For chefs Gonzalo (Gonzo) Jimenez and David Lewis of Miette et Chocolat, creating pastries and chocolates isn’t just about satisfying sugar cravings. It’s about using design, aroma, and flavor to evoke emotions and memories. In mid-December, after a year and a half of preparation, the pair are opening their own sweet shop—Miette et Chocolate (“crumbs and chocolate”)—in the Stanley Marketplace. We caught up with them to learn more about their multi-sensory approach to sweet treats.
Gonzo Jimenez (left) and David Lewis (right)
5280: How did you get your start in the pastry business?
Gonzo Jimenez: I was born in Argentina and started working in restaurants when I was 17. I’ve worked for the Hyatt Corporation in New Orleans, New York, and Chile. I’ve worked for Barry Callebaut as a corporate chef for the South American region and as director of the Chocolate Academy in Chile. In New York, I launched a personal line of chocolates that was sold in hotels throughout Manhattan. Here in Colorado, I was the pastry chef at the St. Julien in Boulder.
David Lewis: I’m born and bred in Illinois. I grew up around country cooking and started working in restaurants when I was 15. I worked with Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion in Las Vegas, then for Harrah’s and Norwegian Cruise Lines, then back to Vegas. Eventually, I became the executive pastry chef at the Brown Palace Hotel. I left there to become co-owner of Miette et Chocolat with Gonzo.
How did you two come together?
GJ: We met at a food show and hit it off. Later, I was asked to enter a chocolate competition in which you have eight hours to do a chocolate sculpture. I called up David to see if he wanted to work on the competition with me. We did it, and saw that we could work well together under pressure.
DL: We did a few more competitions together and, a couple of years ago, began talking about how we were both tired of working for big corporations and stressing out over money that wasn’t ours. When you work for a big corporation, you’re always worried about meeting weekly goals, food and labor costs, and all that stuff. So we said, “What if we just open our own place?”
GL: We figured if we’re going to be stressing out about money, it ought to be our own money.
What is different about your approach?
DL: We’re a French-style chocolate shop but we create modern “haute patisserie.” While we enjoy classic French treats, we’re both fans of modern design.
GL: This is why we have a peculiar and very modern way of presenting our chocolates and desserts, and this is also why we apply modern pastry techniques in our craft. Our creations are oriented in design and architecture. We try to balance the perfect combination of modern aesthetics, flavors, and textures.
DL: We like to catch the client’s eye with the way we present our products, but we also want to be remembered because of our explosive flavors. When it comes to creating recipes and desserts, we are inspired by anything that surrounds us. It could be a modern building or a fresh smell we experience up in the mountains.
GL: Right! For example, right now we’re developing a dessert that represents the Flatirons, which I wake up and see every morning. We’re infusing cream with pine needles and then using that to make the ganache for the dessert, for instance, and focusing on the particular look of the Flatiron’s sharp edges. So you’ll see, taste, and smell the whole experience of being in the mountains.
Wow. Where do you get your chocolate?
GL: Our main chocolate comes from a small factory in Belgium. We created the recipe for a specific type of [60 percent cacao] chocolate using a blend of African cocoa beans, and they make it for us. Once the chocolate’s made in Belgium, they ship it to us and we start working with it to make our creations. No one else in the country is using this chocolate!
DL: We also work on a smaller scale with other single-origin chocolates for our candy bars, specifically those made with Peruvian, Colombian, Madagascan, and African beans.
Now that you’re small business owners, are you under more or less stress than before?
GL: Oh, it’s ten times more stressful now because it’s our pockets. But there’s a lot more joy in it, too.
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