Elizabeth Vázquez: “There isn’t enough passionate people in the chocolate industry”
Elizabeth Vázquez is a Mexican chocolatier resident in Spain, with 10 years of experience in the sector, she says that chocolate is magical “see that people can enjoy a snack like a bonbon, and textures and flavors appear in the mouth”. In addition (when you work with it) “it is moldable, you can give it different finishes and they always ask me, but why does chocolate shine? Because it shines on its own … magic is what chocolate allows you to do. ”
This year, Elizabeth, who is passionate about the food of the gods, created her signature chocolate brand with exclusive collections of chocolates and tablets with Mexican cocoa and homeland flavors, becoming the only representative of Mexican cocoa in Spain. She also launched her company as a personal brand “Elizabeth Vázquez chocolatier” where she offers workshops, tastings, and collaborations with companies.
A few days before this interview. Elizabeth participated as a speaker, in the First Meeting of Women with Chocolate, held in Madrid, and told us how her participation was. Just as she tells us about how her story began with chocolate, about the industry, her entrepreneurship and what we have to look at before buying a real chocolate tablet.
By Fabiola Gálvez
How did the First Meeting of Women with Chocolate go?
It’s all we are trying to do in the framework of the Chocolate Salon, with the chef I work with, we do things together, especially for events, I’m in charge of the production part, she is the technical director of the Salon Chocolate, and also a gastronomic journalist specialized in chocolate. This is also done in Paris and here in Spain, it had never been done, there is a lot of entrepreneurship of women in chocolate, it was very well, and for the next time, the proposal is a workshop.
What does chocolate mean to Mexico?
In Mexico and in many cultures of Mesoamerica it was so valuable that it was used even as currency. Nowadays it is still important because we are a cocoa-producing country and you go to the producing regions and find the cocoa plant and in Europe, it is almost impossible. In these two or three years, Mexican cocoa has been winning many awards, including farms that had been forgotten. For example, I am now buying from the third generation of cocoa farmers who have recovered a farm and are winning prizes with that cocoa. Mexico is waking up because before we only sold the grain and now we can process it here and obtain chocolate as a final product and that is what we can export.
In Mexico, I was surprised, a lot of brands that are coming out now. When I left Mexico, I used to ask what chocolate should I buy? and everyone said “Abuelita”, but that’s a chocolate with a lot of sugar from Nestlé, and then, that’s where we started doing more research.
How did your chocolate story begin, now that you have mentioned “Abuelita”, and the beginning with your research?
The memory is my grandfather, who said we are going to make chocolate, once a year, and all that ceremony of grinding the grain. Then, I studied gastronomy in Mexico.
Then I looked for a scholarship for pastry, and I went to Monaco. When I got there to study pastry, the place where I had to work, also made chocolate, and that was where I realized (what I like). And when I returned to Mexico, after the scholarship, I wanted to continue on this. I saw that it was an opportunity because there are many confectioners, but fewer chocolatiers.
I started in Mexico, I was already working with a French chef, we made chocolate for events, restaurants, hotels. And I came to Spain, because of the transfer of my husband’s company, although I had already been in Spain in San Sebastian in 2007 with Martín Berasategui in an internship. Here I started working as a pastry chef in restaurants and I made chocolate on my own, then I met Helen (Technical Director of the Chocolate Salon) and then, I became a mother, and the hospitality industry did not allow me to manage my schedule. So, this year was the time, I launched myself with my brand of chocolate and has had a very good response. I was in the Chocolate Salon with two Mexican collections and I am the only representative of Mexico, in Spain.
First, you worked with your mentor Franck Madala and then, with master Laurent Troublé, what did you learn from each of them?
From Franck Madala, the discipline and understanding of chocolate, if it has stains, why does it have them, and understand what happened to correct it, with it, I also learned a lot from artistic pieces and he tells me, you are crazy because you continued with chocolate.
And with Laurent Troublé?
When I returned I told Madala, I am in Mexico City and I don’t know where to work because the sector is very reserved and small and he told me to look for Laurent, he will surely have something, and when I talked with him, he said: I don’t have a vacancy for you! ”and I said: “I’m coming for free”, and I was lucky enough to be there the week the boy who was at the head of the chocolate making, had to leave. With him (Laurent) I was 3 years, and I learned more about the subject of training (interns), we provided to large hotels, we made the confectionery products.
And many of these interns ended up dedicating themselves to this because there is always that struggle to continue in this, I always told my boss “you can be teaching at a school”.
Is it easy to undertake in the world of chocolate?
No, like many things. I have a community of businesswomen and we have been following each other for almost a year, and we are sharing our projects, most of them are services. I always say I am the only crazy person who is involved with chocolate, because there are like many more barriers, here In Spain, health legislation for food is more complex. Now we are seeking advice from people who have been through that. In the meeting (of women of chocolate) on Saturday, Anelí was with us and she has just sold her chocolate company for family reconciliation. I now have a space for co-working, but in the future, I hope to have my own space to be able to have more activities, workshops and tastings.
What is your starry product of chocolates?
The Mexican chocolate line has its Mexican and Spanish audience, I work for limited collections and editions. For example, in the Chocolate Salon, there are two collections: Viva México, which I launched in September, which is the national month, and the other one for Day of the dead for November, are bonbon with Mexican cocoa and Mexican flavors.
