For Paula Stakelum at Ashford Castle, sustainability is very high on the agenda when selecting a supplier. All cacao sourced and used at Valrhona is traceable, giving a high level of transparency across the supply chain. Important, as creating your own chocolate is also about expressing your story, feelings and creativity. Discover an exclusive interview of Paula STAKELUM about the bespoke chocolate developed with Valrhona called LEGEND 55%.
1-What prompted you to develop your bespoke couverture?
A conversation with our Sales & Marketing Director Paula Carroll prompted the development of our couverture at Ashford Castle. I shared a vision with her that “We will create the best chocolate in the world” and her response was – you are very ambitious – I can’t wait to see what you do”. !
With the support and guidance of our Executive Chef Phillippe Farineau and Niall Rochford Our General Manager, we set out to create a chocolate our guests would only experience here at Ashford Castle. A couverture that would be unique to Ashford and compliment wonderful Irish ingredients and foraged ingredients on the estate.
The chocolate is called ‘Legend’, inspired by the legendary history of Ashford and our extraordinary Owner, Mrs Tollman whom we refer to as “a true legend.
2-Why did you choose the Valrhona bespoke offer?
The chocolate was created respecting Ashford Castle’s ethos of sustainability set by Red Carnation's parent company The Travel Corporation (TTC), and its not-for-profit Treadright Foundation. The Treadright Foundation is committed to progressing sustainable tourism, benefitting the people, places and wildlife impacted by tourists.
We chose to work with Valrhona as not only do we believe it is the best chocolate in the world, but we also share the same beliefs regarding sourcing, sustainability and quality. It is important to our sustainability ethos, that we create with meaning. We believe ‘Legend’ reflects the Treadright Foundation’s belief ‘Make Travel Matter’.
3-Can you quickly tell us about your experience and the history of your bespoke chocolate?
In 2019, we celebrated 80 years of Irish hospitality at the Castle and to mark the occasion, we created ‘Legend’ by Ashford Castle.” The creative process had started in 2017 when Sandrine – Valrhona’s bespoke product manager, came to the Castle. Together with Philippe we tasted lots of difference chocolates with different flavor profiles, beans and roasting notes. We shared our vision for the chocolate we wished to create. Emphasizing we would like all the beans from Africa and a Milk Chocolate with a high cocoa content for our Irish and American guests. The applications we wished to use the chocolate for, and the most important the distinct aromas and taste profile we wished to create.
4-Did the idea you had when you started to develop your bespoke couverture evolve with the Valrhona support?
Yes, after a few tastings back and forth between Ireland and France and a final taste test with the team at Ashford and Mrs Tollman, “Legend” was born.
5-What is the aromatic profile of your chocolate? Tell us about your bespoke chocolate...
We created a chocolate with a 55% cocoa content for a rich milk chocolate tasting experience. The cocoa beans for the chocolate are sustainably sourced in Africa. Led by the cocoa, the first tasting offers slight fresh milk notes, followed by hints of sweet vanilla and biscuit, enhanced by floral and honey aromas. The chocolate has a strength that it not overpowering and lingers delicately.
6-What impact has the creation of your bespoke chocolate had on your business?
“Legend” is a taste experience exclusive to our guests at Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford castle. We have created a Couverture to represent the ideals of Ashford Castle, authentic luxury at its finest. This experience begins the moment our guests open the box of chocolates, the surprise and delight followed by the “wow” moment of tasting them for the first time.
It is our hope that “Legend” will become “Legendary” for our guests.
7-How would you describe the bespoke chocolate couverture experience?
The whole experience was very professional – Valrhona captured everything we wanted to create.