James Smith

Pastry Chef at AVIVA STADIUM - Dublin



Let’s discover EXPEDITION 65%, a bespoke couverture created by Chef James SMITH from AVIVA STADIUM in Dublin. At the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, the flavour and fluidity of the couverture had to be balanced for multiple uses across the venue. From the stunning dessert to the chocolate bars, EXPEDITION 65% is part of Aviva stadium experience!

1-What prompted you to develop your bespoke couverture?
Here at Aviva Stadium, we continually cater to a large and vast array of patrons and guests throughout the year. Our chefs create bespoke and memorable culinary moments for every match day, conferences, event and meeting. Our Head Chef, James Smith strives to only use the highest quality ingredients and therefore Valrhona chocolate has always featured when creating exquisite desserts. Given the considerable amount of Valrhona we were purchasing annually, we became aware that is was possible to create our own unique, exclusive, flavour profile of chocolate. We were grateful for the opportunity to work on this project and felt very lucky to be welcomed into the Valrhona Family.

2-Why did you choose the Valrhona bespoke offer?
Our culinary team knew the Valrhona family values matched our own- we share a passion for quality and decadence that cannot be matched in other chocolate brands. It is evident in their way of working that they have a deep- rooted history in fine chocolate and we were proud to partner with them on this project.

3-Can you quickly tell us about your experience and the history of your bespoke chocolate?
The Valrhona family invited our culinary team to Cite Du Chocolat (the city of chocolate) in L’Hermitage in the Rhone Valley, Lyon, France. This was a trip of a lifetime for the culinary team and a chance to experience first hand how this fine chocolate is produced from bean to bar. Our culinary team were inspired by the time and dedication they put into every part of the chocolate.

4-Did the idea you had when you start to develop your bespoke couverture evolve with the Valrhona support?
At the beginning of our chocolate journey, our Head Chef, James Smith had a flavour profile in mind. We worked closely with Valrhona’s team of experts to develop this concept. Their support and expertise was invaluable in creating a truly unique flavour profile.

5-What is the aromatic profile of your chocolate? Tell us about your bespoke chocolate (origin, taste…)
We are incredibly proud of our Valrhona chocolate creation, called ‘Expedition 65’. The general meaning of ‘Expedition’ is ‘a journey undertaken by a group of people with a particular purpose, especially that of exploration or research’ and that really summed up our thoughts on this project. The ‘65’ represents the percentage of the chocolate. For our culinary team, 65% was perfectly balanced to not only eat alone but dark enough to have a rich intense flavour with hints of vanilla and light enough to use in desserts.

6-What impact has the creation of your bespoke chocolate had on your business?
Sharing our exclusive Valrhona blend, ‘Expedition 65’ with both our internal and external stakeholders has been such a rewarding experience as they supported the project throughout the process. However, the most rewarding element has been sharing the story with our clients and receiving their feedback post event. People are fasinated to hear the chocolate is exclusive to our venue and they enjoy showcasing the chocolate to their clients or guests. We also created a mini Aviva Stadium chocolate bar which we use daily as a meeting/ events sweet treat- people are apprecitive of this…. Who doesn’t want a chocolate bar!

7-How would you describe the bespoke chocolate couverture experience with Valrhona?
Our experience with the Valrhonda family has been so inspiring and memorable for the entire cuilinary team. Valrhona have inspired the team to really explore the world of chocolate, their dedication and passion is infectious. We are grateful for their ongoing support and education and their understanding of our goals.