EXPO MILANO 2015 - Belgian food at a glance
BELGIAN CHOCOLATIERS LOOK BACK AT EXPO MILANO 2015
Until the end of October, Milan hosted the world expo with food as the main theme. Each week 2 Belgian chocolate chefs showcased their skills at the Chocolate Corner in the Belgian Pavilion. Check out how these ambassadors of Belgian chocolate experienced their stints in Milan!
Eveline Geerts (Chocolaterie Bonaparte): a VIP sense of humor
My initial impression about the Expo as such and the Belgian pavilion in specific was amazing: it’s actually very cozy. For me, and I’m not just saying this as a proud Belgian, our pavilion was probably the most lively and active one. From the look on their faces, I would say that most visitors considered the chocolate corner, at the end of the entrance hall, as a real treat. As I do in my own chocolate atelier, I used different techniques to create chocolate sculptures – from using molds to assembling pieces from scratch. However, what seemed to amaze people the most was the taste of our chocolate. I would say that’s because we used real origin chocolate. Even the prime minister of Luxemburg stepped back after tasting our chocolates. The fact that he then tried to take home the entire tray of chocolates shows that even VIP’s have a sense of humor!
Mario Pelckmans (Chocolaterie Chario): protecting my chocolate flower sculpture
Making chocolate sculptures inside our Belgian Pavilion was a fun but challenging experience, mostly because of the heat. We attracted quite a lot of attention from the crowds, especially when we gave away free samples. At certain moments the rush was quite overwhelming and caused some funny situations. To give you one example: we were making a chocolate flower and at some point visitors were actually picking the leaves of the sculpture. We met a lot of schools as well and of course we insisted that the children received the first chocolates. And the teachers were more than happy to take a little bite themselves too.
David Maenhout (Chocolatier M): the relaxed atmosphere of Milan
The Belgian Pavilion is very popular; from early in the morning visitors from literally all over the world were queuing at the pavilion and in front of our Chocolate Corner. It’s amazing how many people with different nationalities we’ve met in a single week. The atmosphere is different from the previous world expo in Shanghai however: over here it’s more relaxed and visitors were taking less pictures. As the Pavilion was inaugurated during our week, we’ve also met a few Belgian VIP’s, such as the vice prime-minister Kris Peeters and secretary of state Jan Jambon. And we’ve had a surprise visit by Patrick Van Craenenbroeck, the artist who made some unique molds that we could use to create artistic chocolate sculptures.
Ludwig De Kesel (Guylian): the total experience of the Belgian Pavilion
For me it’s my third world expo and the design of the Belgian Pavilion is the most stunning I’ve seen so far. What struck me most was that some visitors actually returned later in the day to say how much they liked the total experience in the Belgian Pavilion. The Chocolate Corner clearly played a huge role in giving them a real experience rather than just a visit. We have to thank the entire team of the Belgian Pavilion who worked well together with us. Also the team of the shop who did a great job. It was actually nice to see several visitors passing by our Chocolate Corner with a box of our Guylian chocolate seashells.
Kristoff Deryckere (Sukerbuyc): a shared passion for chocolate
What I loved most about this project is the fact of collaborating with people who have the same passion for chocolate that I have. Also, the interaction with visitors was even better than in Shanghai, where we had a bit of a language barrier. It’s fun when you can explain the magic of chocolate to people and answer their questions. That’s also what we did for TV crews, like one from MTV Lebanon. Speaking to them – and showing our skills - I realized that Belgian chocolate is really known all over the world. As a chocolate chef it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to please people with our own passion for chocolate.
David Deyaert (Neuhaus): from rock musicians to the Belgian Queen
It’s always a bit of miracle to see the instant impact of a bit of even a little taste of Belgian chocolate: instant happiness is what you get! And as we chocolate chefs love sharing our passion for chocolate, visitors usually left the Belgian Pavilion with a smile on their faces and a bit more knowledge about chocolate.
