INfrequently Asked Questions: Chocolate chef in Guinness Book
This week's INfrequently Asked Questions is with Alain Roby, 60, the award-winning mastermind behind Geneva's All Chocolate Kitchen.
Q: You've made it into the Guinness Book of World Records three times?
A: "Yes, one for the tallest chocolate building, one for the tallest sugar sculpture. They were both made for a Food Network special. And the last one was the longest candy cane."
Q: How much chocolate has passed through your hands?
A: "A mountain. A mountain of chocolate. A big mountain. I would say tons and tons and tons. The tallest chocolate building was 2,500 pounds, and that's just one piece."
Q: How long do the chocolate sculptures in the restaurant stay good?
A: "I have the astronaut that was made in 1995. The chocolate is not edible anymore. It becomes a statue."
Q: Do you have to keep the temperature cooler so the chocolate carvings don't melt?
A: "Yes. Temperature control is crucial. Chocolate melts basically at your body temperature. If you have a piece of chocolate, when it's on the table it's hard, when it's in your mouth it melts. The perfect temperature to keep chocolate is between 65 and 75 degrees. Higher than that it starts to get soft and then starts melting."
Q: What if the air conditioning goes out?
A: "We have backup cooling units. There's five units on top of the building … and if something breaks down we have another one."
Q: What is your earliest chocolate memory?
A: " When I was a young, young kid, my grandma would give me always a nice piece of bread and a piece of chocolate. … That would be my 4 o'clock snack."
Q: Do you want to eat the chocolate constantly?
A: "When you do a batch of truffles or a batch of anything, you need to try your product to make sure all the ingredients are well balanced. But it's all about moderation. But from time to time I eat a whole truffle."
Q: All Chocolate Kitchen is expanding?
A: "Yes, we took over a space next door. It's called PRIMO, and it's going to be a restaurant with amazing wines, amazing cheeses, and chocolate trees and five or six dishes that my grandma and my mom did for me when I was a kid -- very simple."
Q: What's it look like?
A: "In the center of the room, there's a 20-foot-tall chocolate rig. Imagine like an oil rig, a rig that pumps chocolate. You can see the chocolate flowing, and it has a giant wheel turning with a chain, and it looks like a Willy Wonka-type operation. So you are dining all around that rig and you can see the chocolate flowing."
Q: Do you have any Oompa Loompas working behind the scenes?
A: "No. I'm the Oompa Loompa."
Q: What's your favorite part of your job?
A: "The best part of the job is when you create a dish. The dish goes in front of your customer, and they look at it and smile. That's the first step, the visual. And then the fork goes into it, and they try it. And a second smile and a shaking of the head 'wow that's great.' And that's when you are like, 'Yes! I did it.'"