A manufacturer of fine chocolates for over 90 years, Godiva was founded in Belgium in 1926. In addition to its 600-plus retail boutique shops across North America, Europe and Asia, Godiva products are also sold by over 10,000 specialty retailers around the world. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, whether you love its truffles, biscuits, shakes or coffee, Godiva has something for everyone.
Godiva may be thought of as a Belgian company — it is actually owned by the Istanbul-based Yıldız Holding — its Rockefeller Center store is considered its flagship location. In honor of the world-famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, Godiva's nearby store on 50th Street hosted a "chocolate tree lighting ceremony" of its tree late last year, as made from hundreds of pounds of chocolate. Also of note was Godiva’s tree was a “social tree,” as its lighting was controlled by Twitter users.
While on-site for a glorious holiday season event — which included caroling, free hot chocolate, and samples of the brand’s new Petit Four Chocolates — I had the pleasure of speaking with Godiva Executive Chef Thierry Muret, Chocolate Genius Paul Joachim — the world’s only chocolate speed sculptor — and Sharon Leite, Managing Director of North America for Godiva. More info on the legendary Belgian chocolatier can be found online at www.godiva.com.
Where did the idea for the tree come from?
Sharon Leite: The lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree is an iconic experience for not only the local residents of New York City, but people elsewhere. Seeing the tree, and how close we are to Rockefeller Center, we saw the opportunity to participate in this very special time of year.
How long does it take to make something like that?
Chef Thierry Muret: The tree itself is 500 man hours. We have a lot of preparation to do before. We did it Friday through today. The design we had to do before it came to the store.
What happens to the tree after it has been up in the store for a few days?
Leite: We plan on keeping it up through the end of the holiday season. Our hope is that it stays up through the holidays and New Year's and we'll see how it goes. It is for our guests and customers to have a little taste of Christmas.
What kind of chocolate specifically is on the tree?
Muret: The tree is built with our dark chocolate. The main base is 500 pounds of 53% dark chocolate.
Other than the excitement here at this holiday celebration, what else is coming up for the brand?
Muret: In terms of events, we are really focused on this. It takes a lot of thinking and a lot of learning also. You see what works and what doesn't work. From the products standpoint, it is endless. Our Chocolixir, our chocolate bars, our Valentine's Day collection...
Leite: The thing GODIVA is really focusing on is our customers and our tree. How do we create these experiences for our customers every day? What products can we bring to market to allow us to do it? We think everyone should have a GODIVA Day, and not just on holidays. (laughs)
Is that a trademarked statement?
Leite: No. (laughs)
Muret: It could be.
Leite: Check! (laughs)
You mentioned that it is 53% dark chocolate on the tree, but what is your favorite of the GODIVA offerings?
Muret: I can bring you to the counter and show it to you. I can give you a taste and maybe you can let me know what you think... But as a Belgian chocolatier, we have a lot of variety and offerings. For me, I'm a dark chocolate lover. We have, for example, an 85% ganache -- The Midnight Swirl. It is one of my favorite pieces. When you taste it, it is not bitter at all. You have the cocoa content, but you don't have the stringency, the acidity or the bitterness. That's what GODIVA is all about, the balance. The Midnight Swirl took almost 14 months to develop, to find that balance in the recipe. With that 85%, it's a destruction of chocolate to different levels. So if you want, we can do a taste!
Leite: It depends on the day. If you want something a little fuller, I love the Bark with the nuts. But I do have to say, my favorite is also the dark chocolate, in particular the Midnight Swirl.
Is there something you wish more people knew about GODIVA?
Leite: The story we need to tell is the love, care and quality that goes into the products we develop and deliver to our customers every day. I had the opportunity to go to our Reading [Pennsylvania] plant and see our team in action as they make the chocolate. Every single chocolate is hand-touched by one of our chocolatiers in our plant. The care that they have for what we do is extraordinary. The things that Chef Thierre is talking about, with 14 months to develop the best possible chocolate for our customers, making sure the love and care that goes into everything we provide, is an important story to get out.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
Muret: Come on over. (laughs) We have bark for you.
Leite: Hot chocolate. We have soft serve. We have chocolate-covered strawberries. So come on over and grab some yummy appetizers.