Category Archives: Artists

Jodie Van Der Velden – chocolatière extraordinaire

HIVE OF ACTIVITY Josophan's Fine Chocolates.
HIVE OF ACTIVITY Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.

A Writer’s sweet encounter with real chocolate.

ONE of the first pieces of lifestyle media I ever wrote was an interview with Leura’s beloved chocolatière Jodie Van Der Velden, at that time in the process of shifting her Josophan’s Fine Chocolates factory onto the Mall.

I was delighted that Jodie was willing to share the tribulations behind one of her early triumphs.

This article was published in the April-May 2010 edition of Blue Mountains Life magazine.

Jodie and her chocolate factory

Jodie Van Der Velden on sweet secrets she learned in Chicago.

JODIE Van Der Velden won her ticket to Chicago by taking a cake in an esky to the Hunter Valley. Not just any cake, but an elaborate six-layered gateau which she planned to “pop in the freezer” on arrival.

This was the day of the Australian Culinary Federation’s Callebaut Chocolate Dessert competition, and Jodie, husband David and daughters Sophie and Hannah arrived at 4.30am.

But the freezer door where they were staying wouldn’t shut with the gateau inside it. Jodie had to fill and seal the sizable gap with tape and hope it would chill. With only a few hours before Jodie was due in front of the judges, there was much to achieve for her ‘palet d’or et noisette’ without the resources of most of her competitors.

The list of ‘extras’ on this exquisite dessert included hazelnuts with chocolate soil and passionfruit cream. “I had to make the ice cream over electricity not gas, and by  9am I’d burnt it, and knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep before the competition,” Jodie adds, wincing.

“Chocolate is complex, it has top, middle and end ‘notes’, just like wine.”

In the marquee where competitors plated their desserts, Jodie was found a small space next to a microwave. It was frustrating, she confesses: “Not just the lack of space compared to come others, but while I was trying to place 23-carat gold leaf on delicate lace chocolate spheres, the microwave door was being slammed by other competitors”.

“David and the girls were parking the car and had a bowl full of leftover gateau and garnishes with them. We hadn’t had breakfast in all the rush, so out came the spoons. By the time they’d found me plating-up my gateau, they quietly approached me and whispered: “It really is good Mum”.

“It confirmed for me just how good it was… they’re my toughest critics, I trust their judgement!”

Jodie walked-off with two gold medals and the overall first prize – an all-expenses-paid trip overseas for further chocolate training. From a field of twenty-three, including several culinary luminaries, this was a “very sweet victory” Jodie concedes.

She then had to decide which of the worldwide Callebaut Chocolate Academies she would visit.

“I’ve visited France and Belgium every year for the last three years,” she says when asked why she picked the United States over Europe, “but I’d never been to Chicago… it is a brand new academy, with state-of-the-art equipment, and, as it turns out, my trainers were French anyway!”

Jodie took two classes, one in chocolate sculpture and another in plated desserts.

Apart from new territory in the world of chocolate, what Jodie found in the Chicago food culture really inspired her. “There’s a real community feel to cuisine there,” she enthuses, “in some of the new popular restaurants you share larger tables, or sit together at bars, it’s more of a communal dining experience. There’s a very different atmosphere around food. I fell in love with Chicago.”

Jodie was also exposed to Molecular Gastronomy, where science meets cooking. For someone who tackled the best in Australia and came out on top, I imagine Jodie’s not afraid of a few scientific utensils.

SMOOTH SCIENCE Jodie is effusive about the work that goes into creating flavour.
SMOOTH SCIENCE Jodie is effusive about the work that goes into creating flavour.

“It’s all very precise,” she reveals of learning how to make caramel pearls. “They are made by adding one per cent alginate to a liquid, then dropping tiny pearls of it into a water bath that has two per cent calcium added to it. The reaction is such that when the droplets go into water, they develop a skin around the liquid sphere. They’re drained, then eaten. The outside skin bursts in your mouth and the liquid drizzles out. Yum!”

Jodie cites chef Ferran Adrià i Acosta of el Bulli restaurant in Barcelona, creator of Apple Caviar, as her inspiration in this pursuit of a sensual food experience.

“Whilst I wouldn’t say molecular gastronomy principles are used in my everyday chocolate work, the concepts surrounding it are very much part of the inspiration that moves me forward, experimenting with flavours, textures and presentation,” Jodie says.

Visitors to Leura are familiar with what Jodie and her husband David have achieved with Café Josophan’s in only five years. Sensing there was a gap in the market for a fine chocolate boutique on the Mall, Jodie embarked on an ambitious plan to make chocolates here in the mountains. Ambitious because Josophan’s is about the indulgent experience of chocolate over just taking something home in a box.

