Chocolate made in the likeness of King Tut seemed like a sweet - and timely - idea to West Chester's own chocolate king, Christopher Curtin.
Curtin, proprietor of Éclat Chocolate, created three delicately formed chocolates for the Franklin Institute exhibit "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs."
Curtin makes desserts in the shape of King Tut's head, a winged scarab and hieroglyphic chocolate shards to celebrate the pharaonic exhibit in Philadelphia, which continues until Sept. 30.
It takes Curtin 11 minutes to make one King Tut head, while it takes him three minutes to make 30 truffles. "I have to do more modeling with the King Tut heads," which measure only 11/4 inches by 1 inch, said Curtin, 42, whose chef's whites were somehow clean of chocolate.
To make a King Tut solid chocolate, he uses a mold he found years ago in a Belgian flea market and dabs delicate gold leaf at the bottom. He said he prefers to get the gold from Japan because it's finer. Then, the chocolate blend, made with cocoa beans from Grenada and Venezuela, is hand-poured and hand-molded to the likeness of the pharaoh.
Next, Curtin sprinkles another type of gold powder onto the face to give the chocolate an ancient look, as if the chocolates had been buried along with the king.
The winged scarabs have a blue tint made of colored cocoa butter. Then, Curtin uses a sponge to dab the surface to give the dessert the insectlike skin. The shards look like flat, round disks with hieroglyphics stamped on them.
Curtin's training as a pastry chef took place in Europe. At 25, he left the United States for Germany without a job waiting for him. For more than a dozen years, he worked in kitchens in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and France.
In 1996, he earned the title of German master pastry chef. He also made chocolate desserts for the 2003 Belgian royal wedding of Prince Laurent and Claire Coombs.
Born and raised in Madison, Wis., Curtin came to Chester County because his parents retired in the area and his family has deep roots in Pennsylvania. He is a descendant of Andrew Gregg Curtin, who was governor of Pennsylvania during the Civil War.
He has lived in Rose Valley for three years, and said he loves this area with its "quaint little roads" and proximity to New York's theaters.
Curtin was commissioned to create the Tut chocolates because he makes chocolate desserts for Frog Commissary, caterer to the Franklin Institute.
At his storefront in downtown West Chester, Curtin was friendly with customers, happy to talk about the intricacies of chocolate ingredients. He rattled off the percentages of cocoa blends in different chocolates off the top of his head.
Though 80 percent of his business is in wholesale chocolates sold all over the country, Curtin said he does not mass-produce anything that carries the Éclat name. That way, he said, customers will be sure to find chocolates of the highest quality at his West Chester store.
A box of two King Tut heads costs $14.50. A box containing one scarab costs $8.50 to $14.50, depending on size. A bag of hieroglyphic shards costs $9 for 11 or 12 pieces.