From the moment the ancient Maya began roasting fermented cacao beans, the world’s favourite confectionary has been on quite the journey. Adding to chocolate’s rich history, Remco Brigou – head chocolatier of Koko Black – gives us the lowdown on Australia’s favourite chocolate brand.
For more than 4000 years, chocolate has evolved through many hands. From Mesoamerica, to Spain, to the Netherlands, Switzerland and even England – everyone’s had turns at developing the product we all enjoy today.
But it’s Belgium that’s credited with the magic of putting the praline soft centre into chocolates. And now that art form has come to the shores of Australia.
Belgian master chocolatier Remco Brigou has been the creative driving force Koko Black – arguably Australia’s finest chocolate maker – since 2016.
We spoke to him about his life in what I think is probably everyone’s dream job and the challenges of crafting lines like Koko Black’s vegan-friendly chocolates – and we also sneaked in a cheeky Willy Wonka question too!
Chocolate master Remco Brigou
1. What is it about Belgian and Belgian-style chocolate that makes it just so good? Any trade secrets you can share?
Belgium originated the technique of making filled chocolates called pralines. It is a process that the rest of the world has now adopted and what made Belgian chocolate so famous as the inventor of this method. Even though Barry Callebaut, the largest chocolate producer in the world, isn’t Belgian-owned anymore, it is also based in Belgium.
My biggest trade secret – always make sure you use good quality couverture chocolate. This means that the fat content is 100% cocoa butter and not replaced with any other fats so the chocolate profile has a better quality taste, texture and is more natural.
2. Koko Black is always innovating with its range of chocolates. How long does it take you to develop a new line?
It can take anywhere from two weeks if it’s a simple new praline flavour to over a year for a whole new collection that we are starting from scratch. Generally speaking, we would need to work at least 6 months in advance to allow for product development, tastings, set up and trials to work through packaging design and production, communication strategies and roll out plans to stores.
3. Was this new vegan-friendly range difficult to get right?
Yes, especially for the ganache. It’s a completely different process and way of balancing ingredients than working with dairy. One thing to keep in mind, is also the shelf life of the product needs to be sustainable. The coconut milk we use in our vegan-friendly range contains more water than regular milk, so it took some time to balance out the different flavours and get it perfect.
4. I’m a chocolate-and-almond guy while Christina is all about the caramel. What’s your favourite chocolate combination?
Dark chocolate and orange!
5. I’ve got to ask – do you have a team of Oompa-Loompas working for you?
Yes everybody here at Koko Black is my Oompa-Loompa (laughs) – I couldn’t do my job without our incredible team behind the scenes and in the kitchen.
What, how and where to experience Koko Black
Remco and Koko Black are constantly bringing out new lines of delicious chocolates. As well as their ever-expanding perennial selections, we love their seasonal ranges like their praline advent calendars for Christmas.
Easter is obviously prime time for Koko Black, and they always do something fun. Here are some of the goodies Remco and his Oompa-Loompas have crafted for us for the chocolate season:
Speckled Little Eggs – crispy on the outside, smooth creamy milk chocolate on the inside. These are an Easter staple! $16.00 RRP
The Littlest Bunny comes in three increasingly larger sizes, different types of chocolate and also in the vegan-friendly range. $16.00 RRP
Milk Little Eggs – solid milk chocolate eggs inside little boxes decorated with five Aussie animals… well, four and a bunny. It is Easter after all.
Perfect for an Easter egg hunt, these platypus, echidna, wombat and koala cubes are almost as fun to collect as the eggs are to eat. They also come in the vegan-friendly chocolate range too. $7.50 RRP
Carrot Cake Bites – cinnamon and maple candied pecans, coated in milk and white chocolate and sprinkled with carrot powder (how can the Easter bunny resist?) $17.50 RRP