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Belgian chocolatiers honoured in Gault et Millau chocolate awards
This year’s Gault et Millau chocolate awards honoured Belgian chocolatiers and leaders within the field, and crowned a "chocolatier of the year" in each of the country’s regions.
Herman Van Dender, whose shop Van Dender is in Schaerbeek, took home the title for Brussels. Pierre Plas of Bastogne was named Wallonia’s chocolatier of the year and The Chocolate Line in Bruges won the title for Flanders.
The awards, which were given out in a ceremony at Brussels Expo, included recognition of 123 chocolatiers in Belgium and Luxembourg in the 2023 edition of the French restaurant guide’s prestigious "yellow book".
Gault et Millau offered high praise for Brussels native Herman Van Dender, citing his rigorous selection of beans as key to chocolates with great aromatic richness.
It was noted that renowned chefs insist on using only his chocolates in their desserts, convinced of its quality and character.
Van Dender (pictured), who has decades of experience in chocolate making, accepted the award emotionally and offered his definition of the perfect praline: “It must speak to the senses and make you want to have another one immediately.”
When it came to Wallonia’s winner, it was said that Pierre Plas’s delicacies “were unanimously approved by the tasting committee”.
Plas is somewhat new to the chocolate scene, having opened his shop in Bastogne with his partner shortly before the coronavirus crisis.
Julius Persoone, son of owner Dominique Persoone, accepted the award with the production team on behalf of The Chocolate Line in Bruges.
The Chocolate Line was praised for its ability to make chocolate “sexy, trendy, cool and seductive”, and Gault et Millau described Dominique Persoone as “a pioneer and groundbreaking chocolatier for 30 years”.
The culinary guide explained that he demonstrated “that his relationship with chocolate, besides being professional, is above all passionate, appealing to the chocolate freak who likes to return to the roots with him”.
Another prestigious award was given to Coralline and Christophe Prunier for “discovery of the year”.
The 123 recognised chocolatiers represent 170 different locations, and their selection was made on the basis of multiple blind tastings.
“Belgian and Luxembourg chocolatiers search for the best chocolate beans in the world, which they increasingly process from 'bean to bar' in their ateliers,” Gault et Millau said, adding sustainability plays an increasing role in the industry.