Moulding chocolates with Arno Backes
Master chocolatier Arno Backes gives us a glimpse into his delicious world at Melbourne Good Food Month.PT1M39S http://www.goodfood.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2wli1 620 349 October 31, 2013
I'm in a Willy Wonka frame of mind.
Except the master chocolatier sitting in front of me is no Gene Wilder, nor Johnny Depp.
Rather, Arno Backes is slender, bald, speaks with a slight German accent and is dressed in immaculate chef's whites.
And he has just disclosed he eats a staggering one kilogram of chocolate a week.
“At least a kilo. Sometimes maybe two,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, Backes is one of Australia's most passionate chocolate advocates.
It has been this way since he was 15, and has culminated in his ownership of two specialty European-style chocolate "lounges” in Melbourne.
Ganache Chocolate opened in South Yarra in 2008, and in Collins Street in 2010.
Backes was born and raised in Germany, near the border of France and Luxembourg. Captured by the region's famed artisan approach to cooking, at the age of 15 he began a pastry chef apprenticeship at the noted Brueckencafe in St Wendel.
At 18, he moved to London to train at Marasu's Petit Fours, where he refined the art of handcrafting chocolates. Clients included Harrods, The Ritz, The Dorchester, Gleneagles and, occasionally, the British Royal Family.
He then worked in Switzerland, Berlin, Munich and Paris, training with some of Europe's finest patissiers and chocolatiers.
After graduating with a masters in patessierie in Germany, Backes and his partner, Sian, spent 18 months in South America, researching the origins of coffee and chocolate. They published a book about their travels before moving to Australia in 2004.
Backes says he is committed to educating the Australian palate about "real" chocolate – and there is an excellent upside to this endeavour.
“The better quality chocolate, the better and healthier it is for you,” he explains.
“If you buy a chocolate bar in the supermarket it is full of sugar and oils that are added to stop the product spoiling. But high-quality chocolate is low in sugar and has undeniable health properties.”
These include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, improving cognitive function and the ever-reliable mood enhancement.
It's unlikely you will find a doctor willing to prescribe Backes' own dose of two kilos a week, but a bite of one of his handmade chocolate creations works for this reporter.
Asked if he uses fair trade or organic raw materials, Backes becomes animated.
“This is a question that is so easily asked and so hard to answer properly. I choose to buy with the large suppliers as I can tell you exactly where the beans come from, who is doing the buying, where the money goes,” he says.
"I have travelled through these regions and seen it myself. This term, fair trade, it does not always work in practice and there are no guarantees ... of where the money is going. I am comfortable with how the large companies do things.”
Backes will share his expertise on hand crafting chocolate on November 2 and 20 as part of The Age Good Food Month instant expert series. Tickets: $100. Details: 9804 8216.