Amaury Guichon's chocolate creations go viral
Despite being told by his teachers that he would never amount to anything, Amaury Guichon refused to give up on his dreams. Today, at the young age of 32, he has become the world's most famous chocolatier, boasting 50 million followers on social media. He has also founded his own pastry academy. Portrait of a resilient entrepreneur.
Toblerone: an afternoon snack
Guichon doesn't remember the first time he tasted chocolate. Growing up in the Haute Savoie region of France, he could not have predicted that he would one day become a famous pastry chef. He did not much like school: "I come from a modest family that instilled in me the values of hard work and sacrifice. My mum, who is Swiss, would sometimes give me a piece of Toblerone for my afternoon snack," recalls Guichon. He never went beyond compulsory schooling, and his teachers often told him he would never amount to anything. He left school at 14 and began an apprenticeship as a chef in Thonon-les-Bains, where he developed an interest in desserts and confectionery. He then moved to Geneva, where he specialised as a chocolate, ice-cream and pastry maker and learned the secrets of local dessert classics like the chocolate marmite (cauldron). "I would get up between 3 and 4 in the morning. The long hours, and having to start work before dawn, was hard for a 16-year-old, but it was during this period that I felt appreciated for the first time in my life. My teachers' refrain that I'd never amount to anything echoed in my mind during my apprenticeship in Geneva. I'd actually come to believe it. But I never missed a day's work and I entered every contest I could to become the best version of myself," says Guichon. His hard work paid off. With his Swiss diploma under his belt, he was admitted to the world-famous Maison Lenôtre pastry school in Paris, where he perfected his craft.
"Despite the school's reputation, I was a little reluctant to go because it meant prolonging my professional training," admits Guichon. He completed an apprenticeship in traditional French pastry-making. The skills he acquired in France became an additional feather in his professional cap. "The catering and craft trades were looked down upon in those days, but thanks to dedicated professionals like those I got to know at the Maison Lenôtre, my profession has regained much of its traditional prestige. It helped me to become more accepting of the path I'd chosen. The culinary professions have gained a lot of recognition in recent years, mainly thanks to television, the internet and social media. I believe that I owe my success to a harmonious fusion of Swiss and French culinary expertise." In 2013, one of Guichon's apprentices persuaded him to participate in a blind audition for the French TV show 'Who will be the next great pastry chef?'. He was one of the ten shortlisted finalists and came third overall. "I had my doubts about the whole thing, because in France we are very critical. When you're on TV you never know if you'll be made to look like a bumbling idiot. I was worried that appearing on this show could damage my reputation as a pastry chef. In the end, what I enjoyed most was meeting other young people who were going through the same professional experience as me. I was 22 and three months later I left for the US to learn English. I was supposed to stay for a year, but I'm still here today!"
Amaury Guichon joined the ranks of a pastry company in Las Vegas. His colleagues were older than him, didn't speak his language and did things differently. But he soon found his feet and started posting his creations on social media. He was an instant success. His newfound fame allowed him to set up his own business, and even open a pastry academy in 2019. "Pastry-making is a relatively new craft in the US, and there are few places to learn the trade. I started out teaching in private cookery schools. It was only when I reached one million followers that I was able to raise the funds to open my own academy."
@amauryguichon Chocolate Velociraptor! 🦖 This 100% Chocolate sculpture is my biggest one yet, weighing 550lbs and stands 8ft tall. #amauryguichon #chocolate #raptor ♬ Flow - Jeff Kaale
Guichon hosts a ten-week theoretical and practical training course with Belgian pastry chef Michel Ernots. "I work in my workshop from Monday to Friday and edit my social media videos on weekends. I haven't taken a holiday in three years, but I believe I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing." His trompe l'oeil creations include a chocolate foosball table, a model car for kids and a veritable menagerie of animal sculptures, including a life-size velociraptor and giraffe. "I always start with a sketch to get an idea of how much chocolate I will need for each sculpture," he says. I draw my inspiration from people. I keep a list of ideas and when one matures, I start working on it. My latest giant chocolate sculpture is a velociraptor that weighs in at 250 kilos and stands over two metres tall. It took me almost six hours just to assemble it," says Guichon with obvious pride. His chocolate sculptures are not intended to be eaten. They are on display at his academy and can be stored for up to 15 years at the right temperature, away from light and humidity. "The structural part is entirely made of dark chocolate. The sculpted parts are made of milk chocolate, which is more malleable and easier to shape and carve. In the US, the visual aesthetic of confectionery creations is paramount. In Europe, the most important thing about them is what they taste like. I've sought to combine all my skills to create beautiful and delicious pastries and confectionery. My success speaks for itself. I do think America was the right place to carve out a career. My next challenge will be to produce sculptures that taste delicious. But I'm taking my time because I want to find the right way to tackle this challenge."
A place in his heart for Switzerland
Today, Guichon has over 50 million followers across all social media platforms. This makes him the world's most-followed chocolatier. "It's my greatest reward. If anyone had told me I would one day delight and inspire so many people, I wouldn't have believed them. I'm proud to have been chosen as the global spokesperson for our beautiful profession and to raise its profile. It wasn't so long ago that I made a very modest living. I took risks with little regard for the long hours I'd have to put in. My personal sacrifices paid off in the end. The exposure I gained opened up new professional opportunities for me. I've travelled three times around the world. This has allowed me to break free of chains that threatened to hinder my creativity. I took a fair share of knocks and also met more than a few people whose humility and generosity have been an inspiration to me. None of this would have been possible without the people who follow me and support me." These days, Amaury Guichon only visits Switzerland for professional reasons. "I appreciate the calm, respect, discipline and cleanliness I find in Switzerland. I could see myself living there at some point," he acknowledges. Whenever he travels to Switzerland, Guichon enjoys fondue, raclette and spätzli. He also points out that the best chocolate is made in his two homelands. "The best dark chocolate in the world is made in France. And Swiss milk chocolate is second to none because of the high quality of Swiss dairy. Our cue to put a master chocolatier's words to the test.
@amauryguichon Chocolate Crocodile! 🐊Fun result of my 4 days Masterclass!! Crocodile or Alligator? #amauryguichon #chocolate #crocodile #alligator ♬ Limitless - Sol Rising