Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chef Michael Poole – Summer Sabbatical

A few months ago, I was pleased to learn that Seattle Fire Lieutenant and Chef Michael Poole was coming to town in July for his summer sabbatical. He visits Paris every year and often spends time in a professional culinary establishment to perfect techniques and to learn new ones for his catering business and chocolate-making activities. I arranged to meet him and his life partner and Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Hot Chocolat, Dr. Michele Simms-Burton, at a café to find out what they have planned for their stay this year. It would be our first face-to-face encounter!

Michele Simms-Burton and Michael Poole
© Discover Paris!

For the next several weeks, Chef Michael is working at a bread, chocolate, and pastry shop called Pascal Pinaud on rue Monge. He spent his summer sabbatical there in 2005 and again in 2012, working with owner Pascal Pinaud. Chef Pascal was once a pastry chef at the Cordon Bleu, the cooking school where Chef Michael graduated as valedictorian with Le Grand Diplôme in 2003. The network of contacts that he developed at the school has proved invaluable. This summer he has come to Paris to improve his macarons, which are already making a big splash in the U.S.

Image courtesy of Chef Michael Poole

After receiving his diploma, Chef Michael began his quest to become a master chocolatier with a fellow Cordon Bleu grad, Virginie Duroc-Danner. He worked with her in 2003, 2006, and 2008. Last year, he continued this pursuit during his stint at Chef Pinaud’s pastry shop. This year, he carried a sample of his most popular flavors to Paris. Shown below (from left to right), they are Raspberry, Coffee Caramel, White Chocolate Lemon Meringue, Macadamia Nut Caramel, and Honey-infused Lavender.

Signature “Hot Chocolats”
© Discover Paris!

I was tempted to devour the White Chocolate Lemon Meringue ganache but had to restrain myself – these samples had a more important purpose that day.

As well as meeting Chef Michael, I was excited to meet Michele Simms-Burton because she has handled much of the correspondence that I’ve had with the Chef. Michele is a Certified Instructional Systems Designer who consults with businesses and the U.S. federal government to improve organizational and human performance through designing and developing training. Prior to consulting, she was a university professor for 20 years, ending her teaching career in African-American Studies at Howard University. She met Chef Michael at Malika’s, a former Senegalese restaurant in Paris’ 6th arrondissement in 2008. As soon as Chef Michael presented samples of chocolates that he had made, she realized that he might be an interesting person to get to know. The rest is history!

Michele and Chef Michael maintain residences on both coasts of the U.S. (in the Washington, D.C. area and Seattle, Washington, respectively), so they do a lot of cross-country travel. In addition to her own professional activities as a consultant, Michele handles the organization and administrative responsibilities for Chef Michael’s events. She even trims and boxes chocolates for the events, relieving him of this time-consuming task! Looking beyond their chocolate-making activities, she and Chef Michael have designed an online training module for culinary students who wish to intern with Chef Michael.

When asked about what’s new with Hot Chocolat, Chef Michael’s artisanal chocolate brand, the Chef reported that he now has a line of spicy dark chocolates consisting of Firehouse Chili (a white ganache with his award-winning chili mix), Habernero Caramel, and Cayenne Caramel. He has also created a line of vegan chocolates made with 70% cocoa, coconut or soy milk, and coconut butter. The five ganaches that comprise this line are Coconut, Raspberry, Coconut Caramel, Mt. Rainiers (Marcona almond), and pure Dark Chocolate. I was intrigued to learn about his dark-chocolate-enrobed Bacon Cayenne Caramel bar – it has a piece of home-fried, apple- or maple-cured bacon in every bite! Unfortunately, he did not bring a sample of this creation with him. In other news, Chef Michael told me that his Hot Chocolat ganaches and bars are now available at six retail outlets in the Seattle area.

In terms of shows, Chef Michael was pleased to report that he won a gold medal for his toffee at the 2012 and 2013 Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salons. He plans to participate in the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle in September 2013 and the 7th Annual Los Angeles Chocolate Salon in October 2013.

After our conversation, we left the café and meandered up rue Mouffetard to Mococha Chocolat, my favorite chocolate boutique in the 5th arrondissement. After I introduced Chef Michael and Michele to proprietor Marie Gantois, he presented his chocolate samples to her. Some stimulating conversation ensued and as a result, there’s the distinct possibility that Chef Michael will be a guest chocolatier at Mococha next summer!

A suivre… (To be continued…)

To view the previous ETBP articles on Chef Michael, click on the links below:

Chef Michael Poole – Firefighter and Cordon Bleu Grad
Chef Michael Poole – Artisanal “Hot” Chocolat

Check out the Paris Insights blog post about Chef Michael here:
Meet Michael D. Poole – Chocolate and Pastry Maker


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