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July 17, 2011

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Chocolatier who thinks big

PATRICK Roger, an enfant terrible on the gourmet scene who speeds around Paris on his Ducati, is often called the Rodin of chocolate.

While he produces up to 6 million pieces a year, sold in his seven boutiques around the French capital, he also spends a considerable amount of time sculpting sweet wonders. For instance, last Christmas he decided to make a 10-meter-high chocolate Christmas tree. He then gave pieces of it to donors for the French Telethon.

Although his factory door is only 2.5 meters wide and the ceiling 10 meters high, it hardly restrains his imagination. "It's difficult for me to stay in the framework," said the slender 42-year-old, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009 with a 15-meter-long chocolate reconstruction.

Once he made a life-size elephant that could hardly be moved and eventually collapsed, leaving more than 1,497 kilograms of chocolate shattered across the floor.

Recently, Roger collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld and Magnum, the ice cream brand, to create a hotel suite entirely made of chocolate with a chocolate sculpture of Lagerfeld's sidekick model, Baptiste Giabiconi, lounging on a quilted white chocolate bedspread.

"That's the kind of experience that makes you grow," Roget said of his project with the Chanel couturier.

Roger can be as wild and humorous with his creations as he is uncompromising with his products' quality.

Like one of his 80,000 bees, he also makes honey, constantly flitting among his various chocolate racks, sampling his production to ensure that it meets his standards. The son of a baker, Roger started his professional career at age 15 as a pastry apprentice, discovering the wonders of cocoa three years later.

"I realized chocolate would fulfill all my dreams. It was my passport to the world," he said.

His inventiveness and talent earned him the highest distinction in the French gastronomical world, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, at only 33 years of age.

"The harder you work, the more creative you get," said Roger, who plans to open his first store in another chocolate mecca, Brussels, before the end of the year.


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