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Nicolas Viollet: in the kingdom of candy

La TOQUE magazine, 13.09.23

At the head of a unique collection of candy-making equipment, he created the Conservatory of Confectionery in Ambre, Indre-et-Loire, in 2021. The space offers a museum, a workshop and a shop; all entirely dedicated to the manufacturing and marketing of candies or chocolates.

Nicolas Viollet opened this atypical place in 2021; ©ADT Touraine – JC Coutand

Caramels, candy bars, lollipops, pastilles, calissons, nougats, sugared almonds, chocolates, pralines… Treats appreciated by children (and adults alike), all these sweet specialties are brought together at the Conservatory of Confectionery, in Amboise (Indre-et-Loire). In July 2021, Nicolas Viollet inaugurated this atypical place in a former supermarket rehabilitated into a space housing a museum, a workshop and a boutique. Its vocation: to safeguard, promote and share sugar know-how.

© ADT Touraine – JC Coutand

Grinder, thresher, pill maker, turbine, press… These machines are often artisanal creations with a soul, witnesses of true know-how, according to Nicolas Viollet.


Holder of a CAP and a technical certificate for the chocolate-confectioner trades, this candy specialist, member of the Tradition gourmande association, fell into the (copper) pot at a very young age. Coming from a family of fairground confectioners, he has been making sweets since childhood. As a teenager, he acquired his first historical piece, a machine for making calissons, a legacy of Jean Micoulin, a master of the genre. The start of a unique collection, partly exhibited in the Conservatory of Confectionery.

La Toque magazine: Why collect confectionery equipment?

Nicolas Viollet: grinder, thresher, pill maker, turbine, press… These machines are often artisanal creations with a soul, witnesses of true know-how. For example, some have hand-engraved bronze cylinders, it’s fascinating! This material heritage is a support for better understanding the different manufacturing methods in confectionery, a relatively closed environment, with no real tradition of transmission. Collecting, studying and restoring these tools allows me to gain professional expertise and satisfy my thirst for learning. This quest for equipment also offered me great encounters in the profession, such as with the Meilleur Ouvrier de France chocolatier-confectioner Serge Granger, my sponsor within the Tradition gourmande association.


LTM: How did you put together your collection?

N.V.: I spotted my first machine in the classified ads in La Toque magazine. Since then, I mix sources – websites, fairs or auctions – whenever I have two minutes. It’s a real passion and long-term work. Every day, I live and breathe confectionery! From promotional key rings to machines weighing more than a ton, including various utensils – molds, presses, tongs, frying pans – my collection today numbers some two thousand pieces, dating mainly from the end of the 19th and 20th centuries. Due to lack of location, only a third is currently exhibited in Amboise. In the future, I hope to be able to expand the conservatory and develop a museum space dedicated to chocolate, associated with bean-to-bar production (from bean to bar, Editor’s note).



LTM : What does your typical day look like ?

N.V. : I concentrate production in the morning to free up time in the afternoon to carry out visits and public workshops (see box), relaying with my teams. My goal is to share my passion for sugar and to promote authentic and artisanal sweets, based on natural flavors and colorings, far from the cheaper and more acidic industrial sweets that have now invaded the market. Originally, however, the ancestors of confectioners were the apothecaries. In the past, confectionery was long associated with pharmacopoeia and candies even had medicinal properties. I want to tell this story to raise awareness and revalue artisanal treats, the consumption of which often regulates itself. In France, there are around six hundred confectionery specialties, some of which are disappearing due to lack of transmission.

LTM : What are the best-sellers in your store ?

N.V. :Nougat, pralines and berlingots, three fair products that we find in collective memory and which echo my personal history. Then come the pastilles, with strong sentimental value. With violet or bergamot, they often evoke grandparents. For many of us, candy often remains linked to childhood as a moment of pleasure and sharing.


 LTM : And you, what is your best culinary memory  ?

N.V  I am rather salty but I have a particular memory of the hot calisson paste, tasted at seventeen years old during my first tests in the workshop of the master confectioner Jean Micoulin, in Cruis, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It had an incredible citrus and bitter almond flavor, which I have never found since. This emotion is also due to the magic of the moment, the atmosphere of the place, the smell of lavender and the personality of the character, worthy of a Marcel Pagnol novel: unforgettable!

Barbara Guicheteau