Plaq, “From Bean to Bar”

Plaq, “From Bean to Bar”

Nothing predestined Sandra Mielenhausen and Nicolas Rozier-Chabert – founders of the Plaq chocolate factory – to become chocolatiers. And yet. They are among those who have made a somewhat surprising career move to pursue their common passion: cocoa. The duo – now a couple – met during their previous careers in sales. But it is inside their chocolate workshop that they are continuing their adventure, united by their shared chocolate obsession. Because these two inveterate gourmets are no longer satisfied with their role as tasters. Having tasted it in all its forms since childhood – and from Nicolas’ sweet expeditions through Paris on his motorbike to Sandra’s business trips, always accompanied by a bar of chocolate – they felt the need to “make it to their own liking”. A new lifelong venture, with the idea in mind of “going into a traditional sector and bringing a different perspective to it”. Inspired by the “Bean to Bar” process – a new and demanding manufacturing approach in the United States that puts the cocoa bean at the heart of the process – their factory, located in the commercial Rue du Nil, offers gourmet products far removed from traditional French chocolate manufacturing. Simple, pure: Plaq chocolate is handmade, sourced from all over the world. From Venezuela to Peru and, soon, West Papua and Belize. These are exceptional vintages, which they work according to a recipe totally devoid of the ingredients added by industrialists. Instead, they use only the essentials. A straightforward, powerful and distinctive product that must, above all, please them. Begging to be eaten immediately as a snack. Or in cakes and gâteaux, ice cream or hot chocolate: a thousand and one indulgent ways to treat yourself during the festive season, but equally all year round!

Manufacture Plaq, 4 rue du Nil, Paris (75002), open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 to 19:30 and Sunday from 10:00 to 18:30. You can also find all Plaq products on their e-shop: www.plaqchocolat.com. Have you enjoyed reading Sandra Mielenhausen and Nicolas Rozier-Chabert’s story? Have a look at The Socialite Family & Plaq gift box on our e-shop. A gift set we have put together with their help, containing two Plaq chocolate bars accompanied by a beautiful Divino cushion.

Tablettes de chocolat chez la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Tables en bois et chaises métalliques chez la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Tote bag Plaq dans leur manufacture à Paris
Tablette de chocolat Plaq dans leur manufacture à Paris Tablettes de chocolat dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris Barres de chocolat dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
  • Sandra, Nicolas: can you introduce yourselves, please?
Sandra

I’m from Lyon, but I’m fundamentally Parisian and every summer, totally Mediterranean. Swimming and culinary forays help me enjoy life.

Nicolas

I was born in Versailles, but so were Air and Etienne de Crécy! I studied and have always lived in Paris. Watching my three daughters grow up is my greatest joy.

Sandra & Nicolas

Our first meeting was professional. Sandra, the demanding customer, Nicolas, the attentive supplier. But chocolate was a game-changer. This common passion has strengthened our bond to the point of us giving birth to our daughter June, and to the extent that we decided to change jobs.

  • What is your background?
Sandra

I studied at EM Lyon, worked at Bocuse, and began my career at Hennessy and Dom Pérignon. But it was at Dior Parfums that I really grew up! I learned there that product quality and passion are always at the root of a great business.

Nicolas

I studied business for a while, loved publishing and contemporary art. I learned what a great company is at Lagardère Active, and it was a pleasure to run H5 – a graphic design studio, co-producer of the Oscar-winning Logorama. After advising big brands, it was time to create my own. With passion as my guiding principle!

  • Where does your passion for chocolate come from?
Nicolas

At home, my mother made a cake every Sunday, often with chocolate, always with me as her apprentice. I cycled around and tried out all the pastry shops in Versailles. On a motorbike, all the best in Paris. Abroad, I often made truffles to impress my friends. I always kept a bar of chocolate close at hand in the office. For myself, to make meetings more pleasant – or to seduce Sandra. I had access to Jean-Paul, Jacques, Patrick, Alain and so on. I watched the new chocolate makers across the Atlantic, the Mast Brothers, and then Dandelion and Palette de Bine. Watching them do things differently and discovering their Bean to Bar method was the trigger for me to create Plaq.

Sandra

As a child, it was my favourite sweet treat from my parents. Before long, I was discreetly (but regularly) stealing a few squares from my father. And since then, I’ve always enjoyed cooking with it, experimenting with it and eating it in all its forms: pure, melted, mixed with milk, as soft fondant or melting in a gâteau. Chocolate dictates my thoughts. I’ve always had it with me, both in Paris and elsewhere! In my drawer, in my bag, at my fingertips, in meetings and on business trips. Every day it’s my dessert, my treat, my pleasure. I can easily pop in between noon and two o’clock to find myself a bar. I love it so much that tracking down and exploring all the chocolates in the world is no longer enough for me. Now we make it. And we make it to my/our liking.

Tablettes de chocolat dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Présentoir dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Tablettes dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris

Behind each chocolate, there is a bean that moves us. And, consequently, a desire to roast it more or less gently, to add more or less sugar (...)

