Natascha Schwarzer – Maitre Chocolatier at Cococo Chocolatiers in Calgary, Canada
Chocolate was certainly not Natascha Schwarzer’s favorite ingredient during her training as a pastry chef. But the challenge turned into passion and today she loves to work with this fascinating product every day.
Natascha Schwarzer works as a Maitre Chocolatier and in Recipe Development at Cococo Chocolatiers in Calgary, Canada.
Natascha Schwarzer – a chocolatey culinary journey
Natascha, with years of experience as a chocolatier and patissier, you now work as a Maitre Chocolatier, Recipe Development at Cococo Chocolatiers in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. When did you decide to become a chocolatier and patissier?
When I went to Switzerland for the first time at the age of 16, I spent a year with my aunt and learned French. My plan in life has always been to become a teacher. When I was in Switzerland that year, I was so fascinated by the food. Pastry was a work of art, food was just considered differently in Europe.
I loved cooking and baking, so I had in mind that I would become a pastry chef. I am Swiss/Canadian. So I went home, finished high school, did the Baking and Pastry Art Program in Vancouver and came back to Switzerland doing a three year apprenticeship as a pastry chef.
Your mother is Swiss. So you already have some chocolate in your blood, haven’t you? In Lucerne, Switzerland, you attended a special school to study baking and pastry arts and to become a baker and pastry chef. How do you remember this time?
I was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. My mom is Swiss, my dad is German. Because I had a Swiss citizenship, I was able to do my apprenticeship in Switzerland. I understood German. But basic every day language and the “high German” dialect. I would never have believed it but to understand and be able to speak are two very different things.
Also it was a lot of technical vocabulary that I had never heard before. I had amazing teachers that helped me along the way. One day school, four days working in a pastry shop is how an apprenticeship works there. And it was something I had a passion for.
So if you want to you can. I very much believe in that. It was a serious struggle, the schooling, the language, the culture, at first. And now it is what I love. I love living I Switzerland, I love the people, the culture, the food.
Even when you learned baking and pastry, you have specialized as a chocolatier. Where does the passion for becoming a chocolatier come from?
That is a funny question. I am not sure how I “fell into” chocolate. It is such a fascinating product. You can do so much with it. Not just baking and pastry, but you can create show pieces, you can create savoury products with it. And every type of cocoa is different. Where it comes from, the climate, so many things influence just the flavour of the chocolate through the whole process of getting it from bean to bar. I compare it often with wine.
I remember thinking during my apprenticeship that chocolate was so complicated and hard and I just kept away from it! But I think that is also why I went back to it and focused on it. Challenge accepted. Now it seems so easy and I wonder what I was worried about working with it!
Being a chocolatier sounds great and somehow easy, which it is not because a good chocolatier needs a lot of knowledge about the ingredients and the process. What makes a good chocolatier?
I think the biggest thing is passion and patience. As you say it is not the easiest product to work with it. But through the love of the product you bring patience and desire to create something amazing.
Practice, patience, passion! – Natascha Schwarzer and the three big “P’s” that are needed to become a great chocolatier.
You started your chocolatier career as Show Chocolatier at Lindt & Sprüngli in Zurich, Switzerland. What was your biggest experience from this time?
This was an excellent experience in that we were the first to try out the new concept from Lindt, so we had free reign. All we had to do was entertain and educate the customers. So we could take as much time as we wanted to create show pieces, educate ourselves in everything in chocolate, so we could pass that on to the customers. It was wonderful. We could really just enjoy the product and enjoy telling the world about how wonderful good chocolate really is.
Later, you worked for Lindt & Sprüngli as Chef Chocolatier in Sydney, Australia. Was this work different? Do the Australians have a different chocolate taste?
I feel like every country has their own trends and desires. Sydney was really amazing. They are very foodie and into new flavours and trends and open to new things. Lindt had just opened a café/pastry concept there. The one and only of theirs in the world. So it was great to see that developing into something bigger.
At Barry Callebaut, one of the world’s largest chocolate producers, you’ve worked as a Chocolate Academy Director. What was this job about?
This was seriously the most amazing job in the world. Barry Callebaut has chocolate academies around the world and we further educate professionals in the field. Cooks, bakers, pastry chefs, anyone in the industry would take courses in anything from wedding cakes to show pieces, new pastry recipes, new bonbon recipes.
There are so many different courses in so many different academies worldwide. I also go to travel a lot to teach in hotels or restaurants and educate people who didn’t know much about chocolate or just some new ideas for their team.
Today you work as Maitre Chocolatier, Recipe Development for Cococo Chocolatiers in Calgary. What is your job there?
I get to do the fun part here. I get to develop recipes for any new products we want to launch. Or if we have any event and want to show some innovation, I get to produce the products. I also do a lot of event for tastings: chocolate and beer/whisky/port/tea etc.
Can you share some of your latest creations with us?
One of our latest launches was a white chocolate bar infused with fresh dill and sprinkled with a blue cheese infused sea salt. It is a great chocolate to put onto a charcuterie platter or have with a beer.
Is there a place in the world where you would one day like to work as a chocolatier?
I would be pretty open to anywhere. I love that each country has their own specialties and to go deeper and find those specialties and try to mix them with chocolate or pair them with chocolate is fascinating.
I am a mom now so it is harder for me to just pick up and move like I used to. But I do think that it is great for kids to experience and live in various parts of the world to learn culture, language and most importantly different kinds of food.
Thank you so much, Natascha!
Natascha’s passion is working with chocolate. What is your biggest passion?
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