EJ Bonbons makes elegant and mouthwatering chocolates in Woodstock
Photos courtesy of Emily Kellogg
In Woodstock, two chefs with Michelin-starred training make colorful chocolate candies with exotic flavors, along with a host of other candies.
Could the Hudson Valley be the foodie capital of the world?
Ice cream from the dairy farm to the cone? To verify. Cheesecakes, pies and cookies galore? Check, verify and verify. Don’t even get us started on the region’s gourmet donut game, from vegan twists and cosmic-themed varieties to fall’s favorite apple cider donuts.
Of course, chocolate lovers are spoiled for choice. Botanical bean-to-bar operations and underground bar-style candy lounges have taken the area by storm. In County Ulster, EJ Candy and Confectionery brings both technical expertise and nostalgic flavors to Woodstock.
Two Michelin-starred chefs run this delicious chocolate destination. Emily Kellogg and Pierre Pouplard met while working at Per Se, a world-famous French restaurant in Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Kellogg is a native of New York, born in Woodstock, and educated at the CIA, while Pouplard is a transplant from western France.
â€œWe enjoyed our experience there and learned a lot. Because, [Per Se] is a great place to really learn the discipline and the fundamentals and do the right thing. Now we’ve decided to do our own thing and open our own business, and we’re very happy about that, â€Pouplard says. He grew up in a very small town before moving to Paris at the age of 18 to work in restaurants, such as prestigious establishments like Le Meurice Paris and La Tour d’Argent. At Per Se, he rose through the ranks to sous chef.
Kellogg, however, has had a different journey.
Her first job was at age 14 in a bakery. Kellogg went to the Culinary Institute of America straight from high school, then moved to New York City. She started at one of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants, then moved to Terra in Tribeca. The chef’s favorite restaurant was Per Se because, once she joined the team, she “fell in love” with it. Although the chocolate station was a highly coveted position, it was a job she had avoided since culinary school. It’s quite surprising now, given that she is the chief chocolate maker and owner of EJ Bonbons.
â€œI kind of decided the chocolate was messy and dirty and that was stressing me out. It is a very scientific and finicky ingredient. And, after being on every station in Per Se, [my chef] Pretty much looked at me and she said, ‘Okay, it’s your turn, you have to work the chocolate. This is the only station where you haven’t worked. It’s time to learn. I think I was probably the only person there who didn’t feel like doing it, â€Kellogg recalls. â€œI think I had five mental breakdowns in the first month on the job. The chocolate was so stressful and I couldn’t understand it, and I couldn’t understand. Finally, I decided, â€œI want to be good at it, I want to do well. It’s a challenge, and it’s something I can improve on. Well I was so determined not to give up that I fell in love with chocolate.
Fast forward to the start of the pandemic. Working in a three Michelin star restaurant environment, Kellogg and Pouplard’s routine was essentially “work, sleep, rehearse”. When COVID-19 slowed things down, the couple reflected on their life and their future. They suddenly spent more time together than ever. Then, while visiting Kellogg’s mother in the upstate, Pouplard suggested a quick walk around Woodstock.
It was a warm winter day, and something unexpected caught their attention: a “for rent” sign. The moment had a light bulb effect for the duo. In January 2021, they closed on a space just off the main street. Kellogg and Pouplard’s carpenter uncle handled most of the renovations, and the couple were able to open EJ Bonbons on Memorial Day weekend.
EJ Bonbons started out with a dozen flavors of candy, all with richly decorated chocolate shells. These colorful candies are part of a rotating flavor list, and past offerings include wildly inventive flavors like mojito and black forest cake. Kellogg and Pouplard take an â€œeat in seasonâ€ approach to their chocolate candies.
Summer flavors like strawberry cheesecake or blueberry-lemon give way to fall options like bourbon-maple-pecan or real apple butter caramel-cider. Currently, their most exotic treat is matcha-yuzu candy. But don’t worry, picky eaters! Classics like Salted Caramel and Raspberry Dark Chocolate are here to stay.
â€œMy mother has a beautiful garden at her house, which has been lovely for the summer. Thus, we use blueberries from his garden, as well as grapes, raspberries and other ingredients. Then we transform them into purees and integrate them into the chocolates, â€explains Kellogg.
As for the chocolate itself, EJ Bonbons sources from Amadei, a bar bean manufacturing company from Tuscany, Italy. Amadei does not use any emulsifiers or preservatives in its chocolate, so the ingredients are just cocoa nibs and sugar. Kellogg strives to keep its chocolates as clean and pure as possible. She uses crÃ¨me fraÃ®che from a dairy farm in the North East, which gives beautiful chocolate, inside and out. The store’s maple and pecan candy uses maple syrup from the Hudson Valley, and EJ Bonbons is always looking to incorporate more local ingredients.
Above all, Kellogg and Pouplard want to instill nostalgia in EJ Bonbons.
“I think a lot of the flavor profiles are pretty classic and nostalgic things. Memories of food are what people talk about, aren’t they? When you eat something and it brings you back to a specific time? I think that’s one of the beautiful things about candy, it can be quite a flavor profile in one bite, â€Kellogg says.
According to Pouplard, this is why salted caramel is still sold at EJ Bonbons.
â€œIt’s a classic. People go there because it’s familiar, â€he says. In the same vein, his fondest childhood memories inspired the fruit paste. This mellow and fruity French candy instantly brings it back to its youth. Of course, he wanted to share this experience with others who missed out on the old-fashioned cool confection, which just happens to be completely vegan. The duo also offers nuts coated with chocolate, nougat, caramels and, next summer, homemade ice cream.
Candy themselves are a bit of a relic. For many years, truffles have dominated the mainstream consciousness. Kellogg and Pouplard saw many customers taste the treat for the very first time at EJ Bonbons. Trying visitors to eat with their eyes first, they ensure the dazzling, marble-like chocolates captivate.
Kellogg tempers the colored cocoa butter to achieve the magnificent shine of EJ Bonbons’ confectionery. She uses paintbrushes, cotton swabs, sponges and a small spray gun to inflict an array of Jackson Pollock-style patterns on her chocolates.
â€œAt the end of the day, you don’t know what it’s going to look like until it comes out of the mold. We paint them upside down, [painting the mold before the chocolate is cast.] First you want [to come up with] a concept and a design that you can actually execute. Second, you want it to have an effect on customers. It should evoke the essence of the flavors within, â€says Kellogg.
EJ Candy and Confectionery
2 Old Forge Road, Woodstock
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