Présentoir dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Fèves de cacao dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris Fèves de cacao dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
  • Tell us how your business came to be called PLAQ.
Sandra & Nicolas

A brand rather than a surname. To distinguish itself from the French tradition, with its Best Craftsman in France designations and its family dynasties. To echo our taste for purity and simplicity. PLAQ has values: Pure = using only two ingredients. Free = doing things differently, as we like to do them. Artisan = staying close to the bean. Qulotté = it’s all about the chocolate

  • You claim to make chocolate “From Bean to Bar”. Can you explain how this is reflected in your manufacturing process?
Sandra

*Bean To Bar” is a new approach that emerged in the USA in the early 2000s in the wake of microbreweries and speciality coffee shops. The pioneering Craft Chocolate-Makers have laid the foundations for a new chocolate that is the result of a demanding manufacturing process putting the cocoa bean at the heart of everything and affirming ethical and eco-friendly values.

Nicolas

Behind each chocolate, there is a bean that moves us. And, consequently, a desire to roast it more or less gently, to add more or less sugar, to marry it with cow’s or sheep’s milk, to taste it as it is, in a slab, blind, on an empty stomach, alone or as a team. We analyse, close our eyes. We have found our recipe.

  • How do you choose the producers you buy from?
Sandra & Nicolas

Chloé Doutre Roussel introduced us to sourcing. She taught us how to find, taste and transform great cocoa into a chocolate that reflects us. Regardless of the geographic origin or the price. Aromatic quality is our only compass. Our palate, our main tool. The process is always the same. First, receive and test the sample. A batch test should confirm the promise if the bean is attractive in the pop test. Then it takes a little time. The third ingredient in our chocolate. Six months, on average, before it can go on sale. A trip to the plantation isn’t necessary but is always desirable. For the pleasure of meeting people, learning about the land and understanding the ecosystems. To identify micro-lots, to know how to describe each cocoa. Already in Venezuela, in Peru. Soon in Belize and West Papua.

  • How did you come up with the idea of processing your chocolate in your little factory in the Rue du Nil?
Sandra & Nicolas

Paris is famous for its chocolatiers! Most of them are chocolate makers. Their expertise lies in ganaches, sculptures and confectionery. Their practice is very classical and often stems from a family history, a world that is both traditional and secret. While BeanToBar was spreading to the rest of the world, bringing modernity and transparency. We wanted to be part of this taste revolution by giving it a distinctly Parisian interpretation. Introducing a new taste of chocolate, more intense, fruitier, more complex. Doing it on Rue du Nil was an obvious choice. This is the place where we used to come to do our shopping. A pedestrianised street synonymous with demanding sourcing. Working the cocoa by hand in front of the eyes and noses of passers-by, letting them taste all our chocolates, offering the opportunity to have a cake, an ice-cream or a hot chocolate in a dedicated place as warm and welcoming as an all-chocolate coffee shop was an obvious choice.

Fabrication du chocolat dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Fève de cacao dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Chocolat manufacture Plaq à Paris

We make chocolate to please our own palates. We have many inspirations; they change all the time. We don’t always agree, but we complement each other.

Sandra Mielenhausen et Nicolas Rozier-Chabert dans leur manufacture Plaq à Paris
Gâteaux au chocolat dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris Biscuits dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
  • Who are your gourmet products aimed at?
Sandra & Nicolas

First and foremost, at us! We make chocolate to please our own palates. We have many inspirations; they change all the time. We don’t always agree, but we complement each other. This makes it possible to offer a fairly wide range. Our customers are just like us! They are looking for straightforward flavour and intensity rather than sweetness. High-quality ingredients rather than ‘nice products’. Skill rather than virtuosity. Sugar that is confined to the role of a discreet enhancer, revealing, not masking. You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate these things! Like great wines, they just need to be consumed in moderation.

  • You have partnered with our brand to create a Christmas gift set containing some of your products. What attracted you to the idea of this collaboration?
Sandra & Nicolas

We’ve always loved and followed The Socialite Family. We have so many values in common! The taste for happy combinations, the demand for quality at the right price, the search for short supply chains, the love of work done by hand and great materials, the attention given to the form. But also the courage to enter a traditional sector and bring a different perspective to it. The idea of going into people’s homes to describe them. The desire to share a little of their private lives. Being born in the same neighbourhood is no coincidence. The Sentier neighbourhood is what unites us!

  • Do you have a favourite product in your range?
Sandra & Nicolas

At home:The Panchina bench, the Rotondo seat in curly wool and of course the Divino cushion in all its sizes!

Nicolas

With us: Chuao 76%, an aromatic explosion. The hazelnut macaroon, you can’t stop. The pistachio praline, so long in the mouth!

Sandra

The Maya Mountain 84% bar, my daily dose. The melting hazelnut candy is powerful and sweet at the same time. And bars of Pur Noir pistachio praline, subtle and exquisite.

  • Where will we find you over the coming months?
Sandra & Nicolas

In Belize, on the Maya Mountains plantation. It is one of our favourite cocoas. The pandemic has deprived us of trips to our producers. We urgently need to have the pleasure of doing so again!

Biscuits dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Inscription Plaq dans leur manufacture à Paris
Table en bois dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris
Cakes au chocolat dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris Boissons chaudes dans la manufacture Plaq à Paris

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