Jodie doesn’t believe that experience has to be the way it’s always been for Australian chocolate appreciators. “Chocolate is complex, it has top, middle and end ‘notes’, just like wine,” Jodie explains. “When this is considered, combinations of flavours can really bring out the best in fine chocolates or desserts.”

Partly because she insists on using fresh ingredients (meaning a limited shelf life for her chocolates), Jodie has created in Josophan’s a true chocolaterie.

“In countries like France and Belgium, high quality chocolate is part of everyday life. There’s a chocolaterie on every corner. Here in Australia we’re only just developing that tradition. We’ve gotten used to what I’d call ‘chocolate-flavoured confectionary’, which has a long shelf life and has been created in a laboratory to taste like chocolate and other flavours.

“Josophan’s chocolate is about using fresh ingredients, in our mint chocolates, for examples, we infuse fresh cream with real fresh mint leaves and add fresh butter.

“We’ve developed a signature style,” Jodie says when I ask about the shape and colour of her chocolates. “Many recognise our chili-flavoured chocolates, for example, with the bright swirls. There’s a lot of brightly-coloured cocoa butter being used out there now, but I’m a bit of a purist, we only use a little. I like my chocolates to look classic.”

Jodie is very keen to share her knowledge and hosts chocolate appreciation classes in the new Leura chocolate boutique. She laughs when I ask if she gets self-confessed chocaholics coming along.

CHOCOLATE WITH CLASS Chocolate appreciation at Josophan's.
CHOCOLATE WITH CLASS Chocolate appreciation at Josophan’s.

“Many people say ‘I don’t need a class to appreciate chocolate!’, but we’ve created a way for participants to learn how to discern quality in chocolate.

“We follow the process from bean to bar, exploring what happens during growing, harvesting and manufacturing that makes the end result so different amongst chocolates, and of course we also get a lot of chocolate tasting in!”

Jodie has many plans for Josophan’s, not least the intention to expand the chocolate factory from Blackheath to Leura. She also plans to introduce Josophan’s hot chocolate to the wholesale market, “something we haven’t been able to do with our fine chocolates,” Jodie elaborates, “due to their fragile composition and the use of no preservatives. We’ve added a real couverture chocolate flake (high cocoa butter content) to our hot chocolate mix, creating a luxurious blend allowing customers to make an indulgent hot chocolate at home.”

There’s a chocolate factory on its way to Leura. Rejoice!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.


O Come all ye Forceful

GIVE A LITTLE Christmas carols come from a long tradition of protest.
GIVE A LITTLE Christmas carols come from a long tradition of protest.

A Writer on protest Christmas carols.

DURING the silly season, when you catch a strain of yuletide song at your local shopping centre, know that what you’re listening to (or doing your best to avoid) probably started its life as a protest song.

Well, perhaps not technically a protest song, but a Protestant song, which once meant the same thing.

When Martin Luther reformed the church establishment in the 16th century, he brought song into the churches and placed it in the mouths of the faithful.

A songwriter in addition to being a reformer, Luther was keen for men and women to sing in their own language, instead of listening to male choirs performing in languages most congregations barely understood.

Crowds of people have been singing back at the pulpit ever since. Heck, I’m going to credit Martin Luther with the creation of popular music!

“Here’s my Christmas present to you: check out the video clip to our generation’s protest Christmas carol.”

The celebration of Carols by Candlelight in the Australian summer, and the tradition of wassailers walking from house to house singing carols in the northern hemisphere winter holiday, grew from this egalitarian sharing of messages of hope and forgiveness.

Good King Wenceslas”, a staple of carolers across the Western world, tells the tale of a privileged man who reached out to a needy one. Sung on the doorstep of the wealthy, it’s a call to share. Sung on the street to the homeless, it calls for us to have no shame in asking for alms.

A carol is free speech, shared by a community, often embedded with messages of hope and reminders of humility, and not necessarily owned by anyone. Admit it or not, you probably could reel-off a few if you were forced to, just like at school, and they’ve been popping up in popular culture for some time.

Ironic because its message of giving emerged in the midst of the decade since labelled the ‘greedy’ Eighties, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s “Do They Know it’s Christmas?”, recorded by the Band Aid charity ‘supergroup’, utilised star power to raise millions of dollars to aid people suffering in the Ethiopian famine.

The song has had resonance for the three decades since its first recording, but neither the 1989, 2004 or 2014 reboots, or the recent cover by the cast of American teen musical television series Glee, saw the same amount of money or interest raised by the 1984 version, which remains one of the most enduring examples of a disparate group of pop stars overcoming egos and geographic barriers to simply lend a hand.

