’s one of the few jobs that draws on all the senses. You need taste, smell and touch for sure. Also, we carry on techniques that for some go back to the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. It’s something extraordinary and a real passion for me.
How did you learn your skills?
I had a background in engineering, but I learned these skills on the job, through observation, by watching how my more experienced colleagues worked. I’ve always loved working with my hands. It’s so satisfying. When I arrived here, I was lucky to meet people who were masters of their craft, and who also had extraordinary senses of taste and touch. They passed on to me what they themselves had learned. The origins of this shop date back to 1850. It has extraordinarily stood the test of time. No skills have been lost; they’ve always been passed on.
How long did it take you to master the Duchesse de Lorraine candy?
People think that they’re easy to make, but they are enormously complex and require a skilled hand with speed, regularity, and finesse. When the coating is smooth and bubble-free, they’re truly a work of art. I think it takes 2 to 3 years to get to a certain level of regularity. And since they can’t be dipped in a machine, you have to acquire a certain speed, because you have to turn them out quickly by hand. We also make our own tools. We each have our own techniques and unique tactile sensitivities, but everything needs to come together in harmony.
Bergamote de Nancy: for the Bergamote, we keep learning every day. It was while reading some early 20th-century books one Sunday that I realised that we sometimes worked them the wrong way. You’d think that it’s a very easy product to make, but they’re affected by temperature, humidity and the regularity of the process. We work by sight and by touch. It’s a great art. We’re never finished learning.
Craqueline: it’s the same as for the Bergamote, but with the added difficulty of working with cooked sugar. If you don’t go fast enough, your sugar will recrystalise, and you won’t get anywhere. And if you’re not regular, you’ll end up with misshapen sweets. You have to successfully combine finesse, dexterity, and speed.
Lorraine Chardons: the art lies in pouring the starch! If you work too slowly, you’ll have a mixture of water, alcohol and sugar that will crystalise and everything will need to be thrown away. You need to work quickly to use all the liquid mixture in one go. Time is both our friend and our enemy.