Paul Joachim is “The Chocolate Genius“; a chocolate sculpting master, Paul made the transition to this decadent, edible media seven years ago. A Food Network challenge winner and a television veteran, Paul has made many televised appearances throughout his career; showcasing his amazing skill in chocolate sculpting and his unique skill set as both an artist and dessert creator. In fact, it was his win on Food Network Challenge five years ago that provided his “Aha” moment. “That was the moment I knew I wanted to do this for a living,” he says. “Getting myself through that show gave me such incredible confidence to go out and pursue my dream.” In recent years Paul has made a long-awaited career transition into teaching, a role he loves. His position as an industry leader and teacher has taken him all over the world. This year Paul will be travelling to Australia to demonstrate his incredible skills at the Australian Cake, Bake and Sweets show, where his eager fans can’t wait to see him in action.
Paul has ‘carved’ quite a niche for himself as a chocolate sculptor, when asked why he chose this media Paul says, “oh wow, well, chocolate … its incredible and I’ve always been a chocoholic from the time I was very young. I also have a BFA in Fine Arts, I never was able to completely throw myself into the work until I discovered chocolate.” It seems chocolate was indeed Paul’s calling because it is through chocolate that he is able to fully express himself as an artist.
Universally loved, chocolate represents joy, happiness and passion; reaching across the generations, from the very young to the elderly. “We all love chocolate,” he says, ” it is such a sensory experience” This experience is one felt acutely by Paul, but also by those who attend his shows and enjoy his art. Not only do they witness an incredible visual show, but they can smell the delicious aroma, they can taste the decadent chocolate; they become part of the artistic experience. Chocolate breaks down the barriers to visual art, it is comforting and accessible, it engages and embraces people. Paul explains, “Chocolate sculptors create art that is so accessible to everyone, it tells an amazing story that people can relate to; it is truly an incredible experience.”
Paul’s enthusiasm for his work is infectious, he is a down-to-earth and happy-go-lucky man, who is thoroughly enjoying the “wild” ride his career has taken him on. His love for what he does is evident; clearly a show-man, he relishes the opportunity to talk about his art. Speaking passionately about every experience he notes, “I feel very lucky, I love my job, if you could call it that. I especially love working live, interacting with the guests, telling and hearing stories. I truly get energy from a crowd, this shapes the experience for me as the artist and ultimately it influences the end result. It is such an interactive experience and so satisfying as an artist.”
Every piece of art and every sculpture has a unique story. His latest project is a collaboration piece for the Cirque des Gateaux collaboration organized by Zawadi Parizek, and featured In the latest issue of American Cake Decorating magazine. “I have always been in awe of Cirque du Soleil,” says Paul, “their performances, the athleticism, the incredible costumes, the live music; they do such a fantastic job bringing all those elements together and creating such a unique experience for the audience. It’s visually stunning. So when Zawadi approached me about this collaboration I was very excited to be involved.” His comments about Cirque du Soleil are very fitting because the Cirque du Soleil mentality is the embodiment of what Paul himself aims to achieve. His sculptures are so much more than the finished product, part of what makes Paul unique in the industry is that his demonstrations ARE a visual and interactive show; a spectacle to amaze and entertain.
“I saw the ‘Beatles Love’ Cirque show in Vegas, and La Nouba in Orlando, I’d love to see more; I hear ‘O’ is quite amazing, but it was ZAIA that captured my imagination with the colors, textures, emotions and, of course, the story behind the show.” ZAIA tells the story of a young girls dream. She undertakes an imaginary voyage in space and on the edge of her celestial tour, she discovers the beauty of humanity, which she shares with the inhabitants of Earth upon her return. In fact, it was the story of the young girls journey that had Paul hooked, “I just immediately thought about my daughter and how amazing she is, ” reflects Paul, “This piece is dedicated to her, her drive, zeal for life and her incredible strength.”
This collaboration piece, like many of his pieces, have a deep and personal meaning to Paul, they are an extension of himself and he pours himself into his artwork. This sculpture which is a chocolate representation of his daughter shows the passion he gives to every project. This is not just a job, each creation is a reflection of his life and everything that touches it, it is truly Art.
Describing his finished piece Paul notes, “This was an opportunity to not only do my first small figure out of chocolate, but to paint the sculpture and incorporate sugar work AND have it floating in the air. The piece is 30 in/76 cm long made of 100% modeling chocolate and cocoa butter paint. The ribbon is made from sugar. The backdrop is an assortment of paint, including cocoa butter and airbrush color. The sculpture actually has very little armature, held up by the strength of the chocolate.”
Paul’s sculptures are instantly recognizable, they display his unique signature, aesthetic and style. Although the process of sculpting Is an organic experience, in order to create his ZAIA piece, he carefully researched and planned his design, drawing inspiration from images of his subject matter in unique poses; Sourcing images at varying angles so that he could build the sculpture in three- dimension, noting the composition and proportions and then bringing those elements to life through his design. Beginning with a very simple armature, from there he added layers of chocolate to create the general shape, once the chocolate had set, he applied more chocolate to sculpt the fine details. “It starts with the form, ” Paul explains, “and then once the form is in place, and the statue has hardened, I can continue to add in the features and character of the subject, often times I use no armature at all, but in this case, the complexity of the design required a little additional support.” His signature gold finish is achieved by applying a combination of silver and gold color; when layered over the deep natural brown of the chocolate this gives the sculpture a surprising bronze statue appearance.
Collaborations are an ever constant presence in the cake decorating community, in fact there is barely a week that goes by when a new collaboration isn’t unveiling. Each with their own unique theme and group of artists. It is refreshing and surprising to find an artist of Paul’s caliber talk so enthusiastically and genuinely about his experience with collaborations, but this is even more evidence of just how down-to-earth and humble he is. He truly respects the community of which he is a member. Describing his experience with the Cirque des Gateaux group Paul enthusiastically says, ” it’s such a wonderful way to work with other cake artists around the world that you normally would not get to collaborate with, it’s an honor to work with so many incredible artists, share ideas and produce exciting work that I might not get to do for clients.” Paul has a genuine level of respect for anyone that takes on the challenge of organizing a collaboration, “I see how much dedication and work they put into them, I myself would be hard pressed to have the time to dedicate to organizing one.” Though he admits that he doesn’t have the time to organize a collaboration, he is very enthusiastic at the suggestion of a sculptural collaboration in honor of Madame Tussauds. “Oh, that would be a wonderful idea, YES, they just opened one in Orlando- The Madame Tussauds Collaboration, that would be cool.”
It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work, patience and perseverance for Paul to be able to do what he is doing. He credits his wife and his family for supporting his ambitions, “I could not do what I do without her, ” he says, “I found my niche early on, and with her support, I worked incredibly hard to carve a career doing what I love.” His advice for those who wish to follow in his footsteps, “Well, the biggest thing is when something is slowing you down or stopping you from succeeding, simply ignore it, find away around it and keep moving forward. The path can be very challenging and at the same time incredibly rewarding.”
We are in awe of Paul’s incredible talent and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for 2017, he teases me with snippets of information, just revealing enough about his latest projects to pique my interest, but then covers his tracks before giving the game away. I know he has a LOT to come, I’m just not entirely sure what those things are. Either way, we are very excited to see what is on the horizon. To see more of Paul’s Cirque des Gateaux collaboration piece visit the collaboration page at: https://www.facebook.com/CirquedesGateaux/?fref=ts and to see more of his incredible work, visit his page at: http://www.thechocolategenius.com/