PROTEST SONG John and Yoko's 1971 effort.
PROTEST SONG John and Yoko’s 1971 effort.

Like John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”, written as an anti-Vietnam War anthem, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has begun a cultural transformation into a Christmas carol.

The song and the movement behind it has faced harsh critics since its release.

Lambasted for perceived creative shortcomings, and the subject of ongoing speculation about large portions of the funds being creamed-off by Ethiopian warlords, co-writer Bob Geldof has often been moved to blast the media about its coverage of criticism of the Band Aid movement.

As a 14-year-old I witnessed the release of the video and the single of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The song was on everybody’s lips for a summer, and the subsequent international Live Aid in July 1985, also organised by Geldof and Ure, was the concert ticket of the decade.

Watching the video now, the pathos of the moment, and what’s happened in the world since, makes me well-up.

There’s Boy George, voice like a clear bell, before it all went wrong; and Paula Yates and her kids, waving in the throng. There’s George Michael, a paragon of talent, long before he was outed; and a soaring Bono, practising being a global awareness raiser.

There are the stars, and the bands (and their hairdos) who didn’t know they were already on the wane, and those who have survived to become icons: the superstars of my youth in all their self-conscious glory turned-up when they were needed.

I’m proud of my generation for this song, which essentially belongs to the people of Ethiopia.

But, almost thirty years on, the original version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is hard to come by. Only the array of cover versions is available on iTunes.

The lyric in the finale of the song – “Feed the world” – has lost its original context. The Glee cast video makes no reference to starving children in Ethiopia, it’s a call to feed the needy, everywhere.

So, if you’re my age and older, here’s my Christmas present to you: check out the video clip to our generation’s protest Christmas carol and tell me, has anything recorded since had the same impact?

Don’t forget to sing along, you know the words!

This article first appeared on NoFibs.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

This article appears in Michael’s eBook Creating Waves: Critical takes on culture and politics.

Orry-Kerry – the costume king from Kiama

KING ORRY Australia's first Oscar winning costume designer Orry Kelly (1897-1964).
KING ORRY Australia’s first Oscar-winning costume designer Orry ‘Jack’ Kelly (1897-1964).

JUST about everyone I knew as a kid went to Kiama for the school holidays. Apart from its famous blow-hole, through which the ocean mysteriously forces a geyser-like spray to the delight of tourists, there is nothing extraordinary about this sleepy town which has all the caravan parks, bait shops and holiday rentals of every town on the south coast of NSW.

THERE SHE BLOWS Kiama Blowhole in action.
THERE SHE BLOWS Kiama Blowhole in action.

At the back of my mind on a nostalgic return trip a decade ago was Kiama’s most famous son, the three-time Oscar-winning costume designer, Orry-Kelly.

I half expected to see a worn plaque on an old civic building, or perhaps a statue. After all, it’s not every day an Australian from a small town wins three Academy Awards.

But there was nothing. I joked about the oversight with a lady at the well-stocked charity shop at the town centre, and she looked at me as though I was slightly unhinged.

The facts about Orry-Kelly (1897-1964) are undeniable. In his lifetime he became, like Adrian, a one-name icon of movie couture.

Barely a leading lady worth her salt would grace the screen without passing through his Hollywood fitting room from the 1930s until the 1960s.

“Remembering Orry-Kelly comes with a pretty big Hollywood revelation.”

Bette Davis reportedly would not make a film without him. Responsible for some indelible movie outfits, like the fringed black number Marilyn Monroe’s shimmied so effectively in with her ukulele in Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, Orry-Kelly was Hollywood royalty.

LITTLE BLACK NUMBER Designed by Kiama's forgotten son Orry-Kelly for Marilyn Monroe.
LITTLE BLACK NUMBER Designed by Kiama’s forgotten son Orry-Kelly for Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot (1959).

In that era, a result of sodomy laws that were not repealed in California until 1962, Orry, or ‘Jack’ Kelly, as he was known to his friends, sat on one of the worst kept secrets in movies.

He was, like many a ladies’ costumier before and since, gay.

Although Kiama, and Australia, did not forget Orry-Kelly for that reason alone.

Since Australian Lizzy Gardiner won an Oscar for her costumes for The Adventures  of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Catherine Martin broke Orry-Kelly’s fifty-year reign as our Oscar record-holder for her work on The Great Gatsby, in film and design industry circles, Kelly has been well-remembered.

