Paul Graindorge began his love affair with Asia in the 1980s with a trip to North Korea, Myanmar, Bangalore and Singapore. Back home in Belgium, he looked for a way to return to Asia and make his home there. When he saw a television program about a Belgian that was able to successfully build a business in Tahiti and live there, he knew this was the road he should follow as well.
He began to study the craft of becoming a chocolatier under the tutelage of Mister Denis, a well-known Belgian chocolatier. His idea was to bring quality, Belgian chocolate to Asia.
Mr. Graindorge found a Thai partner. They set up a factory in Bangkok and together they introduced Thailand to the world of Belgian chocolates. In 1993, they opened a small kiosk in the Sogo in Amarin Plaza in which they began offering Belgian chocolates on a seasonal basis.
Gearing up their production capabilities, they began using expat events to publicize their delicious creations. Soon, the popularity of Duc de Praslin Thailand began to soar. Paul’s son, Jean-Louis, soon joined the business and nurtured its growth to include three shops in Bangkok and shops in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai.
The Thai public has become enamored with the rich flavor of Belgian chocolate and Duc de Praslin has enjoyed stunning success. Many 5-star hotels around Thailand now feature Duc de Praslin chocolates in their establishments. The increasing demand for Belgian chocolates has meant that they are rapidly outgrowing their present chocolate-making facilities and are making plans to expand.
Duc de Praslin has always prided itself on using the finest local ingredients in its creations. Expanding on this premise, they have located land in Hat Yai on which they plan to create a chocolate plantation, factory and museum which the public can visit. This means that Duc de Praslin is going to be the source for fine, Belgian chocolates in Thailand for many years to come.
From Praslin to praline
In 1636, Clément Jaluzot, chef of Duc César de Choiseul Count du Plessis-Praslin came up with the idea of roasting almonds and coating them with sugar.
During a peace reconciliation between the city of Bordeaux and the crown, his creation became a huge success and the Duc took credit for the invention and named it Praline after himself (Praslin became Prasline then Praline).
Years later, chef Clément Jaluzot opened a shop selling his pralines, however, he was very careful about taking credit for his invention.
It is only in 1903 that Léon Mazet and his wife purchased the recipe and opened their shop named “Au Duc de Praslin”.
In 1912, Jean Neuhaus II created the Belgian chocolate praline which is a chocolate shell filled with soft filling. While the two words are exactly the same, their origins are vastly different.
The verb “praliner” means enrobing the root of a plant. It was coined praline because Jean Neuhaus II, whose first profession was as a pharmacist in Brussels, was selling plant based candies to heal some conditions such as stomach aches and allergies.
It became immensely popular with the European public and the tradition of fine, Belgian chocolate was born.