Story by Mark Chittom
Photo by James Anshutz
You almost need a map to find your way among the disparate cultural influences in one of Padovani’s sake-infused chocolates: Madagascan cacao beans and Japanese sake are married using French confectionary techniques, all on a Hawaiian island. But then, chef and chocolatier Philippe Padovani has long been a man of the world. He was born in France, grew up in Australia, got his culinary training back in the motherland and then struck out for haute establishments across Europe and, finally, in Hawai‘i. His brother Pierre followed a similarly cosmopolitan path through the kitchens of the world to wind up in the Islands. Today the two chocolatiers, who have made confections for everyone from John Travolta to the Dalai Lama, speak with an expert’s confidence about mixing chocolate with exotic ingredients—including their latest, sake. “Knowing that we make a lot of chocolate with tropical fruits, brandy and champagne, and Hawai‘i being a melting pot,” says Philippe, “we felt sake was a natural.”
The Padovanis make their five differing sake chocolates—including a Yamahai Junmai chocolate and a Tamagawa Kinsho “Heart of Gold” Sake chocolate—onsite in their confectionery in Honolulu’s Dole Cannery Marketplace. The process begins, says Philippe, with sake selection; the guiding principle is choosing sakes that exhibit “flavors that are very subtle and delicate.” Hints of lemon and pepper in the sakes, he notes, add an additional layer of nuance. Next, Pierre crafts each candy in painstaking detail. The sake is infused in a ganache, a mixture of cream and white chocolate, which is then encased in a shell of dark Madagascan chocolate. (“The heaven,” says Philippe, “of chocolate.”) The process is not nearly as simple as it sounds: One tray of candies can take up to eighteen hours to complete, in a process rife with pitfalls. One errant bubble, for example, can wreak havoc. But with more than sixty years of culinary experience between them, Pierre and Philippe can fall back on tried and true techniques and their finely honed intuition. And there’s the most fail-safe method of all: “When we cook,” says Philippe, “we taste what we do.” The result is a unique confection with the gentle kick of sake, the creamy bitterness of dark chocolate and a global flair.