The Flemish Primitives: Chocolate surprise (part 2)

Chocolatier by profession, Shock-o-Latier by reputation! I bought this box the next day at Dominique’s shop “The Chocolate Line” to bring back home.

As I mentioned in part 1 of the travel report from Brugge, the highlight (for me at least) of The Flemish Primitives seminar was the surprise box presented to us by Dominique Persoone (owner of The Chocolate Line) and his team which included James Petrie (pastry chef at The Fat Duck), Tony Conigliaro (mixologist, bartender at Roka, blogger) and Bruce Bryan (medical doctor and inventor). As the box was distributed in the auditorium (more than 1000 present, mostly chefs) the instructions were kept very simple: DO NOT OPEN THE BOX! Makes you wonder of course what is inside.

Once all the boxes had been distributed (and expectations had risen to even higher levels) Dominique was ready to give further instructions. Too make a long story short – to acompany each piece of chocolate there was a short video, music/sounds and a smell! For each piece of chocolate the text “EAT NOW!” let us know when to taste the chocolate. I won’t even try to describe how the different elements tasted – and the reason for this is simply that I was so taken by the totality that I stopped noticing details about the separate element. It was really cool and it took me by surprise! But I’ll give you a list of the chocolates and the picture/sound/smell pairings, just to give you a brief idea of the concept.

Dominique Persoone let us know exactly when to eat the chocolate!

1) Breast formed chocolate with pipette containing sweet, white liquid. Picture/video of breast, a baby beeing breast fed and sound of crying baby. Smell of baby filled the room. Verdict: Surprising element when nipple came loose – it was quite chewey!

2) Chocolate on field of grass – the chocolate was in fact flavored with grass extract! Video of a gras lawn being mowed, hot summer day, buzzing insects. The auditorium was filled with the smell of freshly mowed grass – together with the smell of freshly baked bread most people rank this as one of their favorite smells. I asked Bernard Lahousse about the smell and he confirmed that this was a single compound smell which basically means that they used cis-3-hexenal. Verdict: My favorite!

In between chocolate 2 and 3 we had the glowing lollipops – I’ll come back to that in a later post, promise! I have to research the chemistry behind that first 😉

Chocolates are numbered clockwise, starting at top left.

3) Chocolate with crisp crumbles and small chocolate fish oysterganache and crumbled smoked sea-eel. Video of ocean waves. Smell of sea and ocean was spread with large fans on the stage together with a fog producer to get a nice fog effect. Verdict: Ocean smell was quite overpowering 😉

4) A chocolate filled with a watery gel. Video starting with a warm, dusty dessert followed by thunder lightning and ending in a thunder storm with heavy rains. An ocean perfume was distributed by means of balloons that were dropped. Participants who captured a balloon were instructed to puncture the balloon in order to liberate the perfume. Verdict: Watery gel had a very pleasant cooling effect, contrasting the chocolate.

Liver cappuccino served in chocolate cups

Following the chocolate tastings Tony Conigliaro demonstrated a cocktail with “raindrops on leaves” which included a ganache of green tea. There were no tasting samples of this one – and it was too far away for pictures, but Tony had also participated in preparing a coffee based drink that we got to taste in one of the breaks (I’m a bit uncertain about who else participated on this one). A whipped cream prepared with goose liver was combined with coffee and chocolate. When pouring the coffee, the goose liver cream floated up, creating a “liver cappucino”. It tasted nice actually! Only faint hints of the foie gras, but yes – it showed that coffee has more than meets the eye.

Tony mentioned to me that he’s blogging too over at Drink factory. Do check it out!

Long time readers of this blog might remember that I’ve mentioned the aroma jockey Erich Berghammer before. Performing under the artist name Odo7, he blows scents over his audience with huge fans and has stocked up a pantry with exotic spices, roots, leafs, oils, extracts and herbs. The smells are vaporized using hot water. In the post I asked why Odo7 hadn’t been invited to a restaurant yet – I dare say we came quite close during this “chocolate surprise” session. But without doubt, for the next year’s event it would be really cool invite Odo7 for a performance. And if you allow me another wish – since it all took place in a concert hall where acoustics are good and there is a large stage – how about combining Odo7 with taste samples, modern ballet and some really groovy music? With such a combo one would truly approach a Gesamtkunstwerk – a term originally coined by Richard Wagner. At that time in encompassed music, theater and visual arts. I think it’s about time to expand that and include all the senses!

You might now think that this would fit very well in a movie theater, and yes – some thought about that already 🙂 Smell-o-vision has been a reality for a loooong time. In fact you have to go all the way back to 1916 when rose scent was distributed with the help of an electric fan during a newsreel about the Rose Bowl game. And the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote about multi-modal (=several senses) eating in his “Futurist cookbook” which was published in 1932. Sub sole nihil novi est!

My question for you is: Have you ever tried this? What smell or perfume would you like to serve with your food?


  1. Overwhelmed by the coolness of the chocbox I forgot to take pictures of its content. Hence my polite question if you’ll allow me to use your picture of the 4 pralines…

    BTW you forgot to mention the oysterganache and crumbled smoked see-eal – essention with the sea/chocolate pairing.

  2. You may – please include a link to this post and “Photo by Martin Lersch”.

    And thanks for the details on the additional chocolates – my multitasking abilities came to an end while eating, wathcing, listening, smelling, taking notes and photographing…

  3. Very interesting, this one. I’ve a long time wondered how ODO7 manages to fan out new scents during a show while the first scent still lingers around. Any idea how this might work?

    Also: previously, I blogged shortly on the relationship between music and aroma/odour (and will surely add one more post now :). I think this is a very interesting connection, and I’m sure that this might have a potential in terms of improvised music: rather that using “canned music”, one might have live musicians improvising in response to the aromas and flavours. In that case, the music will be a dynamic comment upon the aroma (and/or flavour). In our band, we’ve used photographies and poetry as impulses to playing improvised music, and it works quite well. However, aromas and flavours seem to me being far stronger impulses in terms of personal experience; bringing back memories, giving associations etc. I’d really like to have our band on stage for such an event 😉 ( and

  4. Where can I locate this mystery Khymos whipped chocolate recipe. So far no luck with either Kamakazi chef or ISI whipper blog

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