By Cindy Atoji Keene
As the chocolatier charged with innovating new flavors for Chocolate Therapy in Dedham and Framingham, Rick Gemme is most inspired by his travels around the world. After a recent trip to Turkey, he experimented with a date and cardamom chocolate; a visit to Malta produced a citrus-tinged truffle. “I’m constantly in search of the perfect chocolate combination, which, in my opinion, is something that’s not too sweet and has a little bit of savory; maybe a little salt. This makes a nice contrast – not all one flavor note,” said Gemme, who said that Chocolate Therapy sweets capitalize on the heart-healthy, antioxidant benefits of chocolate by adding other “superfoods” such as green tea, ginseng and cold-pressed olive oil.
Q: You attended the Culinary Institute of America. What did you learn there about chocolate making?
A: The CIA is intense; almost like a military school but the classes are on food instead, of course. The chocolate class is crammed into three weeks of eight-hour classes. We learn the science behind tempering and the production of chocolate and all confections. You start with a basic ganache then move onto molding, then sugar pulling, taffies, and more.
Q: What’s the most difficult kind of chocolate to make?
A: The chocolate part is easy – it’s what you add to it that’s difficult. I make a blueberry lemon basil truffle with pectin jelly inside – if you’re not stirring constantly with a whisk, you can get lumpy hard spots. It’s supposed to have a nice short texture but instead turns chewy.
Q: How do you source ingredients for the chocolate?
A: At food shows, various vendors offer a range of that samples. There can be as many as 30 different companies with five lines of chocolate or more each. It’s mind boggling: organic, single origin, multi-origin, 99 percent, super dark, super bitter.
Q: Does chocolate reflect the source or origin of the bean?
A: Chocolate is like wine; flavors can vary from region to region. Chocolate from Ghana, for example, can taste fruity while chocolate from the Dominican Republic might reflect coffee tinges. Even in the same country, one side of the mountain or another might have a very different flavor.
Q: What’s your all-time favorite chocolate shop?
A: Hugo & Victor in Paris. The French have such respect for food. Stepping inside is like entering a fine jewelry store. Truffles sit in cases like diamonds.
Q: Do you have any culinary rookie moments?
A: I did a vocational program in high school where I was sous chef for the day. I put a pot of water on the stove then forgot about it and left it on high heat for five hours. When I came back, there was no bottom left on the pot.
Q: Isn’t it tough to resist eating chocolate all day?
A: Sampling the chocolate is the best part. But I don’t gain a lot of weight because I run through this kitchen about a thousand times a day. People think that chocolate making is a sedentary job but if you’ve ever seen that comical candy conveyer belt scene from “I Love Lucy,” that’s how it is here. We’re just flying around.