Bob Hartwig, chef instructor at The French Pastry School in Chicago, gives his take on industry trends, pastry versus confectionery and the trials of making chocolate.

Moulding a mentor

“In order to challenge yourself and grow, you have to be slightly uncomfortable with what you’re doing,” says Bob Hartwig, chef instructor at The French Pastry School in Chicago. He relates this statement to the way 16-year-olds feel their first time driving. No surprise then that Hartwig’s assertion also applies to his career path.

Taking his own advice, Hartwig accepted various career opportunities in Chicago, such as Rhapsody and Mango restaurants, the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile and the Four Seasons Chicago. Although hired as a pastry chef at each location, he nevertheless created various kinds of candies at each locale.

But before Hartwig ever realized his love for confections, he found his passion for pastry. As a student at the Culinary School of Kendall College, he originally planned to focus on the savory side, but a mandatory class changed his mind.

“I was actually training to do everything but pastry, but you had to take a requisite pastry course,” he explains.

It was in this pastry class that Hartwig’s instructor showed the class how to make croissants. After all the ingredients were mixed, the dough laminated and then cut, the students watched as the instructor placed the croissants in an oven with a glass door.

“It was watching that croissant develop in the oven – that was the day I knew that I had found the side of the business that I liked the most.”

From that point on, Hartwig immersed himself in more pastry courses until his graduation in 1997.

Good advice

Once it was time to begin his career, he asked one of the chefs he trained under for advice, which turned out to be: “Find Jacquy and Sebastien and do whatever they say.”

Hartwig heeded this advice and began work at Rhapsody, where he first met Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sebastien Canonne, M.O.F., founders of The French Pastry School. At that time, Pfeiffer and Canonne were consultants for the restaurant. As the three chefs formed a professional relationship, their friendship grew as well. Throughout his career, Hartwig moved from restaurants to hotels, and Pfeiffer and Canonne were always consulted. This friendship and professional relationship continued until Pfeiffer and Canonne asked Hartwig to work with them at The French Pastry School as chef instructor.

And as quickly as his new career came, it changed.

“Just when you think that you’re doing the last thing that you’re going to do, I happened to get married to another pastry chef and pastry shop owner,” Hartwig says. “We’ve now taken a chance on working together.” (See sidebar)

Teaching the craft

Entrepreneurship aside, Hartwig still teaches chocolate-based food enthusiast classes part-time at The French Pastry School.

“As I went down [the pastry] road, what started with a croissant led to an emphasis more on the candy side of things and the sugary side of things,” Hartwig says.

And although Hartwig had plenty of experience in candy making, he still had much to learn about teaching.

“There is a distinct difference between executing day to day and teaching how to execute day to day,” he explains. “Virtually every job I’ve had I’ve made candies of various kinds; virtually every job I’ve had I’ve made cakes of every kind, and so on. I think [Jacquy and Sebastien] took what they knew I was doing day to day and moulded me into a teacher.”

While the classes Hartwig teaches all involve chocolate, many also include pastry. By teaching both arts, he realized the two aren’t so different. Two things Hartwig found that pastry and candy have in common are respect of ingredients and precision.

“Pastry and particularly candy making is something where you really have to be mindful of the waste and the cost of your ingredients because one little piece of candy, a career does not make,” Hartwig says. “Millions of pieces of candy later, you’ll build a career.”

Additionally, to be responsible with ingredients and precise in one’s craft, a chocolatier or pastry chef should try to minimize waste, Hartwig says.

“My personal challenge used to be minimizing waste,” he says. “That’s really the biggest challenge I faced and now I face the challenge of trying to teach that to my students.”

By keeping a clean and organized kitchen and by reusing as much scrap material as possible, chocolatiers can save on the costs of ingredients. But bigger than his challenge of minimizing waste, Hartwig’s goal as a teacher is to inspire.

“They would call us perfecters if our job was to get [students] to do it as well as we do it,” he says. “I really just hope to inspire and motivate [my students] to want to continue to do it after [they’ve] spent time with me.”

One of Hartwig’s mentors, Jacquy Pfeiffer, works with other chefs to create chocolate pieces.

Hartwig's mentors

And Hartwig would never neglect to mention how much he’s learned from others, whether it be a co-worker, student or chocolatier. There is always someone to learn something from, he adds. Specifically, Hartwig’s mentors include Norman Love of Norman Love Confections and master chocolatier Jean Pierre Wybauw.

“From Jean Pierre, I get inspiration as a teacher,” he says. “From Norman Love, it’s execution. I have great heroes, so to speak, on both sides of making candy. They’re completely different styles, completely different flavors, completely different men, but just amazing chocolatiers.”

Norman Love became a mentor of his after teaching Hartwig one of his first chocolate classes. One thing Hartwig admires most about Love is his ability to create large batches of candy with a small-batch appearance.

“Norman sells many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pieces of candy in a year; however, if you separate out any one of his pieces of candy, it looks like somebody who only makes 50 pieces of candy a year made the candy,” Hartwig explains. “So he’s found a great balance of perceived value, actual value and being able to do something in a large volume.”

