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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Calling All Chocoholics

MT Independent Media
Chocolate. It's just food, right? The organizers and participants of Moscow's second annual Salon du Chocolat would beg to differ.

"We would like to teach the Russian public that chocolate isn't just food," said Svetlana Morozova, creative director of ShokoStyle, a chocolate bouquet manufacturer and participant in Salon du Chocolat. "We want people to value chocolate for its aesthetic attributes and to teach them that chocolate can be something beautiful."

From Friday, Nov. 30 to Sunday, Dec. 2, chocolate lovers are invited to Gostiny Dvor to sample their favorite treat and learn about the customs of chocolate culture.

Salon du Chocolat first appeared in Paris 13 years ago when professional event coordinators Sylvie Douce and Francois Jeantet decided to organize an occasion that would bring together everyone working in the chocolate industry. The event was a hit in Paris; it has since been replicated in New York, Tokyo, Beijing and now Moscow.

Last year Moscow hosted its first Salon du Chocolat. Confectioners, chocolate manufactures, chocolate sculptors and artists -- as well as designers of chocolate dresses -- got to strut their stuff. Not only Russian but also German, Syrian, Australian, Belgian and French chocolate makers participated.

"The different festivals that we go to, including Salon du Chocolat, are like the World Cup for confectioners," said Yelena Suchkova, deputy director of the Korkunov Center of Confectionary Arts' School of Chocolate.

"It is not just an opportunity for us to show ourselves but also a chance to learn from others working in the business."

This year the Salon is expected to attract about 30,000 visitors, including amateur chocolate lovers as well as professionals. Salon du Chocolat is to offer a variety of activities for every kind of guest. There will be tastings, chocolate-painting lessons and dessert-making classes for children, adults and professional confectioners. The crowning jewel of the event, however, is the fashion show featuring chocolate dresses.

"I think combining fashion and chocolate isn't necessarily natural, but it's very French and the result is quite interesting," said Yulia Nikolayeva, a fashion designer who worked in collaboration with Globus Gourmet to design last year's chocolate dresses.

"Last year the confectioner simply chose one of my dress designs and then added chocolate elements. This year my dream has been to work with a confectioner from the very beginning and to design something together," she added.

Natalia Palacois, project director of the Moscow Salon du Chocolat, said one of the goals was to create a greater refinement in the Russian understanding of chocolate.

Igor Tabakov / MT
Chocolate is more than just food to ShokoStyle, a chocolate bouquet manufacturer and participant in Salon du Chocolat.
"People know how to evaluate wine because they have a familiarity with wine and a vocabulary to describe it," she said at a news conference. "We would like people to learn to talk about chocolate the way they talk about wine."

Salon organizers hope to teach visitors about chocolate not only through tastings, but also in lectures and discussion forums. Professionals are invited to participate in discussions about the new trends in chocolate production. Meanwhile, the public is welcome to attend seminars on topics including "Chocolate and Wine," "Chocolate and Art," and "Chocolate and Sex."

Alexei Borotnikov, a confectioner working with the Korkunov School of Chocolate, has participated in the Salon du Chocolat in Paris as well as in Moscow. He has won several international awards for the handmade truffles he presents at the Salons' tastings.

"The French have more experience appreciating chocolate, and so I felt that the degustations went better there," Borotnikov said. "People would cut the chocolate in quarters, get a little taste and then discuss the taste qualities with you. In Russia it's a bit harder. The Salon is new here and people often eat the whole chocolate and don't discuss it. Maybe it's because they're just afraid they might not get a piece."

Borotnikov said the Russian public wasn't ready to appreciate the finer qualities of chocolate. Morozova said Salon du Chocolat had to adjust to accommodate Russians.

"Salon du Chocolat in Russia should include not only elite chocolate manufacturers, but also brands that are accessible at cheaper prices," she said.

"There has to be a range in prices, because even people who can't spend too much money deserve something beautiful and delicious."

The Korkunov School of Chocolate's director, Vladimir Lazutin, was more optimistic about the Salon's reception in Russia: "If Russia wasn't ready for the Salon it wouldn't be here. But it is here for the second year in a row. I think that people are ready to see chocolate not as a candy bar but as an interesting medium in which one can make art."

Salon du Chocolat is held in conjunction with the Food Show at Gostiny Dvor, 4 Ul. Ilinka, on Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m.- 8 p.m., and Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Entry fee is 250 rubles. M. Kitai-Gorod.