The secrets of working successfully with chocolate are hard won. If truth be told, even scientists aren’t really sure how or why chocolate does what it does. They can estimate what will happen given a certain set of conditions but for the most part, a cacao bean keeps its secrets well. Large chocolate manufacturers have spent millions of dollars and decades perfecting their own highly proprietary processes of manufacturing chocolate. They are not willing to reveal what they know. But there is one man who knows a lot about chocolate and is willing to share the information. Terry Richardson. He has owned his own chocolate and confectionery consultancy business for over 35 years and holds patents for new products and processes. His is the only chocolate technology class offered in the United States, perhaps even the world, where, in just five days, you can obtain a vast amount of information about chocolate, from the raw material of chocolate manufacture to processing to usage. The big guys come to him to solve problems. The little guys come to him to learn what it really takes, besides passion and a lot of money, to become a chocolatier. As Mr. Richardson told me, the manufacture of chocolate is ‘not for the faint of heart’.
I first heard about Richardson Researches Inc. from confectioner, Anthony Ferguson, of CACAO ANASA who took one of their classes. Learning that there is an intensive chocolate class offered so close to home, I could barely get to my computer fast enough to check out their website. The site is full of information about all the courses offered. I went immediately to “Chocolate Class” and couldn’t believe what I was reading. Here, in one place, in just five days I could indulge my interest in chocolate from a scientific point of view. Where do I sign up? Flipping back to page one I was stopped short. It reads ‘Due to a transition into a new Food Science Laboratory at the University of California at Davis in 2008, Richardson Researches, Inc. will be unable to present our classes during the year of 2008. In case there is any change to this situation, interested parties should continue to view our website for any further updates.’ What? So close and yet so far? I had to find out more. So I contacted Mr. Richardson who kindly consented to this interview.
Terry Richardson is a graduate of the London Borough Polytechnic (now the University of London) in confectionery and chocolate. He has over 52 years of experience working in the chocolate and confectionery world for major companies holding major positions. He also holds several patents for products and processes. He partnered with Bernard W. Minifie, in 1976, to begin their chocolate and confectionery classes headquartered in Hayward, California. Why Hayward? Its central location allowed clients easy access from San Francisco and Oakland airports. He decided to retire and close the laboratory about four years ago. When the food science department at U. C. Davis heard he was retiring they approached him about teaching a class there. With assistance from Guittard's reseach scientists and others, he packs in enough cacao information to give even a novice a good idea of what is involved in manufacturing chocolate from the bean to the bar. When I asked if a student could walk out of this class and begin making their own chocolate he explained that they would have a fair idea, but the manufacture of chocolate using normal, industrially-sized machinery, is very complex.
They would have a better chance of success using much simpler processing techniques, such as ball-milling. This process is also demonstrated during the class.
Some students have confessed to him that they have saved lots of money by realizing that the complexities of chocolate manufacturing was not for them. But there have been many that have gone on to begin their own chocolate companies. Mr. Richardson is discreet about not revealing who his students are but he does mention that some of the most prominent names in artisan chocolate have taken this class. Most students, from the testimonials on his website, range from industry professionals to earnest enthusiasts. What is clear is that they are all satisfied clients.
Just about the only thing you won’t learn about is where to source cacao because this is not his area. But you will get to taste a variety of chocolates made from various bean sources. When I asked Terry what he made of the latest trend of single origin and single variety chocolate bars, he chuckled and confessed to being a ‘blend man myself’. He went further to explain that roasted cacao has over 500 compounds that together create what we perceive as chocolate flavor. Each single origin/single variety does not contain all of the 500 compounds, but various amounts of these compounds. The characteristics inherent in each cacao bean type differ. A chocolate made from a single variety may not deliver a full chocolate flavor experience. Some single varieties, as well as containing the desired chocolate, fruity and nutty notes, can be too acidic, bitter and earthy. Blending is the only guarantee of a consistent taste profile that a manufacturer can depend on and the consumer can expect time after time.
At the end of interview I was again struck by how complex the world of cacao and chocolate are. And that there are so many paths one can take to enter the world of cacao - from the science angle - agriculture, manufacture - to the human angle - welfare of the growers, fair trade - to the marketing and sale of the final product. At every turn I find that there are not only special cacao beans that need to be preserved but also special people, like Terry, who have a lifetime of experience working with chocolate and whose knowledge they are generous enough to share with others.
Chocolate, Cocoa and Confectionery by Bernard W. Minifie
Chocolate Production and Use by L. Russell Cook (revised by Dr. Eppo Meursing)
Cocoa by G. R. Woods
Resource: MC Publishing Company, Inc., www.gomc.com
February 2008: Good news! Terry will be offering his continental gourmet chocolate class. Click here for