Founded in 2003, Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts offers a portfolio of programs for chocolate making in order for our students to gain a deep understanding of modern techniques, recipes, equipment, efficient production, operations, marketing, quality assurance and the business knowledge – all the skills needed to become a professional chocolatier or chocolate maker.
We strongly believe success in the fine chocolate industry is not just about learning how to make a bar or bonbon – that is only the starting point. Founder and Lead Instructor Pam Williams talks about the school’s recent achievements, the FCIA, and the future of fine chocolate.
This year, Ecole Chocolat celebrated its 15th anniversary. We are very proud to be the first culinary school offering professional chocolate education that included more than simply making a recipe. In those 15 years, we have educated hundreds of students from around the globe, and while not all of them have gone on to start a business, we know that they left our programs as highly educated chocolate consumers with a thorough appreciation of the hard work that goes into each bonbon or bar. We couldn’t have accomplished this without our team of dedicated tutors working in our industry who, in many cases, are training their future competitors, but do so because they believe the industry is stronger with more well educated players.
We agree with our fellow FCIA members that consumer education is a huge challenge for the fine chocolate industry, and we are proud to have played a role in creating a group of consumers who understand where fine chocolate comes from, as well as the talent and skills that chocolatiers and chocolate makers devote to their craft. And we will continue to be involved with the association in an integral way to help with future education/communication strategies.
The fine chocolate industry has changed dramatically in the past 5 years, with new chocolatiers and chocolate makers entering the sector all the time. While there is room for everyone to create their own products with their own vision, even in a small community, this has created another big challenge for our segment of the industry. As more chocolate businesses enter the space, there will be increasing competition and we all know that mediocre products just won’t survive.
If we are asking consumers to pay more for fine chocolate, the quality of craftsmanship and flavor needs to be there. In our book Raising the Bar, we called it the “yummy” or “wow” factor. We all need to provide our customers with the “yummy” or “wow” factor each and every time they buy our products. The “story” of who you are and how carefully and mindfully that product is made will get a consumer to buy your product once, the “yummy” or “wow” factor will keep them coming back time and time again. That will build your business and make it successful.
As one of the original founding members of the FCIA in 2007, we came together to create an industry association knowing that we are a tiny segment of the chocolate industry. Through the efforts of our dedicated Board members and the leadership of Karen Bryant, and now Bill Guyton, the size of our membership has grown way beyond the wildest dreams of the founding 17. The FCIA has become such an important organization for creating a shared vision for our industry from tree to bar to bonbon, fostering collaborations and partnerships and inspiring the future growth of the industry.