ZUTPHEN – The 18th edition of the Chocolate Festival takes place on Sunday 25 September. Between 12.00 and 17.00 visitors can again see the best chocolatiers in the Netherlands at work, enjoy the most beautiful and delicious chocolate products and participate in activities with and around chocolate in collaboration with the drawing festival The Big Draw.
By Emy Vesseur
For a long time it seemed that the 18th edition of the chocolate festival would not take place. “Permits had to be sought from the municipality last year, and then there was still great uncertainty about the closures. Later I thought it was a bit much to tackle the organization on my own,’ says organizer Huub Janson in his chocolate workshop on Korte Hofstraat, where the smell of cocoa is omnipresent.
Eventually, other entrepreneurs managed to persuade him. Maarten van Kranenburg and Patrick van den Brink from Lutim Creatief Mediabureau, who are also involved in the Bokbier festival, helped him with the organization. Together they put their shoulders to the wheel, and on Sunday 25 September, Zutphen’s town center will once again be chocolate all afternoon.
How it started
Chocolatier Huub Janson conceived the chocolate festival 20 years ago as a playful marketing campaign. “In 1996 I started my own business. The location in the historic heart of Zutphen was perfect, but turnover lagged afterwards. Somehow there had to be more tension. Not just for my shop; the city deserved it too. But how?”. The answer to that question hangs like a movie poster on Bonbonatelier’s wall: Chocolat. His children gave him the book of the same name by Joanna Harris about a chocolate shop in a southern French village.
In 2000, the book was successfully made into a film starring Juliette Binoche. Janson: “A wonderful story that ends with a chocolate party. I would also organize something similar in Zutphen.” The municipality was enthusiastic, and he also got other entrepreneurs involved. The first chocolate festival was an instant success. People came from all over the country, causing a traffic jam from Bakker Bril in Voorst to IJsselbrug. Since then, the festival has attracted between thirty and forty thousand visitors each year. “It really put the city on the map. Recently I told someone from Amersfoort that I lived in Zutphen and was told “Oh, that chocolate town”. It filled me with pride.”
The best chocolate makers in the country come to Zutphen for the chocolate festival. Spread across Zaadmarkt and Groenmarkt, you can see them at work, each in their own traditional way. They make chocolates and bonbons in many forms, which you can of course taste and buy. Janson: “Each chocolatier works in his own way. For example, my chocolates are injected and others mold them.”
A chocolatier participating in the festival for the 12th time is Arthur Tuytel from Alblasserdam. With the Dutch patisserie team, he won the silver medal in 2005 at the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie, making him one of the best in the Netherlands. Tuytel: “Zutphen is not our neighbor. We still like to come, because the festival is super fun. When we arrive in the morning for construction, the market is still completely empty, but by 12:00 it’s full. Very special.” Tuytel’s team always comes with three tents. The tent with two chocolate fountains is especially for children. In another, a large piece of chocolate is being worked on. In the third, visitors can have chocolate slices described with a short, personal text. “Everyone absolutely loves it and some come back every year for it,” Tuytel enthuses. “All the happy faces, that’s what you do it for. That’s the magic of chocolate.”
Fairtrade and slave-free
The cocoa used by the participating chocolate producers is guaranteed fair trade and 100% slave-free. According to Janson, the latter is difficult to check in practice. “All chocolate producers work with sustainable, Belgian chocolate, whose supplier is affiliated with the Cacao Horizon Foundation. It supports West African cocoa farmers and their communities with training to take the plantations to the next level so that their children can go to school and women also have their own income,” explains Janson. “But they remain family businesses, with women and children occasionally helping out.” One of the measures to give the cocoa farmers a better income is the development of the fruit drink Kumasi, which is available at the festival. Janson: “Usually only the cocoa bean is used to make chocolate, while the pulp around it is very juicy and fruity. The meat is now made into a delicious fresh-sweet fruit juice which tastes like lychee, pear and white peach. In this way, the cocoa farmers earn extra money from something that was lost before.” If you want to know more about the history of cocoa and what a fair and sustainable chocolate chain looks like, you can visit the special exhibition of the only cocoa and chocolate museum in the Netherlands at the festival.
Collaboration The Big Draw
This year the festival collaborates with the drawing festival The Big Draw, which takes place from 23 to 25 September. Normally, the municipality allows only one event in the city centre. This time an exception was made. “Chocolate and drawing are both creative and connecting, so we joined forces,” says Janson. The cross-pollination results in a number of new festival elements, such as painting and drawing with chocolate for children, body painting with chocolate and painter Lily Kooymans creating a large chocolate artwork. Traditionally, the living statues and Janson’s chocolate fountains with fruit bars will not be missing. Visitors can choose from four flavors: milk, dark, white and ruby. Here and there in the city, other entrepreneurs will participate in their own event. There is a fashion show and a puppet show. “But with a wink or a link to chocolate,” says Janson. “Otherwise it will be an ordinary fair.”
The theme of the chocolate festival is Africa. “It makes sense when you consider that most cocoa beans come from this continent, especially from West Africa,” says Janson. In continuation of the theme, three African bands have been invited, who create a typical African atmosphere with infectious rhythms and sounds. La Compagnie Tahoungan showcases Togo’s culture, dance and music, traversing the center with traditional instruments and clothing, masks, waders, fire and fire eaters, witchcraft and voodoo rituals. On stage, Mandinkabi plays traditional griot music from Senegal and Gambia; and Boka de Banjul gives a stunning musical performance with Gambian Mbalax influenced by a mix of styles such as jazz, afrobeat, reggae, rock and more. “With all these ingredients, it will again be an unforgettable event for young and old,” predicts Janson. “If thirty thousand people come, I will be very satisfied.”
The 18th Chocolate Festival takes place on Sunday 25 September from 12.00 to 17.00.