Chocolate in Paris! help?
I am an American and I just finished culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu specializing in baking and pastries. I fell in love with our block about chocolate. I'm looking for an internship in Paris, France this comming summer (2012) with a chocolatier. To be honest, I dont know where to start! :) I've traveled in Europe before, but never to France, and have taken one year of French in college. Any guidance (references, suggestions, anything) that you could give me would be greatly appereciated!
Have a great day, and thanks for your time!
I will second PhilD's suggestion that you head to Paris and start visiting the shops, but perhaps hold off for a bit on asking for a stage there. Spend a few weeks becoming familiar with their work, and get friendly with the sales staff. Not many of the chocolatiers work in the sales area of their own shops, but some do - like Michel Chaudun. So wether you get to know the sales folks or the chocolatier himself that way, it will make for a much smoother transition when you go, "I love your work, and I'd love to do a stage here." Your school or instructors might have some good connections, too, so sniff around.
Definitely look into the visa requirements. It might be best to head there as a student, taking French classes and then, if you get a job, take it as an unpaid stage -- cause it's unlikely you can find a paid one anyway.
I'd also suggest familiarizing yourself with chocolates, by producer and by origin. I've heard of people being tested with chocolate tastings, and if you can go, "That tastes like a porcelana...", you could be seen as quite an asset beyond just doing day-to-day production.
Until then, start studying French. And, most importantly, watch as many French movies as you can all the time - to help get yourself used to it spoken. When a chef is lecturing you with, "L'union de la crème et du chocolat se fait grâce à des molécules...", you want to follow it.
I wouldn't be surprised if the chocolate shops in Paris get thousands of inquiries from people looking for internships.
There's great chocolate being made outside Paris as well. Brussels is another chocolate center. Switzerland produces some damn fine chocolates. London even has several excellent chocolatiers. You may want to broaden your search to these areas.
There are lots of lists of great chocolatiers on this board so start with those - the serious chocolate addicts here list them all.
Next move to Paris and knock on doors (assuming your French is pretty good), and remember you probably won't get paid and will probably need to check the work visa requirements quite carefully.