The wizard of Ghyslain Chocolate

by Paula Johnson

Photo: Key Lime Cheesecake at Ghyslain Chocolate Factory; photo: Paula Johnson

“The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
—Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson had something there, especially in terms of the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate. As to a preference over tea and coffee, that’s probably debatable, though not in my house. And it’s certainly not debatable in the house of Quebec native Ghyslain Maurais, master chocolatier. His factory is located just over the Ohio border in Union City, Indiana. Union City is filled with all the things you’d expect in a tiny Midwestern agricultural town, plus one unexpected surprise: a growing chocolate empire. The factory and retail operation produces everything from candy to desserts, which are shipped to restaurants in cities like Chicago, Nashville, and Pittsburgh.

Ghyslain Maurais’ story is a circuitous one, from his training in architecture to his work as a chef in some of the finest kitchens in the world (including the Michelin starred Maison Troisgros in France and New York’s Le Bernardin). How did he get to cooking from architecture? “School is free in Quebec, but I wanted to earn extra money, so I started working in a restaurant as a dishwasher during the summer,” he says. At summer’s end, Ghyslain was the restaurant’s pastry chef, and he was hooked. Architecture was now in the rear view mirror with cooking school dead ahead.

After training, Ghyslain landed a position in New York City as chef for the Quebec Delegation, which is similar to an embassy. Due to the ambassador’s extensive travel, he had the opportunity to “stage” or intern at some of New York’s finest restaurants. Three years in London followed, when Ghyslain was able to have the same type of training experiences in European kitchens. Of particular importance was time spent in Switzerland working with pastry and chocolate. “I was very fortunate that my employer was someone who loved food and was very helpful in helping to create these wonderful opportunities for me to further my career as a chef,” Ghyslain says. He returned to New York with the ambassador for two more years before deciding to return to Quebec. “I missed Canda—I missed skiing,” he says. “But I got over that pretty quickly, and I was ready to move on!” he continues, laughing.

Moving on meant coming back to the U.S., this time to southeast Ohio to work as the chef for The Inn At Versailles. The Inn is owned by Midmark Corporation, which had been bought by a French company. The owners began searching for a French chef. “Most of the French chefs they interviewed couldn’t speak English, so they decided to look in Quebec, which is how they discovered me,” Ghyslain says. Although he enjoyed the year he spent at the helm of the Inn’s kitchen, it wasn’t the best fit for either. Ghyslain’s vision and expertise often conflicted with the regional clientele’s desire for more familiar fare. At this point, Ghyslain had met his soon-to-be wife, who was dining at the Inn. The plan for a chocolate business was hatched, starting Ghyslains’ new career
as a chocolatier.

“We started small—online orders only,” he recalled. Since its inception in 2000, the business has grown substantially to currently include desserts, pastries, and breads, a selection of which can be found locally at Dorothy Lane Markets. I was aware (and a huge fan) of the Ghyslain chocolate line at Dorothy Lane, but I didn’t know some of my favorite pastry treats were created also by Ghyslain. He ticked off a long list including crème brûlée, macaroons, croissants, and kouign amann. “You make those? I LOVE those!” I squeal, referring to the flaky buttery crunchy bites I pick up nearly every Sunday.

But I wanted to talk chocolate, and to find out what makes Ghyslain’s chocolates unique.

On my visit to the factory I saw Ghyslain’s architectural inclinations in the elaborate large-scale chocolate sculptures on display in the lobby, and I also noticed the artistry in each individual piece of candy in the retail case and those in beautiful boxes on shelves ready to go. The candies have the feel of handcrafted little gems, lined up on display in a range of both classic and whimsical shapes. (I particularly love those shaped like turtles.)  Ghyslain explains, “When I make a piece, I make the shell and then paint it with various colors, then fill it with ganache [a rich mixture of chocolate and cream]. I developed this idea after unsuccessfully trying to promote my chocolates at a trade show in New York. I was asked, ‘What would make me want to buy a truffle from Indiana?’ and I realized I had to design something unique.”

So yes, they are exquisitely beautiful and delightful to the eye, but how does he achieve the delicious intensity of flavor these chocolates have? Of course I knew Ghyslain only uses the finest quality of ingredients, but he didn’t cite them as his answer as I would have expected. Instead, he says emphatically, “Freshness! Chocolate gets stale, and loses its intensity and quality the longer it sits. Everything I make is immediately sealed, boxed and stored in a temperature-controlled vault and shipped immediately. Think about all the attention European chocolate gets, but consider how long that product has existed between the time it was made and the time you buy it. It’s what makes Ghyslain chocolates superior.”

I couldn’t agree more. I know this because I am finishing yet another one of those little painted turtles as I finish writing this piece. I highly recommend a road trip to Indiana to pick up some chocolate and visit Ghyslain’s Union City factory. But if you can’t handle that long of a drive to satisfy your craving, Dorothy Lane has three locations right here!

Ghyslain Chocolate Factory is located at 350 W. Deerfield Rd. in Union City, Indiana. For more information, please visit

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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