Franck Vidal: The Senses of Chocolate
Nine out of ten people love chocolate ; the tenth is lying. - John G. Tullius.
Twenty-eight years! Yes, it’s been twenty-eight years since Franck Vidal started working for Valrhona, the famous Rhone Valley chocolatier.
Since 2012, Vidal has also enjoyed the role of head of the new Cité du Chocolat in Tain-l’Hermitage – the dream of Dahl’s Charlie and children everywhere, even those who are only kids at heart!
The Cité’s gourmet, interactive features were further expanded for summer 2016, offering something for everyone in the family.
“Of course everyone loves chocolate and I’m lucky to be working in this industry! I studied food processing and first started in nougat-making candy store in the South of France. Then I had the opportunity to join this small chocolaterie near the banks of the Rhône, and right away, it was something I really enjoyed.
Valrhona was born in 1922, and from the start, it was really geared towards other chocolate professionals. In 1986, the brand opened up for the general public with its famous Guanaja chocolate squares, which were 70% cacao.
Today, Valrhona has largely expanded into the international market (65%) and is appealing more and more to individuals rather than companies.
In 1992, we presented at the Destination Chocolat Paris exhibition at the Palais de la Découverte and in many other villages throughout France. It was a huge success and made us want to take things further.
In 2006, we started to take that step by thinking up and planning a site dedicated to chocolate next door to the historic Valrhona chocolaterie in Tain-l’Hermitage. Today, the Cité du Chocolat takes up more than 6,500 square feet and is still full of surprises!"
A Temple of Chocolate and Pastries in the Making!
As you can guess, it’s not very often that a museum encourages you to eat. But imagine just that: a museum where you can taste chocolate of all shapes, sizes, and flavors… getting hungry? A museum where you can discover chocolate in all its iterations, from cocoa beans to a chocolate spread. Are you convinced yet?
Then it’s time to visit the Cité du Chocolat in Tain-l’Hermitage, just a stone’s throw from Valence! Valrhona has created this unique space dedicated to savoring and discovering chocolate through our five senses.
In the words of Franck Vidal: "We had already opened a school for the general public, and we really noticed this interest – this desire to learn all about chocolate, from its origins to how to make it.”
While the first floor is dedicated to savoring chocolate with the help of fun interactive kiosks, the second helps guests discover the history of Valhrona and the expertise of its clients (chefs, pastry chefs, chocolatiers, and so on). It also has an immersive cinema! “With these new rooms, we take a step back from the theory of chocolate and move more towards the practice – the emotion. Now, you can spend all day at the Cité du Chocolat. We’ve also created a restaurant space with a full-chocolate menu – notably with dishes like chocolate ravioli salad and a fish/Dulcey blond chocolate parmentier.”
Since 2013, the Cité has been met with wild success. The pastry-making training courses are 95% full. The region is already a well-known vacation destination and an interesting stop-off point for tourists heading towards the South of France, especially those on Rhône River cruises. No doubt that the Cité du Chocolat will attract even more foodies !
Franck Vidal's DNA
A summer chocolate? “White chocolate.”
“We’re in the north of the Rhône Valley, close to Lyon and the Alps. I’m originally from Paris, but this is my adoptive region. It became a gourmet destination, the Gourmet Valley, with Rhône wine trails and tours through vineyards. We’re two hours from the ocean and one hour from the mountains. I love to go for walks, mountain biking….”
Three words to define your region? “Green, calm, and good products!”
A smell? “Hot praline on the N7 in Tain l’Hermitage.”
A sound? “The sound the machines in the chocolaterie in the early morning.”
A taste? “Chocolate raviolis.”
A sight? “The view from the top of our hill in the Hermitage, with
A gourmet restaurant? “Anne-Sophie Pic in Valence,
Somewhere to grab a drink? “The cafés on the banks of the Rhône
Somewhere to cultivate the senses? “The new Musée des
Somewhere to recharge your batteries, daydream, and wander ? “The Ardèche (in the Monts du Vivarais) with its streams, its forests – you