Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Chocolatier in Montreal


Monsieur Bensabat, The Chocolatier behind  Excellence Chocolates 

There’s more to Jewish food culture in Montreal than babkas or bagels. Our City's unique Jewish chefs, bakers or chocolatiers have many untold stories, secrets or tips to be shared, which is why I am on a new culinary mission. A mission to finding out what drives these cooks to do what they do best in the kitchen.

Monsieur Bensabat (right) with his son-in-law, Yerucham State. On the table is the only original chocolate box from the 80s.

My first encounter with a chocolatier
Last Sunday, I met Monsieur Bensabat, owner of Excellence Chocolates, the maker of some of the best Belgian Pralines Montreal has to offer – literally the best I've ever tasted – plus they happen to be kosher. Located in the heart of the DeVimy area, I toured the family-run business and understood the complexities of making confectionery chocolate. Making chocolates isn’t as easy as we think, humidity is enemy #1, the tempered machinery is key, and the success of the shine on the pralines depends on timeworn molds used. However, with all this in mind, the true secret to creating fine pralines isn't simply about the high-quality chocolate used, but also about the patience, passion and humility embraced by the chocolatier who hand-makes each one.



About Monsieur Bensabat
Little boys in Morocco don’t dream of becoming Belgian Praline makers, interestingly, this is how Monsieur Bensabat’s career unfolded. He was born and raised in Marrakesh, his love of fine cuisine and traditional Moroccan cooking was homebred. He was a young scout when he began cooking-up salads for his family to enjoy. After living in France for some time, his family moved to Montreal where he became a high school teacher in the public school system. But in 1987, his life changed, a conversation with a colleague led him to  visit a Lasalle chocolate factory. Soon after, in 1989, he seized an opportunity to create a unique line of kosher dairy-free Belgian Pralines for local kosher caterers.


Top right: Both his son, Gamliel Bensabat, and son-in-law, Yerucham State help him run the business

"Chaque fois que j'avais une grande commande, 
j'appeler le mashgiach (kosher supervisor),
et je mettais la machine en marche à 6 h du matin, 
et c'est comme ça que j'ai commencé." 

- Monsieur Bensabat





Soon enough, word of mouth spread, and his clientele expanded. In 2010-2011, he took over the entire chocolate making facility, and transported it to his current facility on Bates, which is opened to the public as well. He works out of two kitchens6, a pareve one and a dairy one in which he develops various truffles such as whisky, passion fruit, caramel and more. 



The White House Chocolatier
Years ago, Monsieur Bensabat's son-in-law Yerucham, was at a food show where he met the official chocolatier of the White House (yes, the White House has its very own chocolate maker.) Point aside, Yerucham asked the White House chocolate maker if he can train them. The WH Chocolatier tasted Monsieur Bensabat's Belgian Pralines and confessed: " with chocolates like that, there is nothing I need to teach you."

Gamliel Bensabat (left)  holding  pistachio, almond, cranberry white chocolate bark. 

Right, pralines start with quality hazelnuts. 











After my visit, I have an entirely new perspective on chocolate-making, but more so, admire the humility of a man, once a teacher, who followed his culinary dream, making the finest chocolates we can taste.

For info visit their facebook page at Excellence Chocolates.

"Sisters and chocolate make life bearable." So true.