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January 31, 2012

The secret life of a chocolatier

The Cape Quarter. Photo courtesy Danie VDM

La Chocolaterie Maya, the setting for the movie Chocolat, exists for me as the perfect chocolaterie. The deep aroma of cocoa swirling around, antique tiles on the floor, glass pots with their rich bounty of glistening dark, milk and white chocolate adorned with Maraschino cherries, almonds and sugared fruit and yes, if I’m honest … Johnny Depp casually leaning against the doorframe.

In pursuit of this ideal, I found a number of chocolate havens in Cape Town and the winelands, one of these being The Chocolate Studio located in the Cape Quarter Lifestyle Village with chocolate maestro Dimo Simatros at its helm.

Dimo is regarded as one of the country’s finest pastry chefs. He started his formal training with a City and Guilds pastry course that was continued in the United States, France and Switzerland. He has represented South Africa in the United States Culinary Classic Competition, at the Culinary Olympics in Germany and at the Culinary Challenge in Singapore.

Chef and chocolatier Dimo Simatros. Photo courtesy The Chocolate Studio

We asked Dimo a few questions about the secret life of a chocolatier.

When and how did your love affair with chocolate begin?

Well, I have always had a sweet tooth and my career in chocolate specialisation was a natural extension from working in pastry and bakery kitchens of five-star hotels across the world. From there it evolved into what it is today a full-blown obsession.

The Chocolate Studio offers a number of affordable courses  that are open to the public – why this decision?

We are open to all chocolate enthusiasts, entry level chefs and people who might be looking to change careers or open a small business. We provide recipes, techniques and know-how to make top quality products. The decision to do the studio was so as to open up the market and let the public learn to make a selection of chocolatier Lindt’s best kept secrets and become knowledgeable on what quality they should be looking for.

What is on the menu for the special Valentine’s chocolate-making course?

It’s our first year offering this special for Valentine’s Day. On arrival participants will receive a glass of bubbly. Thereafter we will take them through decadent  recipes which they will make in a heart-shaped dish to take home. They will also be making their own heart-shaped lollies for their partners. They’ll also be able to taste the 85% chocolate torte, one of the latest recipes developed by the studio.


Sinful truffles. Photo courtesy The Chocolate Studio

What do you enjoy doing in Cape Town in your spare time?

Personally, I enjoy going to the beach, taking my mini Schnauzer for a walk especially out towards Melkbos as it is so tranquil and quiet.

Honestly, which chocolate is your personal favourite?

At the moment I am quite enjoying the intense cranberry and touch of sea salt from the Lindt Excellence range.

Once you have been to The Chocolate Studio to learn more about chocolate and chocolate-making, where else in Cape Town can you go to serve your chocolate craving? Here are some of my favourite picks:

  • Torino’s Chocolate also known as The Chocolate House on Kloofnek Road
  • Myatt Café & Chocolatier at the V&A Waterfront
  • Bravissimo Chocolatier in the Garden’s Centre
  • Huguenot Fine Chocolates in Franschhoek
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