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On the Job

The sweet science of chocolate making

Chocolatier Rick Gemme says he is “constantly in search of the perfect chocolate combination.”Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

As the chocolatier charged with innovating new flavors for Chocolate Therapy stores in Dedham and Framingham, Rick Gemme is most inspired by his travels around the world. After a recent trip to Turkey, he experimented with a date and cardamom chocolate; a visit to Malta produced a citrus-tinged truffle. “I’m constantly in search of the perfect chocolate combination, which, in my opinion, is something that’s not too sweet and has a little bit of savory, maybe a little salt,” said Gemme. “This makes a nice contrast — not all one flavor note.”

You attended the Culinary Institute of America. What did you learn there about chocolate making?


The CIA is intense, almost like a military school. The chocolate class is crammed into three weeks of eight-hour classes. You start with a basic ganache, then move on to molding, then sugar pulling, taffies, and more.

What’s the most difficult kind of chocolate to make?

The chocolate part is easy — it’s what you add to it that’s difficult. I make a blueberry, lemon, basil truffle with pectin jelly inside. If you’re not stirring constantly with a whisk, you can get lumpy hard spots.

How do you source ingredients for the chocolate?

At food shows, various vendors offer a range of samples. There can be as many as 30 different companies with five lines of chocolate — or more — each. It’s mind-boggling: organic, single origin, multi-origin, 99 percent, super dark, super bitter.

Does chocolate reflect the origin of the bean?

Chocolate is like wine; flavors vary from region to region. Chocolate from Ghana, for example, can taste fruity while chocolate from the Dominican Republic might reflect coffee tinges. Even in the same country, one side of the mountain or another might have a very different flavor.

What’s your all-time favorite chocolate shop?


Hugo & Victor in Paris. Stepping inside is like entering a fine jewelry store. Truffles sit in cases like diamonds.

Do you have any culinary rookie moments?

I did a vocational program in high school where I was sous chef for the day. I put a pot of water on the stove, forgot about it, and left it on high heat for five hours. When I came back, there was no bottom left on the pot.

Isn’t it tough to resist eating chocolate all day?

Sampling the chocolate is the best part. But I don’t gain a lot of weight because I run through this kitchen about a thousand times a day. People think chocolate making is a sedentary job but if you’ve ever seen that comical candy conveyer belt scene from “I Love Lucy,” that’s how it is here.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.