Franschhoek has been known for its gourmet status for many years, not only for its top restaurants, but also for the excellent ancillary food businesses in the village.   Now a new chocolate manufacturing facility adds another dimension to Franschhoek’s status, with the opening of Le Chocolatier Factory, offering 90 different chocolate types at any time, out of a total repertoire of 250.

While chocolates are made in the shop, Le Chocolatier Factory is no factory at all, and one can see the staff making the chocolate when coming in to buy chocolates, next door to their restaurant Café le Chocolatier, in Place Vendôme, as one enters Franschhoek.  Dark chocolate outsells milk chocolate by 60 to 40 %, and champagne truffles are the most popular seller.  The Le Chocolatier chocolates contain little cocoa butter, and the dark chocolates have very little sugar content.

Three ex-staff of Huguenot Fine Chocolates, of which two chocolatiers did their training in chocolate-making in Belgium, make the chocolates, using Lindt chocolate and also their equipment.  Passionate owner Daniel Waldis is Swiss, and his love for chocolate led him to buy the restaurant about two years ago, and to introduce more chocolate items to his menu, given the name of the restaurant.  They have wonderful cakes such as Black Forest, Vanilla Mousse, muffins, brownies and Chocolate Dreams, a well as chocolate frappé and hot chocolate.  All coffee is served with a complimentary chocolate.

Initially, chocolates were made on a small scale inside the restaurant, until they ran out of space, and the restaurant became busier, being one of few to stay open until 20h00, even in winter.  A shop which Waldis owned next door to his restaurant, for another business, has now become the home of his chocolate business. Waldis is seeing a tourist benefit in his business, and is offering packages for individuals and tour groups.   The Silver Tour costs R40, and one can observe the chocolate making and choose 5 chocolates.   The Gold Tour costs R69, and includes the observation of the chocolate making, as well as a selection of six chocolates, and a cappuccino or a hot chocolate.  The Platinum Tour costs R249, and allows one to make one’s own chocolates, with a certificate provided of one’s newly gained chocolate skills.  The price includes an hour with the chocolatiers, as well as a coffee. Children are enjoying this tour too, and are charged R149, with a minimum of two to be booked. Chocolates are charged at R79 per 100g, and R149 per 200g.  Hospitality turn-down packs will also be available on order. Chocolate-making demos are also taken to events.

Waldis says of this course that it is better than the one at the Lindt Chocolate Studio in the Cape Quarter in Cape Town, which is not owned by Lindt. Their course was attended by one of his staff, and they had to ask him questions about chocolate-making!  He explained how complicated chocolate-making is, in getting the base thinner rather than thick, and to keep the exterior of the chocolate shiny.  He is a strong supporter of Lindt, preferring its taste to Belgian chocolate, which has a higher cocoa butter content.

Seeing a gap in the Franschhoek market, Waldis has also introduced a little deli, selling predominantly German but also Italian, imported goods such as pudding powders, bulk Lindt chocolate, waffle biscuits, Schwartau jams, créme cappuccino, Haribo sweets, sour cherries, bottled gherkins, bottled garlic, Remoulade sauce, German mustard, black olives, German mayonnaise, biscuits, and lemon tea.   They will be adding Valrhona chocolate slabs to the range too.

Due to the popularity of the restaurant, as well as the additional business that the Le Chocolatier Factory is bringing to the restaurant, a part of the Place Vendôme garden space has been allocated alongside the restaurant, providing additional seating for 36 guests.

Le Chocolatier Factory, Place Vendôme, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2233.  Website under construction.  Monday – Sunday, 8h00 – 18h00

POSTSCRIPT: Le Chocolatier has closed down in Franschhoek, and has moved to The Apprentice in Stellenbosch.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage