Morgane Richard is head chocolate chef in French Polynesia. How did she get to Vietnam? All in the following.


You worked as Head Chocolate Chef in Vietnam, with a great pastry track so far. Tell us about how you got started as a chef.

After long studies and a first job as second in a chocolate factory in Paris, Sam and Vincent (owners of Marou chocolate) contacted me to offer a job as a chocolate chef in their new shop. The job was to train the 25 people who will work in the shop: waiters, baristas, cashiers, retailers, pastry chefs and chocolate chefs. But first, i was trained to make chocolate from the bean to the bar. I went to the plantations to observe the fermentation and learn about sourcing. I worked in the big factory to learn about the roasting, cracking, winnowing and grinding to end up in their first shop in Saigon (opened in may 2016) where I stayed 3 months. During this time, i trained 4 people to work in the kitchen with me in Hanoi. They was from different job (engineer in water and environment, dancer, teacher, accounting…). We left together to Hanoi where we started to work in the shop, first to install all the room and kitchen, materials etc… Step by step, they became confident with their job.

I created some new chocolate bonbons and bars, worked for some Embassies, events… and i decided to create my own chocolate brand so i left Vietnam for Tahiti.


Why did you decide on chocolate professionally?

I started my studies with a license in nutrition. During these two years, I have done several internships in restaurants and discovered gastronomy. I decided to work in one of these restaurants where I learnt to make starters and desserts. The sous-chef was a pastry professional and taught me how to bake. But i wanted to learn more so  I studied in ENSP (French pastry school by Alain Ducasse and Yves Thuriès) for one year after which i obtained my first degree.

At that time, the Four Seasons Hotel was looking for a  new pastry chef and organized in my school a recruitment day. I was chosen with 2 other people to integrate one of their Palace. So I flew to Geneva.

I stayed 1 year and decided to continue my degrees and moved to Perpignan with Olivier Bajard where i studied pastry and chocolate. That was a revelation for the chocolate. I studied only chocolate during  more 2 years, did internship with MOF, world champions, and CIRAD (Agriculture research and development). But, when i think about the first time i dreamed of chocolate, i was really young. I saw Charly and the chocolate factory (from 1971). I was completely subjugated about. It make sense that now i work the cocoa beans to make chocolate.


Which culinary school did you attend?

My first school in pastry was ENSP (School of Alain Ducasse and Yves Thuriès). My second was a centre of apprenticeship in Perpignan (CFA). The last one was EPMTTH in Paris (school of apprenticeship for Hotels, restaurants, pastry, and chocolate).


What will you never forget about your first year as a Head Chocolate Chef?

The link that i manage to create with my team. They was like my own family, we was really close together.


You specialization became the process of the fabrication of Chocolate, why?

I worked in high quality pastry shop with MOF. My mentor is Stéphane Leroux (MOF). Everywhere I worked, the ingredients were the most important thing to know very well about. All the characteristics of each ingredient, composition, how to work with, etc… In my opinion, if you are not interested in these aspects of the pastry, cooking or chocolate, you cannot be a good professional. That’s why i choose all the time to follow this way and i am constantly looking for all the possible information about a product.


What is the most difficult aspect to being a professional Head Pastry Chef/ Chocolatier?

We must always question ourselves and get to the end of everything. The perfection doesn’t exist but we can approach it if we don’t stay in our comfort zone. We have to be perfect in all aspects. Your team follow you and what they and how they are during the work is you mirror, your image.


How would you describe your own culinary style today?

I work the product himself without the intention to change the taste. Actually, the chocolate i make is without conservatives, artificial taste and without emulsifier.

My work is to sublimate the taste of the beans, the terroir is really important and transmit a history, feelings and sensation, we don’t need more things.


As Head chocolate chef of Marou Chocolate Co in Vietnam earlier, what does the company/ you offer?

They offered me to know how to work the cocoa beans, understand the chocolate and its character. It was a real chance to work in Vietnam, work with these wonderful people who was my team. an incredible adventure with people who had a completely different way to live, work and speak than French people. It makes you realize that there are many ways to manage and follow your team during the work. You have to be calm and respectful if you want the best of your team.

I have shared my knowledge, my passion and my expertise in some aspects of the chocolate making process as Ganaches, Praliné and chocolate drinks.


Can you share a signature chocolate with us?

