I’de been wanting to up my chocolatiering skills in preparation for Christmas 2015. I can usually learn a fair amount from reading and online tutorials, but lately it felt like I had hit a plateau. When I heard about École chocolat I was immediately intrigued, but hesitant.
École chocolat is an online school based out of Vancouver, BC, founded in 2003 by Pam Williams, a master chocolatier who also founded the truffle business Au Chocolat in 1981. Pam has authored two books on chocolate, Oh Truffles by Au Chocolat and Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate.
Still, I couldn’t find any reviews or first hand accounts of École chocolat, and I was leary of spending a lot of money on an e-school that isn’t accredited. I hemmed and hawed for awhile, and decided to go for it. I’m glad I did.
École chocolat offers several courses:
- Professional Chocolatier
- Business Planning
- Professional Chocolatier + Business Planning (cheaper than doing the two courses individually)
- Chocolate Making from bean to bar
- Quality Assurance for Chocolatiers
- Master Chocolatier programs all over the globe
- Chocolate Connoisseur courses
I took the Professional Chocolatier + Business Planning program. It’s a 4 month course, which you mostly do at your own pace but assignments have deadlines. If you pass your assignments you receive your diploma.
How much did it cost?
- Summer-fall 2015 tuition was $830 CAD + 13% HST = $937.90
- School supplies cost $403.41 which includes taxes and shipping
Depending on what’s available to you locally you may be able to get the supplies for less. I think the list was too much stuff, some of the items I still haven’t used, such as the chocolate chipper, acetate, and pastry brushes.
I’ve only used the cocoa butter and marble slab one time so far. On the other hand, I probably would never have tried working with cocoa butter if they hadn’t said I needed it, and it’s a pretty cool product! So I don’t regret buying any of the supplies, but they were were expensive and I am someone who already owned a lot of chocolatier supplies.
The school has a relationship with Chef Rubber who offers a starter kit for EC students containing some of the harder to source items. I was interested, but their shipping costs from US to Canada were over $100. No thanks!
What was the course like?
Challenging. Fun. Interesting. I learned so much. The Master Chocolatier course has one instructor, the Business Plan portion has another. Both instructors are fairly prompt at answering questions, and there is an active forum, one for students and one for grads.
I would recommend this course to anyone who has worked with chocolate and is interested in learning more techniques with some guidance. As long as you’re motivated to get work done, on time, you will be fine.
Recipe creation was a blast. I had some home runs, like this blueberry crème brùlée milk chocolate, which my was introduction to using transfer sheets. This is possibly one of the tastiest things I have ever thought of.
And uh… I had some dismal failures. Like nougat. But it doesn’t matter if your attempt doesn’t work out, as long as you go through the process, take notes and learn, that’s all they’re looking for on most of them. Some of my recipe creations were total disasters.
What did I learn?
Too much to quantify! The course has a huge amount of downloadable reference material, and I’m still going through some of it. I think they really do cover pretty much everything. Some highlights were the history of chocolate, production practices, flavours, design, decoration, business case studies, and how to contact wholesalers and find distributors in my area, which turned out to be a wonderful opportunity. And they teach lots more.
The assignments were straightforward, and some of them really push you into experimenting with ideas you’d never try on your own.
The Business Plan part of the course wasn’t exactly what I expected. It was good, don’t get me wrong. I just had different expectations about what I would learn. I still came away with knowledge I didn’t have before going in and that’s what counts.
I plan to sign up for EC’s Quality Assurance program in the future. As a Professional program grad I get a discount on future courses. ^^
Was it worth it?
Yes. I graduated with honours, learned new skills and have a higher sense of accomplishment in my chocolate work. My diploma hangs on the wall and makes me smile every time I see it.
It was expensive for an uncredited program. I understand why it’s not accredited, because the students are all over the world, but as a Canadian I would have loved if it was accredited in Canada.
My Christmas chocolates this year were the best yet and I am much more confident after becoming an EC grad.