When the London gourmet grocer Fortnum and Mason (www.fortnumandmason.co.uk) advertised for a new confectionery buyer last August, it received more than 3,500 applications. The new employee would control the budget of a $4.5 million department and travel throughout Europe to meet with suppliers, scout for new products, negotiate business deals, and, oh yes, eat lots of chocolate.
Offering some insight into the challenges of professional chocolate tasting is Edward Behr, a Vermont-based food writer and publisher of the quarterly The Art of Eating. Sampling bar chocolates requires stamina of the palate because “chocolate has an astringency and a bitterness to it that makes it hard to do a lot of tastings in a row,” Behr says. Perhaps the biggest problem with the job, in his estimation, is that it takes the fun out of indulging. “It’s approaching a sensual subject in a scientific way,” says Behr. “Evaluating is not the same thing as enjoying.”