Experience 2: Meeting a real-life Willy Wonka in Belgium

by Oliver Smith
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If Belgium were a piece of chocolate, then the town of Bruges would surely be the gooey bit in the middle.

As anyone who’s been there knows, Bruges is the chocolate capital of the universe – a town where you can get a chocolate massage, where you can gorge yourself sick at chocolate festivals, where all the local dentists drive around in Ferraris.

Today we met up with Bruges’ high priest of chocolate and probably the closest equivalent to Willy Wonka in the world – Dominique Persoone. A maverick chocolatier, Dominique’s chocolate-based sorcery knows no bounds. He’s mixed chocolate with everything from cauliflower to tobacco, from beetroot to sex stimulants. He’s been on Indiana Jones-style research expeditions to remote corners of Central America where chocolate was once worshipped as a deity.

"Chocolate has erotic qualities," he told us when we visited him in his shop today. "Montezuma, king of the Mayans, had 40 girlfriends – that’s because he ate chocolate every day."

Dominique let us taste his creations from the final frontier of chocolate making – chocolates to send your tastebuds into a tailspin. There’s bacon-flavoured chocolate for breakfast, chocolate lipstick and – best of all – ‘sniffing chocolate’ – a powdery substance first commissioned by the Rolling Stones. Using a tiny plastic catapult, Dominique shot a bolt of mint chocolate up our noses – resulting in a magnificent chocolatey sensation that seems to fizzle its way to the farthest corners of your brain.

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