Wybauw is internationally recognized as one of the greatest chocolatiers of all time, Hartwig says. (SeeCandy Industry’sFeb. 2008 issue.) As an author, pastry chef, chocolatier and teacher, Wybauw travels the world imparting his knowledge onto others. The enthusiasm and joy he brings as a teacher are what motivated Hartwig to pursue teaching his own skills, he says. (Wybauw will be teaching at The French Pastry School March 16-19, 2009.)

Tips, techniques and trends

One of Hartwig’s favorite tricks is decorating the part of the candy that the consumer sees the least of: the bottom.

“Every time I eat a piece of candy, I look at the bottom of the candy,” he says. “The bottom of the candy tells a tremendous story to somebody who knows how to make candy.”

Aside from the decorative aspects of the technique, chocolates decorated on the bottom can also be a conversation piece. For instance, let’s say a couple is sitting together having coffee and eating chocolates. One of them may lift up a candy to eat it, showing the other person the candy’s decorated bottom without even realizing it. The candy may then surprise the couple and spark a conversation, Hartwig explains.

On display, the chocolates can be lined up with just one flipped upside down to show the decorative bottom.

Another thing Hartwig treasures with his chocolates is keeping them simple and pure.

“When my kitchen age was younger, I kept feeling pressure and motivation to reinvent the wheel,” Hartwig says. “As I’ve matured, I have noticed that simple and clean always seems to win the race. So my approach has become much more pure.”

But that’s not to say he disagrees with “trendy” confections.

“I am a firm believer that if things are executed well, there is no right and wrong,” he says. “We’re simply left with taste.”

Another trend Hartwig has noticed appearing more often in the industry is perishable candy. It’s not uncommon these days to find a box of upscale chocolates with a personalized expiration date on it. Although expiration dates may be somewhat inconvenient for consumers, they allow the manufacturer to tell its customers that its products were made with high quality ingredients, in small batches and without any preservatives, Hartwig says.

And Hartwig has high hopes for the confectionery industry in the future.

“Some things I hope to see are an elevation of the basics,” he explains. “In other words, people that go back to the classic things and make them better.”

This means more confectioners following the “less is more” approach. For example, “Don’t have 500 offerings; have 25 that are really perfect,” Hartwig says.

He also hopes to see a higher end product at an affordable price. Confectioners must shoot for the highest customer they can afford to produce to, he says.

Like his mentors, Norman Love and Jean Pierre Wybauw, Hartwig is dedicated to creating high quality, artisan chocolates in his career that meet the standards of his customers. And although Hartwig’s mentors have helped mould him into a pastry chef, chocolatier and teacher, through his career experience and working at The French Pastry School, he has become a mentor to many others.

Sidebar: A Lovely Idea

Gina Hartwig and Brooke Dailey first met at The French Pastry School in Chicago in 2006. By June 2007, Gina and Dailey opened the doors to Lovely: a bake shop. Bob Hartwig took the opportunity to join his wife’s business after it had been open for one year. As an experienced pastry chef, Bob’s responsibilities at the shop included making products, scaling ingredients, serving customers and even doing the dishes, mopping the floor and offering technical support.

“My main focus these days is expansion,” he says. “We just started demolition on our next location, so I’m sort of spearheading the growth of the company.”

Both stores, located in Chicago, will be under parent company, A Lovely Idea. The Hartwigs are hoping to open the second location by May 1, 2009. 

With responsibilities at Lovely: a bake shop and beginning construction on a second location, one might think Bob has his hands full. But Bob’s full-time career as a pastry shop owner hasn’t stopped him from working at The French Pastry School with his mentors Pfeiffer and Sebastien – or chocolate.

The French Pastry School's Hazelnut Candy Bar Recipe

Hazelnut Marzipan

Water    170 g
Sucrose    300 g
Patisfrance Bitter Almond extract    2 g
Roasted Hazelnuts    675 g

§    Bring water, sucrose and almond extract to a boil.
§    Grind roasted hazelnuts with a Robot Coupe and then add the warm syrup.
§    Using the friction of the bowl, grind and pasteurize to 85°C/185°F. 
§    Allow the marzipan to cool and roll it on a thin layer of crystallized chocolate.

Hazelnut Praliné

Cacao Barry Cacao butter    20 g
Cacao Barry Milk chocolate couverture 38%    60 g
Cacao Barry Hazelnut Praliné 50%    150 g
Spice House Fleur de Sel (finely ground)    1 g

§    Crystallize the melted cacao butter and couverture.
§    Add the praliné and the fleur de sel.
§    Spread into frame on top of marzipan layer.
§    Allow to crystallize in a room with 16°C/60°F 60% humidity.  

Hazelnut Ganache

Cacao Barry Dark chocolate couverture 64%    70 g
Heavy cream 35% fat    20 g
Milk 3.6% fat    30 g
Patisfrance Trimoline    5 g
Cacao Barry Hazelnut praliné 50%    25 g
Plugra 82% fat butter    10 g

§    Melt the couverture halfway.
§    Bring the cream and milk to a simmer and pour over the couverture.
§    Add the trimoline, praline, butter and emulsify. 
§    Pour over the praliné layer and allow to crystallize in a room with 16°C/60°F 60% humidity.


§    Allow to set for 24 hours in a room with 16°C/60°F 60% humidity and cut using a confectionery guitar.
§    Allow 24 hours to dry the bouchées. Enrobe in 70% dark chocolate couverture.