Cultural traces: an autumn journey on fragrant earth streets. A journey isn’t a question of changing position and moving, but junctures and agreements, memories and character. The history of the world is summed up by a way that runs from north to south, chasing the Italian sun. Chocolate is an investigation into our ancestral identity. Rhetorically, the composition of a maitre chocolatier recalls the choreography of an intellectual dance.
Cecilia Tasseri in conversation
A continuous movement, on the one hand a body with its steps and its gestures, spin, go and return, on the other the chocolate that becomes solid or liquid, continuously mixed and blended. «I danced for many years, it was and is my passion. Even today, when I see a dancer performing, I feel good and bad at the same time. Sacrifice, pain, toes, blood. The transformation of feet. Yet I look at my feet, one different to the other, and I think about the lessons I learned in dance: never stop, to act according to a method, a rigor in the way of modulating gestures when talking with people». Cecilia Tessieri founded her chocolate business in 1990 giving it the name of her maternal grandmother. What started as a laboratory of 45m2 is today an agency of 2500 that has an office in an in a former cast iron foundry in the hamlet of La Rotta, in Pontedera. «Grandmother always lived with us for us she was a cook and an exemplary woman. Born in a nearby town, she raised her family alone, doing menial jobs.
I was born in public housing, and if today I live in a beautiful house then I owe it to her and the determination she passed on to me». At 22 years old she began making chocolate, after scientific and commercial study, which she gave up to focus on business. She is recognised as one of the first maître chocolatier women in the world, but never accepted the definition. «I picture myself as a chocolate creator, not skilled worker. I dedicated my life, even my youth, to learning a trade with humility, in a historical period in which chocolate was not well known. Andtwenty years ago the awards began arriving when there weren’t as many laboratories as there are today». In 1998 the Toscano Black 70 – cocoa seeds and cane sugar in a 70% extra dark blend with hints of tobacco and toasted malt – won the gold medal at the London Chocolate Academy. The same recognition arrived in 2006, 2007 and 2008. «I began this work washing chocolate bowls. This wasn’t what I was aiming to do, but it helped me. For every thing that you do, you need to have perspective. Perhaps this is what is missing from the new generation: humility, which does not mean keeping silent and obeying, but speaking at the right time, taking teachings and elaborating on them in your own way to get a result». The inspiration to create chocolate arrived for Cecilia above all from perfume and travel. She loves Asia, where she often traveled for cocoa – even if the business had a team of agronomists scattered around the world that could identify new plantations or maintain existing relationships. Her second trip to Japan was inspirational. «It surprised me to discover their relationship with food. At Kyoto a buddhist monk explained to me the raison d’être of chopsticks, which I did not know. While our fork attacks food, forces and hurts it, chopsticks welcome, embrace and respect it». At work they make marble cylinders which sink into fluid chocolate that has been heated in a bain-marie in large tanks, and massage it for 72 hours. Roasting, milling with the stone mills, refining of pasta and conching. From Amedei some machines date back to the end of the nineteenth century, they were recovered around Europe. They come alongside modern ones. «Every chocolate has its processing needs, you need to understand when you need to use one or the other machine. In addition to the basins where the chocolate “dances” for 72 hours, there are smaller and technological ones, where the cycle lasts 6 hours». Within the company which has been part of the Ferrarelle group since 2017, Cecilia Tessieri’s role is that of research, development and process control – «I devote myself to experimental trials on new products or checking compliance with the characteristics of chocolates already in production». «My chocolates are like children. The Toscano Black 70 is the firstborn. Depending on my mood or time of day I eat a different kind of chocolate. The closest to my taste and my practical ability to work is the fondant, but sometimes a gianduia praline gives me satisfaction». The chocolate way questions identity: food, travel, perfume. A path marked by five chocolates identified with five hotels – noble residences, resorts, old houses – and five artistic perfumes. Smells, routes, recovered memories.
Next story to be released soon