Foodways Q&A: Ramon Perez of Puur Chocolat
By Sarah Singleton
You could say that Ramon Perez was practically born in the kitchen. At his own insistence, Perez worked in the kitchens of his father in restaurants in both Napa and in Nevada City from the tender age of 12. Later, he was then educated at the New England Culinary Institute and worked in Los Angeles, Europe and was instrumental in implementing the pastry programs at various locations of the David Myers restaurant group in L.A.—a position that allowed him to travel the world and hone his skills with the sweet stuff.
Perez and his wife, Nicole, relocated to Sacramento with the intent of focusing solely on chocolates and confections that reflect the seasons, their travel experiences and unique and adventurous flavor combinations.
Currently, all confections are made in the Perez mad chocolate laboratory in North Sacramento and are available online or at Block Butcher Bar.
I caught up with Ramon and Nicole for a tour and some tastes and a chat. They are really nice and the chocolates are both beautiful and delicious. The round, airbrushed chocolate pieces are jewel-like in appearance and I’d happily wear one as a brooch if I could keep myself from eating it. I loved some of the random combinations, especially the kimchi caramels.
Sacramento Foodways: What was your favorite childhood candy?
Ramon Perez: Spekken, its a Dutch marshmallow candy. I used to allow it to dry for a day or two so it would be dry and chewy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
SF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
RP: I was very fortunate to grow up in the business, so I knew from a young age I wanted to become a Chef.
SF: Who or what is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?
RP: Definitely my Dad, to this day he continues to inspire me through his food, his knowledge and his work ethic.
SF: Who are your biggest influences?
RP: My Dad. A few of my pastry chef friends are huge influences, Chris Ford, David Rodriguez, Ron Mendoza, Kei Hasegawa. Savory- Daniel Humm, David Myers, Dong Choi, Kuniko Yagi, Jonnie Boer, Michel Bras.
SF: When or why did you start making desserts?
RP: I started making desserts in ‘98; my parents had just opened up Citronee in Nevada City, CA and needed someone to make desserts. My dad taught me the basics of classic French Patisserie, laminated doughs, custards, choux etc. I fell in love instantly, and I was quickly devoted and a full time student to Pastry. I would stay at the restaurant after service, and study and practice recipes out of books. Inspiration and creativity took over, and soon I started creating my own recipes.
SF: How did you decide to focus on sweets rather than savory as a profession?
RP: I love how technique driven and precise Pastry and Chocolate are. Though all forms of cooking is a science, the pastry kitchen allows for a little more of scientific and calculated approach.
SF: How do you get the kimchi into your kimchi caramels?
RP: I buy the kimchi at Oto’s Marketplace; they carry a Korean Kimchi that I’m particularly fond of. I steep this Kimchi into my cream, before straining and proceeding with normal caramel procedure.
SF: What is your favorite dish?
RP: Ramen, I can eat ramen anytime; hot or cold, early or late it’s always satisfying.
SF: What did you have for dinner last night?
RP: Braised rabbit from Laughing Duck Farms
SF: What one ingredient can’t you live without?
SF: Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate?
RP: Dark Chocolate
SF: Favorite flavor ice cream?
RP: Tahitian Vanilla Bean, the simplicity of it is difficult to perfect.
SF: Do you always have dessert?
RP: Yes, no matter where we go there is always room for dessert.
Thank you Ramon and Nicole! I already ate all the candy I bought from you, I might need to come and visit again soon.