Starting in January, budding chocolate artisans can hone their craft — and indulge their sweet tooth — in a new continuing education program at George Brown College.

The professional chocolatier certificate will give students the skills to work with the tricky product and create treats ranging from confections to visually stunning showpieces.

The school’s chair of continuing education credits a recent shift in Toronto’s culinary landscape for the program’s creation. “Chocolate in the last five years has been experiencing a complete renaissance,” says Joe Baker.

“What happened for a really long time was that handmade products were replaced by pre-fab products from large product developers. That ended up translating to the customers or guests in restaurants and chocolate shops — it really didn’t inspire them.”

Now, he says, handmade products from entrees to baked goods are making their way back into kitchen and retail shops around the city. To that end, Baker predicts the program will attract two distinct types of students, “the urban foodie who just has a real passion for chocolate,” as well as professional chefs and pastry chefs who recognize the need for chocolate skills in their kitchens.

Guiding them will be Chef Jennifer Lahkan-D’Souza, who developed the program and will teach its five courses. Besides being a full-time pastry chef, Lahkan-D’Souza has taught baking and pastry arts courses at George Brown for several years and attended international chocolate training programs.

“We’ll have our projects of the day, which might be one or two things,” she says. “Generally I will demonstrate them and review the formulas with the class, and then each team of students will perform them with me there to help out.” At the end of the day, the chocolatiers-in-training get to take home their creations.

Students can expect to make a variety of treats in their state-of-the-art bake lab (one of four recently unveiled at George Brown). For example, the chocolate desserts course will tackle both traditional fares, such as cakes or tortes, as well as modern desserts, which will likely be plated and use contemporary techniques such as foams and powders, says Lakhan-D’Souza.

The compulsory courses range from 15 to 42 hours each. In addition, students must obtain “stage” experience — the culinary world’s term for a short apprenticeship — to earn their certificate.

Whether students approach the courses as a hobby or professional advancement, Lakhan-D’Souza thinks the program will open minds when it comes to the possibilities of chocolate. “I hope that they’ll just gain an appreciation for chocolate as a medium and learn to work with it and love it.”

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