But remembering Orry-Kelly comes with a pretty big Hollywood revelation, one which has undoubtedly contributed to his relative anonymity in the country of his birth, because Kiama’s forgotten son knew another Hollywood icon, loved and lived with him, long before they both made it big on the silver screen.

The young fellow was a British born vaudeville performer called Archie Leach, whom Kelly met after leaving Kiama and heading for New York, when Jack was 24 and Archie was just 17.

The two shared an apartment with Charlie Phelps (a “hermaphrodite performer” under the stage name ‘Charlie Spangles’, according to writer W.J. Mann) and lived a rather romantic-sounding existence in the gay subculture of Greenwich Village.

Tall and handsome, Archie quickly got work in Broadway musicals. Jack wanted an acting career too, although his design skills were quickly employed on everything from movie titles to bathrooms.

The two were lovers, until Archie eventually headed for the west coast and changed his name, on the way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most enduring leading men: Cary Grant.

CARY ON Archie Leach, aka Cary Grant (1904-1986).
CARY ON Archie Leach, aka Cary Grant (1904-1986).

Jack followed, and reinvented himself as the hyphenated Orry-Kelly, costumier on over 200 movies, winning Oscars for An American in Paris, Les Girls and Some Like it Hot in the 1950s.

Among his truly iconic films was one of cinema’s greats – Casablanca.

The public difference between the two men’s careers remains Grant’s five marriages.

Nevertheless, their friendship remained deep enough for Grant to serve as one of Kelly’s pallbearers after his 1964 cancer-related death, alongside actor Tony Curtis and directors George Cukor and Billy Wilder.

His eulogy was delivered by movie mogul and friend, Jack Warner.

This was admiration indeed, but was it also simply necessary for friends to step-up in the absence of family half a world away in the southern hemisphere?

Despite the distance he put between himself and his home town, connections to Kiama ran deep for Orry-Kelly. Outfitting was in his blood – his father, William Kelly, a tailor from the Isle of Man, was a clothier in the coastal town.

After his father’s death, Orry-Kelly returned to Kiama briefly to his family home, which was above his father’s shop.

And his name was no Hollywood fake – ‘Orry’ was to remember the great Manx King Orry, a name which William Kelly, and Orry’s mother, Sydney-born Florence Purdue, gave not only their son, but also a hybridised Carnation flower.

Orry-Kelly’s life story is on the brink of taking its rightful place in our consciousness with the release of Director Gillian Armstrong’s documentary Women He’s Undressed, and the much-anticipated publication of Kelly’s ‘unpublishable’ autobiography.

FITTING TRIBUTE The story of Orry-Kelly (pictured here with Tony Curtis in preparation for Some Like it Hot) is the subject of an upcoming Gillian Armstrong documentary.
FITTING TRIBUTE The story of Orry-Kelly (pictured here with Tony Curtis in preparation for Some Like it Hot) is the subject of an upcoming Gillian Armstrong documentary.

Although the story of the making of the doco, to be released by Umbrella Entertainment, might prove to be as interesting as the documentary itself.

Telling Orry-Kelly’s story would have been a hollow exercise without his memoir to fill in the gaps between the many myths about his life, but access to it was a slow process for the filmmakers.

Lying uncatalogued in the Warner Brothers’ research library for five decades, the manuscript possibly came into that company’s hands after Kelly’s death, when certain of his personal items – including his three Oscars – were granted to Jack Warner’s wife, Ann.

But due to reported legal concerns expressed by the estate of Cary Grant, who died in 1986, the manuscript languished because it apparently detailed Kelly’s relationship with the screen idol.

Warner Brothers now owns some of Cary Grant’s most famous films, including The Philadelphia Story, one of his breakthrough ‘leading man’ roles.

Only one other copy of Kelly’s memoir came to light, after a long search within his remaining family in NSW, secreted in a pillowcase in Kelly’s great niece’s home in the Hawkesbury region north-west of Sydney.

Gillian Armstrong made light of the coincidental nature of both copies coming to her attention in the same week, during the period when financing the film that will out both Cary Grant and address a lingering omission in Australian history, was looking far from certain.

In Archie Leach’s birthplace, the English city of Bristol, a statue was unveiled in 2001 for the vaudeville performer who became Cary Grant, one of Hollywood’s most beloved idols who regularly features in the top five of ‘favourite movie stars of all time’ lists.

His widow, Barbara James, performed the unveiling.

PLUCK COVER copySince my visit to Kiama, an art gallery remembering Orry-Kelly has opened it’s doors, but Kiama never had anything to worry about – their most famous son didn’t pretend to be anything he wasn’t.

This article appears in Michael’s eBook Pluck: Exploits of the single-minded

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.