During my stay in Milan I was lucky enough to meet a number of VIP’s. Ozark Henry, a famous Belgian rock musician who performed on the Belgian day, even gave us a hand to construct our chocolate version of the Brussels’ Atomium. With its complex structure of 9 different spheres, the Atomium was by far my biggest challenge in Milan. But it was nevertheless worth the effort: not only did it refer to the Expo58 in Brussels, but our chocolate Atomium was a nice surprise for our Queen Mathilde.
Claude Seneque (Leonidas): fanmail from Milan
Participating at the Expo2015 in Milan was an exciting and international experience. It is great to see that our Belgian Chocolate is incredibly popular all over the world and attracts many visitors to the Belgian Pavilion. Upon my return home, I was pleasantly surprised by a letter I received from a visitor on our stand: « … I want to thank you for putting stars in my eyes, when you invited me on your stand to temper chocolate. I was honored, and touched by your kindness and interest ….. It was one of my dreams to work at your side. For you it might have been just a moment of your time, for me it was so much more … Thank you, thank you, thank you. For me, Maître Chocolatier means excellence, what a beautiful title. » A reaction like that makes our day and pushes us to keep going and aim for excellence.
Jean Apostolou (Godiva Chocolatier): French and Swiss fans of Belgian chocolate!
Arriving on the chocolate corner of the Belgian Pavilion, I discovered one of the best possible playgrounds for anyone with a passion for chocolate. Besides having your equipment near you, the chocolate corner allowed plenty of interaction with the visitors. This was my first World Expo, and certainly not the last one. I also went out to discover the Expo site and I was amazed by the architectural achievements of several countries like UK, France, Russia, and Italy. On the Israeli pavilion I discovered a vertical cereal field irrigated by dripping! What an incredible solution to address one of the biggest challenges for the future, the lack of water.
But the most beautiful thing I saw was the light shining in our guests eyes when tasting the chocolates we were preparing. Each piece of chocolate was like a small piece of happiness when melting in their mouth. Hearing people from Switzerland and France telling that the Belgian chocolate was the best in the world, made me really feel I’m an “ambassador” of one of our country jewels.
Olivier Delvaux (Chocolaterie Delvaux): white chocolate speculoos crunch
After Shanghai 2010, Milan was again a wonderful experience but different in many ways. We’ve seen plenty of visitors in the Chocolate Corner and what struck me was that they were very curious and asked lots of questions. Together with my colleague Kristoff Deryckere, I really enjoyed sharing my passion for Belgian chocolate. Especially with schools visiting the chocolate corner, we’ve had our fair share of admiration. We’ve also given an interview for the Lebanese television and hosted a visit for Jan Boone, the CEO of Lotus Bakeries, who make the famous Belgian caramelised biscuits we call speculoos. After tasting the white chocolate speculoos crunch that we prepared for him he was eager to take his picture with us.
Wim Vyverman (Chocolade-Atelier Vyverman): chocolate balloons and chocolate Belgian fries
It’s with great pride that I acted as an ambassador for Belgian chocolate at Expo2015 Milano! As I’m from the city of Sint-Niklaas, famous for its hot air ballooning, I created a number of chocolate sculptures referring to the balloons of my native city. And we even managed to integrate Balloon pralines into the sculptures. We certainly did prove that you can be creative with chocolate. As we were interviewed by several international media crews, we served them Belgian fries made out of chocolate. I can assure you that the journalists loved our double-Belgian treats.
Frederic Declercq (ARTIMAR): chocolate skills re-discovered
The unique thing about being at a world expo is that it takes you out of your comfort zone. You get to rediscover some of the skills that are not part of your daily routines at home. Of course, there’s also the contact with such mixed crowd of visitors from all over the world. People were genuinely interested to see us at work and wanted to discover our skills as we worked on our chocolate sculptures. Even with the temperatures getting rather hot during my stay, I would say this was a great experience.