MEXICO CITY – At the age of five he told his father he wanted to be a “chocolatier” and was told “If you’re going to be a chocolate-maker, you must be ‘the chocolatier,’ not ‘a chocolatier,’” and Silvio Bessone has followed that advice.
Born in the small Italian village of Villanova Mondovi 52 years ago, Bessone is now the world’s best-known chocolate-maker.
“You have to do what others don’t know how to do. You have to be a dreamer, and that means thinking about what’s to come later when you do something today, and studying and experimenting and learning and traveling,” chef Bessone said on a visit to Mexico, the cradle of cacao, where he is giving a cooking course featuring chocolate as the basic, or unifying, ingredient.
Invited by the Herdez Foundation for the 2nd Week of the Italian Cooking in the World festival, Bessone took part in the “Italy and Mexico: a blend of ancestral cultures” conference with the aim of comparing the two cultures, two sides of the same coin, through their gastronomical richness.
“We’re in the cradle of cacao. The culture of cacao is possible thanks to Mexico, a country that consumes more than what it produces and that has an unequalled chocolate gastronomy and culture,” Bessone told EFE.
“The Mexican peasants know cacao. The story is handed down from parents to children over generations and they cultivate it carefully because nothing is grown better than when it’s grown for oneself,” he said.
Twenty years after being recognized as a chocolate expert and after 141 trips to cacao plantations around the world, Bessone acquired his own plantation in Brazil.
“What does ‘certified’ chocolate mean? Nothing, really. Genetically modified cacao is grown to give more output per hectare and the taste falls by the wayside; the environment is not respected,” he said.
Thus, he created the Bessone Method Patent, a scientific way of processing cacao, not only to certify its quality but also to ensure that its production is ecologically sound, respecting both the environment and the workers who cultivate it on the plantations.
Bessone is an international adviser to different sustainable cacao projects in Tanzania, Sri Lanka and assorted Latin American countries.
“It’s all in our hands. We mustn’t hide behind laws ... to avoid our responsibility,” he said.