July 7th 2017 hails as World Chocolate Day, and who better to talk to than one of Cayman’s finest chocolatiers, Denise Jerez of The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. Denise is based in Anchor & Den’s La Bomboneria, which (unsurprisingly) became an instant hit following 2015’s Taste of Cayman festival. The concept derives straight from the roots of chocolate – monkeys, who were the first to discover cacao beans. This authentic approach along with Denise’s vision are a perfect match, and the proof is in the pudding (chocolate).
Denise, tell us about yourself. What led you to become a chocolatier?
I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in a family owned restaurant – so I was surrounded by amazing food all of the time. I knew from a young age I wanted to be in the culinary world. I was raised in it! But it was my grandmother who swayed me towards pastry as she was an amazing baker. I started studying in 2005 at the Instituto Argentino Gastronomico for pastry at the age of 19. I was offered an incredible opportunity to move to Dubai in 2011 to work in the well-known Burj al Arab a 7-star hotel. While I was working there I took advantage of the chance to learn about chocolate design from the chefs. From that point onwards, I knew this is what I wanted to do!
Where do you draw your inspiration from in Cayman?
I love to tap into the fresh local produce available locally and use it in my work. We are currently in mango season, so I’m working on a mango marshmallow inside a bonbon. I never know when I’ll be inspired. The first time I tried the “Monkey Food” cocktail at the Marriott, I loved the combination of the local banana, coconut rum and fresh pineapple, so I HAD to make it into a bonbon!
What is the best part of your job?
For me, seeing a successful creation from beginning to end. I am lucky to have the freedom to use my creativity and the ability to experiment with flavours. I use a trial and error process to ensure only the best flavour combinations make the final cut!
Can you describe that moment when you finally get the combination of flavours right?
Wow. It’s like you touch the sky with your hands. It’s amazing for me, with the passionfruit bonbon in particular. Seeing people try it and instantly seeing the look on their face when they are enjoying it is priceless. When we have no bonbons left in the kitchen at the end of the day, I know I’ve done a good job and it’s a great feeling.
The chocolates on the board:
- Kisses are Dulce De Leche
- Green and yellow is cilantro and lemon and dark choc
- White chocolate and passionfruit
- Milk chocolate and bourbon
- Cappuccino with dark chocolate, coffee licquer, cinnamon, more coffee, milk chocolate
- Passionfruit with champagne
- Lemon and cilantro with champagne
- Milk choc with bourbon with a coffee
What is your favourite/most interesting food combination with chocolate?
Chocolate combined with cheese is amazing, you can combine so many variations together. It’s a long process but it’s very good. Otherwise, I’ve recently discovered the combination of chocolate and herbs such as basil or cilantro.
How to make the best hot chocolate:
An Argentinian El Submarino is made with just hot milk in a pan, with a chocolate bar stirred in. This allows the chocolate to paint the glass and brings out the best of its flavour. You can also add vanilla if you like.
Simple cookies dipped in chocolate
- 250g flour
- 180g butter
- 90g powdered sugar
- 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 325°f /180°c. Put your baking tray in the freezer while the mixture is prepped.
Start by whisking the powdered sugar and butter (with an electric whisk if possible) until white. Add the egg and combine well. Finally, add the flour and mix slowly.
Remove your tray from the freezer, and pipe your mixture into your desired shape. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the sides develop a light golden shade.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Following this, you can either:
- Make a Nutella sandwich
- Dip into melted chocolate of your choice and leave to set
- Incorporate into an ice cream sundae