Maestro of Chocolatiers
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández /©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Image: Spanish pastry chef Paco Torreblanca. Toya Legido/©ICEX
Paco Torreblanca is considered by many to be the "agitator" behind patisserie in haute cuisine. Born in 1951 in Villena in the province of Alicante (Valencian Community), at the age of just 13 he was fortunate enough to travel to Paris, in those days when Spain was still suffering international isolation. His vocation had become clear to his father, who decided to send him there to train with a family friend, Jean Millet. And his stay in the City of Light eventually lasted for 13 years.
But the time came to return to his homeland of Alicante where, in the town of Elda and together with his wife Chelo, he founded his patisserie. They chose a name reflecting the great hopes they had for their new enterprise - Totel, a transcription of a Japanese word (suggested by a Japanese friend) meaning "the light of something new". He was always clear about the main lines of his work. Amongst others, he wanted to design the flavor of chocolate. He is fascinated by the possibilities of blending cocoa with spices from all over the world, or with ingredients from the Mediterranean diet. He has also studied and experimented with the use of extra virgin olive oil to replace cocoa butter, creating chocolates with astonishing smoothness.
Paco Torreblanca searches for balance not only in flavor but also in the textures of the different elements involved, with combinations of soft, spongy, crisp and others, to surprise and stimulate the palate. When asked about the secret to a perfect sweet, Torreblanca does not hesitate. "Always the raw materials. I've been called a creator of aesthetics, but I prefer to create flavor. The appearance is certainly important, but what really counts is flavor".
One of his latest endeavors is to reduce the sugar content in his creations. "There is always a touch of sweetness, but we are especially interested in bringing out the aromas, flavors and even any savory elements. But without forgetting our starting-point."
In 2006, he opened his first store outside Elda, in an alliance set up with Sergi Arola for the Paninoteca D'E restaurant. The agreement came to an end after two years, when Torreblanca decided to focus his energies on setting up his own stores in several Spanish cities. The first was opened in late December 2008 in Alicante.
Torreblanca's children work closely with their father - David is in sales, and Jacob is at the helm of the patisserie after winning the Spanish and European Championships at an even earlier age than his father. From their father they have inherited honesty and an appetite for risk-taking. But his sons are not the only ones to learn from Paco Torreblanca. The master patissier and chocolatier has set up a school on the premises at Totel, where every year ten lucky candidates are able to work alongside him, taking in everything he can teach them about the profession of master patissier. And adopting for themselves his motto, "Desserts should be what they once were - a grande finale to a wonderful meal".