MEXICO: Tequila y Zest de lima | Rompope y Café | Especias Mexicanas | Vainilla de Papantla | Cajeta y Nuez pecana | Mango y Sésamo enchilado.
DAY OF THE DEAD: Pan de Muerto | Café de olla | Mole y praliné de sésamo | Mezcal y sal de chapulín | Chocolate de Mesa Oaxaqueño | Dulce de Cacahuete
Do you also have a line of chocolate with insects?
It is in the collection of dead, now that you ask for the starry product is the one that I am most asked for outside the boxes of chocolates.
For example, for a dinner or events, they tell me: look I want 200 truffles of mezcal with chapulín salt. Chapulines are crickets that are roasted with garlic, chili, lemon, salt depends on the variety, you have that sour-spicy note.
What chocolatiers inspire you for your chocolate creations?
There have almost always been male references and have recently begun to see female references. Melissa Coppel is a woman who inspires a lot, Silvia Guedez, is a Venezuelan who is Ecuador supporting the entrepreneurship especially in Latin America.
Why is the bean to bar a revolution for the world of chocolate?
The bean to bar should be nothing more than chocolate and sugar in a percentage, if you have 80% it means that it is 80% of the grain with the butter included and 20% of sugar, no lecithin, aromas or flavorings are added.
“Kankel cocoa” is providing me with chocolate and has a line of tablets that are spectacular because everything goes as in the style of wine, which can be said of what the harvest is, even the signature is put as in the bottles of wine.
What other trends do you find?
The small producers that previously only had the possibility of selling their grain, today there is someone who is interested in their farm and tells you I want so many kilos of cocoa. Then, I take them and I make an edition with your cocoa, with your process, and we sell all the tablets. There is a girl named María Madero in Mexico, on her tablet, says harvest of Doña María. That is giving value to those people. And there are people who with those microvats of their small harvest have won awards at the International Chocolate Awards. In Mexico, we have Mayari Castellanos, there is a chocolate that is made by women from the Lacandon Jungle, women who stayed as head of the family, because their husbands died in the guerrilla and they had the opportunity to continue in their environment and in the Chocolate world, and that also gives value.
There are people who are worried about making all that social inclusion, or in the non-slavery of children, there were many large companies that were involved, in the cocoa of Africa, there are children working in the fields, children who are poorly paid, poorly fed, overexploited in a job they shouldn’t, all that is behind a tablet that you are eating, in the end, it is part of what you are collaborating.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE A REAL CHOCOLATE
What is the difference between candy chocolate and a chocolate bar?
In industrial chocolate there are many brands that play with the percentage, that is, it can be 80% but of that, how much is cocoa paste? Do you have additives?: You can have cocoa powder from another origin with an alkalinization process, which is what makes them black and today the tendency is not to mistreat the product as much as coffee, why do you have to roast it so much to have bitter? Because coffee is bad, the same with these companies that buy cocoa from different origins, mixes and do not care if it has good fermentation and if it had a bad harvest and they give it very bad processes, which take away many of those properties and shades, both chocolate and coffee have fruity, floral tones that do not get to see them because everything comes to you bitter because it can be an 80% chocolate and not be bitter.
How do we recognize a good chocolate tablet when we buy it? What characteristics does it have to have?
To begin with, it has to contain cocoa paste, the type of chocolate depends, for example: in dark chocolate, there are about 65, 50% and what I told you is a cocoa paste that has no additives. Here yesterday they told me at the meeting (of women) that there was a lot of chocolate that added flour to make the tablets, that’s how bad the chocolate industry was in Spain. The merit is in the labeling that you can read, many of them have soy lecithin, it happens, it is not so bad, but when it already says that it is cocoa paste, more vegetable oils because it is no longer chocolate there, it is a substitute, many do not even have cocoa paste although they taste like chocolate and that will cost you less than a euro because what they sell you is mostly the packaging.
There are some who say it is “gluten-free”, but chocolate should not have gluten.
Do you work with producers?
In Spain, I work with Kankel de La Rioja, who makes for me a Bean to Bar with cocoa from Finca La Rioja, Chiapas, Mexico.
And with Mexican producers, I work with
- Wolter Chocolates Tabasco, Mexico
- Kakaw Museum. Chiapas, Mexico
- Xkik ’Chocolate. Yucatan, Mexico
Would you give any advice for the younger generation that wants to become a chocolatier?
I always encourage them, because I had that crazy part even when I arrived to work in Spain, they told me to put a Mexican food business, you are also a cook but I continued betting on cocoa, I think that in the end any professional branch of specialization, gives you a plus, above all that you can get to that, to delve deeper, to know more about the product, and not necessarily to develop an own account to work in other companies, many passionate people in the chocolate industry are missing, not only to produce the cheapest, companies can also have a line of chocolate that is better than they consume massively, within that there is room for chocolatiers who can work in that sector, and it takes a lot of accessible training for those young people who would like to dedicate themselves, but there will be more and more possibilities to enter this world.
Thank you very much, Elizabeth!
We leave you the collection of chocolates that she created for this Christmas: Ginger Candy | Marzipan Cream | Citrus fruits | Chestnuts and Hazelnuts | Almond Nougat | Spicy Wine
If you want to contact Elizabeth. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call
+34 654 224 584