'If I'm doing a seminar, I wake up about 6.30am and drive to L'Ecole du Grand Chocolate in Tain l'Hermitage, which is 15km away from home. I'll arrive at the school around 7am, check my mail, plan my day and prepare tasks for my assistant. I drink my coffee at the school, most of the time with Freddie Mercury playing. I love Queen. When I drink my coffee in the morning and hear It's a Beautiful Day I feel good. The seminars begin about 8.30am and we finish at 6.30pm or 7pm. Our customers are passionate; if they come to be trained, it's because they want to be better. I call them customers, not students. It's difficult to think of them as students because about 80 per cent of the time they're older than me. Most of them own their own shops or are already pastry chefs and they come to us to refresh their knowledge and get ideas. There's pressure on us, like when [eminent French pastry chef] Pierre Herme calls me and says, 'Frederic, I'm sending my chef-chocolatier.' I know I don't have to teach him how to do chocolate bonbons; I know he wants inspiration or answers for technical problems. Most of the school's customers want us to advise them on technical problems or how to work with a machine they don't know how to use. Because I began so young at Valrhona, I was lucky to work closely with agronomical engineers. My lab was near the research and development lab. When they spoke about pastry it was in technical terms, using words I had never heard before. They don't speak about ganache [a mixture of cream and chocolate]. Ganache is the pastry word. Agronomic engineers never speak about ganache; they know how to make it but they call it emulsion. They don't feel like chocolatiers but they're doing a chocolatier's job. [From them] I discovered pastry in a different way. Before, I would just put things together and if I had a grainy ganache, I thought it came from bad chocolate or cream. They explained the mistakes come from you. I'd go to them and say, 'This is s***, I made it like this.' They'd say, 'Of course you're getting s***, it's because you made it like this.' I learned a lot from them. I came to understand that a good pastry chef has to be more than just a builder of showpieces. A good pastry chef must understand the how and the why. With the best ingredients in the world, you can still make a cake or dessert that doesn't turn out right. We break for lunch from 12.30-2pm and eat at the school. I eat with the customers, I really get to know them. I've been doing pastry for a long time. I don't remember this, but my mother says when I was about six or seven, I was making cakes and crepes, and said I talked about being a pastry chef. I began my two-year apprenticeship when I was 14. I came to Valrhona in 1988. I was very lucky; I was 22 and working with Herme in Paris. Herme came to me and said, 'I have an opportunity for you; you have to meet the Valrhona general manager.' The idea was to start a school with a laboratory and they wanted me to be the Valrhona adviser. I thought I was too young to teach people; I was afraid and I refused. Herme said, 'You can't refuse, you have to go.' Because I trusted him, I agreed. Valrhona is old; it was created in 1922. Before I went there, they didn't have an adviser. For the first three to four months, I had no laboratory and I didn't know anybody in this small village - at the time there were 3,200 people living in Tain l'Hermitage. The beginning was quite hard. I was feeling at a loss because I had left this big pastry shop in Paris - it was the great time of Herme and Fauchon. I wanted to go back to Paris but Herme said to me, 'No, you have to stay and build your future. You have to push Valrhona, convince them.' I felt they didn't trust me; all the management was asking, 'Who's this young boy?' Herme came to Tain l'Hermitage to explain to the Valrhona management, 'You have to listen to this guy - your future is in his hands.' A year later, I said to Valrhona I'd stay if they gave me a laboratory. I began to do small, private seminars. We were doing big demonstrations all over Europe but I said I thought our future was to do serious training with small groups. We began to do a few seminars, then more and more. The school grew a lot - we were teaching 600 professionals a year. In 1997, I said to Valrhona I thought the school was quite nice but we were refusing too many people. I proposed a bigger school. I said, 'I've been with Valrhona for 10 years, we either move or I'm leaving.' They had a difficult time understanding I wanted a big building in which to train people in pastry but then they agreed the Valrhona customer wanted the best chocolate but also recipe advice, training, pastry marketing, pastry tools. We had the opening in February 2002. The previous school was 70 square metres, now it's 1,200 square metres. Last year, we had 760 customers and we're going to have more. The classes are always 12 people maximum. All my staff were pastry chefs at Michelin three-star restaurants - Troisgros, Regis Marcon ... I asked former students, what they loved about the school. I knew they loved the training but why did they come back? They said it was the spirit. I didn't want to lose the spirit in the new school. I wanted to keep the family-style lunch. We can do barbecues on the terrace, we have a garden and we are in a small town, not in the middle of Paris. I want them to feel good. All pastry chefs and cooks work a lot - it's rare for them to come out of their laboratory. Most of them work underground. I wanted to give them more than the best training, I wanted them to have music, a bar where they can drink coffee and look at professional magazines. And if they feel tired? OK, let's have a break. We're not there to be under pressure for three days. My inspiration comes from what I'm looking at, what I'm doing, everything I see, eat and taste. I'm lucky - with Valrhona I travel a lot, in Europe and countries like Hong Kong and Japan. Interesting things come from all over the world. A few years ago, I was in Malaysia and went into a temple where an old woman was making pan-fried cakes. This dessert will be in my next book. I leave work around 8pm or 8.30pm. My wife [Rica, who translated his pastry book, Au Coeur des Saveurs, into Japanese] is a wonderful cook; she has a real passion for cuisine. We usually eat fusion, but sometimes French country, Chinese, Korean. I go to bed late, around midnight. I'm supposed to work five days a week but often I come in on the weekend for different things I can't do during the week. My wife says she can relax because she says my mistress is the school. I don't feel like it's work; it's my passion, it's my life.'