In 1941, Montreal’s Madeleine Daigneault and her sister Juliette Farand opened Chocolats Andrée. The tiny storefront and chocolatier on Avenue du Parc provided a way for the sisters to support themselves, and fellow women, staffing their shop entirely with those left behind by their conscripted breadwinner menfolk at the onset of World War II.
“My grandmother told me in those days, women working wasn’t something that was common or very popular,” says Stéphanie Saint-Denis, who, as Daigneault’s granddaughter, represents the third generation of women helming Chocolats Andrée. The shop’s name was chosen for its gender ambiguity when spoken, but perhaps the sisters needn’t have been so concerned about raising eyebrows with their all-woman staff. Welcomed by residents of nearby Outremont and Mile-End neighbourhoods, today Chocolats Andrée stands as a Montreal culinary institution alongside household names like Schwartz’s, Moshie’s, and St-Viateur.
“My grandmother told me in those days, women working wasn’t something that was common or very popular,” says Stéphanie Saint-Denis, third-generation owner of Chocolats Andrée.
“Everything is done with a great deal of attention to the quality,” explains Saint-Denis. That means each piece is still hand-dipped, a time-consuming technique which allows chocolatiers to micro-control the tempering of the chocolate, resulting in a covered bonbon that “touches the five senses.” This level of attention is made possible by the company’s use of original, forties-era equipment. The gas stoves are a novelty to the Gaz Métro repairmen who occasionally come by to maintain them. Behind the counter, a tight tangle of hallways open into little rooms where chocolatiers work at marble tables run with copper piping filled with hot or cool water to regulate the consistency of their caramel. The proof of this laborious intricacy is in the pudding (or rather, in the product). “If the chocolate has been well-tempered by hand instead of tempered by a machine it will be very lustrous, like lacquer,” says Saint-Denis. “It will be opaque, it emanates scent, and will crack audibly when you bite it.”
Chocolats Andrée is known for its classic flavours—not veering into pink peppercorn or matcha-yuzu territory, but rather producing chocolate caramels, cordial cherries, candied orangettes, and sweet creams made with recipes from ancient European cookbooks passed down over generations. When a new treat is added to the offerings—as most recently were the crispette française, a crunchy caramel made with pecans—the decision is made with care. As Montreal’s oldest chocolate shop still using vintage techniques and equipment, Chocolats Andrée doesn’t need novelty to impress—it has history.
Chocolats Andrée, 5328 Park Avenue, Montreal, 514-279-5923, www.chocolatsandree.com.
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