Jean-François Bonnet of New York’s Tumbador Chocolate trained as a chef in France before landing in the States as a pastry chef, but all his life, chocolate was his favorite: “In many desserts chocolate is the cement,” he says. “You can play with its textures. It works with so many foods, it lets you bring so many flavors onto one plate.” As an executive pastry chef for Daniel Boulud’s flagship Daniel, Bonnet made 20,000 chocolates a month. “Once a month, From 7 a.m. ’til 2 a.m. the next day, we would run this tiny enrobing machine. We had to cover the walls with plastic, because the room was so tiny, chocolate could splash all over the place and add another two and a half hours of cleaning.” He then teamed up with business partner Michael Altman, who had the idea to create private-label confections. Now they operate a 20,000-square-foot Brooklyn facility capable of producing 20,000 candies in a few hours. The house brand, Tumbador, garners fans not only for exquisite candies but also for haute takes on American classics like his Lil’ Devils, a rich chocolate version of Ring Dings. Here, Bonnet explains the difference between Old and New World bonbons and why chocolate lovers should save the red wine for dinner.
Where does the name Tumbador come from?
It comes from the Spanish word tumbar, to cut down. In plantation slang, the tumbadors are the pod pickers, the first line of defense. If the pods aren’t ready, you’re not going to have good chocolate. As we built the company it came to reflect that philosophy, that everyone is deeply involved in quality, no matter their station. We started working with a community-based program called Strive, where we hired people who had been incarcerated and gave them a second chance. And now they are very successful. One of them is actually our best sales representative.
- Jean-François Bonnet’s Chocolate Travel Hit List
- Paris Chocolate Shops
- Healthy Dessert Recipes: Chocolate
- How to Temper Chocolate
How is chocolate made?
I don’t actually make chocolate at Tumbador, I make chocolate confections. But from what I understand, chocolate is made from cacao beans: First the beans are harvested and removed from the cacao pods. Then they are fermented, dried, washed, roasted and shelled to extract the cacao nibs. The nibs are ground into a paste. At that point you can go one of two ways: either you can conch it and get chocolate, or you can expel all the cocoa butter and make cocoa powder.