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Vanessa Renard of Etterbeek is Chocolatier of the Year
Food guide Gault&Millau has named Vanessa Renard as the Brussels Chocolatier of the Year in its new guide to the best chocolate in Belgium and Luxembourg. Her atelier and shop is on Avenue de la Chasse in Etterbeek, just a stone’s throw from Place Saint-Pierre.
Renard (pictured) opened her shop in 2018, after abandoning a job in the financial sector to retrain in the world of fine chocolate. Gault&Millau mentions that chocolate making is “a man’s world” in Brussels but that the new chocolate-maker “stood out from the very beginning because of the rigorous way in which she selects her chocolate – organic and fair trade, sourced directly from Peru, Haiti and Madagascar”.
Renard’s range of chocolate bars and pralines also “reflect the cultures where the cocoa beans are grown,” continues Gault&Millau. Besides pure pralines made from the chocolate from the three countries, she is fond of infusing specialty pralines with spices such as pepper, cardamom and nutmeg.
A selection of pralines at Xocolate
There is only one Discovery of the Year, however, and that belongs to Xavier Declerq of Brussels. His Xocolate opened on Rue Auguste Lambiotte in Schaerbeek in 2019; it specialises in bulk orders and catering but is often open to the public on Saturdays.
Like Renard, Declerq changed careers to make pralines, having worked in development co-operation for more than 30 years. This means that he, too, is dedicated to fair trade products from Haiti.
Declerq took to Facebook to thank Gault&Millau and deliver another message: “To remind the chocolate giants of their responsibility,” he wrote. “No window dressing nor greenwashing, which we still see too much of today. Just pay a responsible price to the producers – double the world market price – and check your supply chain for unsavoury working conditions. Eliminate the harmful environmental effects of large plantations. Put pressure on local political and economic actors who sometimes help cocoa farmers to skim off their labour.”
The Gault&Millau guide is put together through blind tastings of pralines and other products from chocolatiers across Belgium and Luxembourg. The gastronomic experts work in the same way as in the famous restaurant guide – anonymously and without commercial interests. Products are judged on look, taste and texture.