Runs and Places

Running and…. Chocolate?

When I started running, I would do 3 mile loops around the local streets near my office with my boss and some co-workers.  At the time, that was pretty much the extent of my world as far as running was concerned.  But in the years since then, I’ve been fascinated by the number of opportunities that have come my way as a runner.

Over the last 15 years I’ve traveled extensively and I’ve gotten to know directors and officials from some of the best known races in the world and their host cities.  Being a runner has also introduced me to a variety of other people who have helped with various aspects of my career.  But I never really thought that running would give me the opportunity to meet a world renowned, award winning pastry chef.

Chocolate Tower

However, that’s exactly what happened last Friday afternoon though when I got to have a conversation with Chef Alain Roby about next month’s inaugural Ooh La La Chocolate 5K.  Chef Roby is an interesting person with a lot of great stories.  We talked for half an hour about subjects ranging from his background to chocolate, global trade policies and government.  The conversation could have easily gone on a lot longer.

Before I go into the details of the race, let me share some information about Chef Roby and his career:

  • Chef Roby was born in France.  He studied culinary arts in Paris under world renowned Pastry Chef Gaston Lenôtre.  He did an apprenticeship for 7 years and then became a Certified Master Chef of Pastry and Sugar Artistry.  He says that he decided to focus on sugar works and chocolate because he likes the way sweets make people happy.
  • Chef Roby has worked for a number of high end restaurants and hotels and has been the private pastry chef to the Admiral of the flagship of the French Navy and the Shah of Iran.  He’s also served as the head pastry chef at the NFL Commissioner’s Super Bowl party and appeared in dozens of publications and television shows.  Throughout his career, he’s lived in worked in Tokyo, London, New York (where he spent some time working at Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center North Tower) and Chicago.
  • In 2011, Chef Roby opened the All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL.  Geneva is a suburb about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago.  Chef Roby says that it’s an ideal place for his restaurant because it has a nice small town feel, beautiful scenery and a wonderful community.
  • Chef Roby only uses chocolate made from Criollo Beans at the All Chocolate Kitchen.  Criollo beans are the highest quality chocolate bean and are only used in 3 1/2 to 4% of the worlds chocolate production.  This means that All Chocolate Kitchen is literally home to some of the best chocolate you’ll find anywhere in the world.  It’s why the restaurant typically has lines of people that stretch all the way out the door and into the street around holidays like Valentines Day.
  • Chef Roby has won more than 20 culinary awards and holds three Guinness Records, including:
  • He’s the only pastry chef to hold more than one Guinness World Record.  He says that he likes to push the envelope by trying to do new and bigger things that have never been done before.  His most recent creation is a 4lb chocolate truffle made with grand cru Creole Chocolate, filled with ganache, and gilded with 24 karat gold dust.

All Chocolate 5K

Now for some details about the race:

Earlier this year, a friend from Zellmer Wellness approached Chef Roby about sponsoring a 5K that was being planned in Geneva to raise awareness of youth diabetes.  In addition to agreeing to sponsor the race, Chef Roby decided to take things a little further by creating The Chef Alain Roby Culinary Scholarship, which proceeds from the 5K will benefit.  This scholarship is for high school students who are interested in a career in culinary arts and have successfully lived with Type I diabetes.

Chef Roby mentioned that he has an employee with Type I diabetes.  So he’s had a firsthand view of some of the challenges that people with this condition are faced with, including having to monitor and regulate their blood sugar and administer doses of insulin regularly.  So when he was presented with a chance to raise awareness and help others who are also living with Type I diabetes, he happily jumped at the opportunity.

The Ooh La La Chocolate 5K course will wind through the streets of downtown Geneva, IL and finish in front of the All Chocolate Kitchen.  Runners will receive medals, sweatshirts and a chocolate experience planned by Chef Roby himself.

I’m going to take a minute to point something out here.  The race date is November 8th, which as some readers may know, happens to be the same day as another well known chocolate themed race in Chicago: the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K.  So if you’re looking for a race to do that day, why should you pick the Ooh La La Chocolate 5K?  Having done the Hot Chocolate twice, I can tell you exactly why:

The Hot Chocolate is a big corporate run multi-city race that’s open to 30,000 runners in each city. The 15K course in Chicago is almost identical to the Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon course.  At the end of the race, runners get a banana, some melted grocery store chocolate and a cup of pre-packaged hot cocoa. So in my own completely unbiased opinion: the Hot Chocolate 5K won’t provide the unique, personalized experience that runners will get at the Ooh La La Chocolate 5K.  Keep that in mind when you’re selecting a race.

Registration for the Ooh La La Chocolate 5K is still open as of the time of this writing.  When I talked to Chef Roby, he mentioned that they’ve already had more than double the number of expected runners sign up though.  So if you’re interested in running this one, you’ll want to hurry up and register for it before it sells out.  You can click here to get more information or register.

Sugar Pumpkins

One last note:

Chef Roby has plans to open a second restaurant called Primo sometime between mid November and early December of this year.  Primo will be located next door to the All Chocolate Kitchen and will feature a variety of different wines and cheeses, along with other appetizers.  Even if you can’t make it to the 5K, you should try to stop by one or both of these restaurants if you’re ever in the area.  A combination of gourmet chocolate, wine and cheese promises to be an amazing experience.

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