I created a chocolate bar in Vietnam, with Tamarin Caramel inside. I worked with two different tamarin: fermented and fresh. For the caramel, it is a salted version and cook to be a tender caramel. I used coconut milk chocolate to make the bar and put the layer of tamarin caramel inside before to close the inclusion bar.


Can you share one of your last creations with us?

I created a bar with an inclusion for an event in New York City. Our customer wanted to have a chocolate with tamarind. I worked different type of tamarind with caramel and tried with dark chocolate and our coconut milk chocolate. The final result was with Coconut milk chocolate, and tamarind (2 types of tamarind) mixed with salted butter caramel inside.


Where do you get your ingrediencies from?

In Vietnam, we had all the ingredients that we needed in the market or in the street (fruits, nuts, spices…) or with our official suppliers (for butter, flour and cream).


What is the secret of good chocolate bar?

Respect the product. Make it intense, not too strong. We have to be careful with the fermentation, roasting and choose the best ingredients to mix with.


What are some of the lesser known spices you use in your chocolates?

I like to work with Tonka beans, Star Anis, Cardamom. One of the mix that I discovered in Vietnam is the Pho spices.


In the past you worked as Pastry Chef in Switzerland and France. From a pastry culinary point of view, are both countries really different?

They have both some specialties. But in Switzerland, they are not so different than France. I think the French style in pastry is everywhere now.


Ones you came to Vietnam; how what was your first culinary impression?

It is a country really rich in gastronomy. Their dishes are really tasty and quite light compared to Thailand or China. It is really good and i miss Vietnamese cuisine. I love Vietnamese cuisine.


How could you describe Vietnam pastry best? 

They don’t have a real culture of pastry. They have a lot of sponge cake with vegetable cream and a lot of color and different artificial taste. In my opinion, their best desert is their coconut ice cream with fresh fruit.


Local Vietnamese Chocolate’s: how would you describe it.

Vietnamese chocolate is strong and acidic chocolate. You can find different taste as spices like cinnamon, coconut, soil taste. You have different regions who produce cacao, and the taste of each region is different: it is the effect of the Terroir.


As Fusion cuisine is a great topic, does fusion chocolate exist as well?

It is not really fusion but You can work with some local taste as Pho spices with chocolate, Chili pepper, etc… It is really interesting to work on new tastes and discover new flavors.


Did you offer any Vietnams/ French types of chocolate/ Pastry?

All the products that we proposed was inspired from French pastries and chocolate. But with some local tastes and with less sugar for the Vietnamese taste.


What does work mean for you?

Work rhymes with passion. If you do what you like / love, it is not work.


What did you do if you wanted to treat yourself to something special to eat in Vietnam?

I didn’t hesitate to go to a vegetarian restaurant. I think i never eat better anywhere else than in Vietnam in the vegetarian restaurant. I was addicted.


Any place in the world you would like to work as Head Chocolate Chef one day?

I already have the chance to work in the most beautiful country in the world. I created a new chocolate origin in Tahiti (French Polynesia). It was my dream to come back in Tahiti and live here. Now it is done.


If you would have the time to write a culinary book, what would it be about?

I think i would write a book on the chocolate.


Can you speak more about your new project in French Polynesia? 

After my experience in Vietnam, i went to Tahiti to see my sister who lives there. I looked for cacao trees in the island. I found them and found the cacao pods. Then, i decided to make the fermentation, to dry and roast the beans to make the chocolate.

From that moment, i was like obsessed by the Tahitian Chocolate.

Name, logo, marketing line was decided very quickly. I wanted to create a new chocolate origin. Make the chocolate from the bean to the bar.

But i am « just » Head chocolate chef so i needed some professional people in marketing/ commercial/ communication. I met a young woman, a friend of mine, dynamic and enthusiastic about the project. She is 25 YO.

The most important problem that we had was to supply in cacao pods. So i return to Tahiti and run around the Polynesian islands to find.

I realized that it is really important to have our own plantation.

That way, i saw again a friend who lives here but that i met in Vietnam. His specialty is the cacao tree and its agronomy. We decided to work together.

We are a young team, with a great project: develop the cocoa sector in French Polynesia.

Our chocolate is natural, only cocoa beans, sugar cane and cocoa butter. We work with all the people in French Polynesia who have cocoa tree in their garden. 1, 2 or sometimes 10 trees, planted from their great parents. It is and help all along the year for them because we buy the production. Our target is too share with most of people one of the finest Polynesian products.


Thank you Morgane and all the best for your future.


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