French Chocolatiers portraits - Jérôme Lépinay
Jérome Lepinay is a poster child of the French apprenticeship system. After middle school, Jérome enrolled into a two-year professional degree in pastry (CAP, or Certificat d’aptitude professionelle as it is called in France) that he completed with a multi-year apprenticeship in France and internationally. Twenty years later, Jérome Lepinay is at the top of his art, still full of a youthful energy and ideas to grow his business while preserving the quality of a chocolate made with the care and art of a true artisan. It is not an easy task, but Jérome is up to the challenge
Back in the days, chocolatiers were initially trained as pastry chefs and it was as an apprentice that Jérome fell in love with chocolate, mentored by a master chocolatier who taught him the skills, rigor, and dedication that are required to become a great chocolatier.
After a three year "Tour de France" (a centuries-old tradition for artisans who want to master their art) during which he worked along some of the best French chocolatiers (Bernachon and Le Notre to name a few), Jérome was ready to fly on his own and start his business. Without much money, he had to start small, so he initially supplied gourmet boutiques and gastronomic restaurants. Along the way, his creations won many awards and eventually, Jérome managed to secure a space and opened his first Lepinay boutique in Lagny-sur-Marne near Paris. With the help of his wife Céline, he now manages two boutiques in France. Three more stores have opened in Japan, the result of a partnership he built with Japanese customers who are fans of his chocolates. Jérome is already planning for his next store opening and is thinking about venturing in the United States at some point.
The challenges Jérome faces as he plans for his future are typical yet real for a perfectionist who takes pride in his chocolate creations:
“We make everything ourselves: our pralinés and our infusions*. I source my chocolate from several chocolate makers that I use to create the perfect blend for each flavor (for example, a mint flavored ganache will be made with a chocolate blend different from the chocolate blend used in a cinnamon flavored ganache). All this adds to the complexity of my production. As we grow, I need to be very careful about my production planning because a bad decision can be very costly, and I don't want to compromise on quality.”
There were no mistakes made in the very refined chestnut honey ganache that I tasted. As I bit into it I travelled back to my childhood vacation memories in the Cévennes where chestnut honey was always on my morning toast. I appreciated that I could enjoy the very strong and distinct taste of the honey without overpowering the chocolate ganache. All the other chocolates I tried were perfectly executed and deliciously creative.
Jérome also uses chocolate to create elaborate sculptures sometimes designed with local artists.
*Infusion: process of infusing the cream used to prepare a ganache with spices, flowers, teas or herbs.
33 rue du Chemin de Fer, Lagny-sur-Marne, France
11 rue Eugene Galbrun, Nogent-sur-Marne, France