If, like the rest of us, you spend countless hours every week wasting time on TikTok, you’ve likely seen the intricate chocolate creations of pastry chef Amaury Guichon. The French-born, Las Vegas-based chef has amassed more than 250 million likes and 14 million followers on TikTok, plus another 9 million on Instagram. That’s thanks in large part to his over-the-top chocolate sculptures, including things like a spinning Ferris wheel, a safe full of “gold bars,” and a skateboard with working wheels.
Guichon, who was born in Switzerland, entered the world of French fine dining at the age of 14, attending culinary school at École Hôtelière Savoie Léman in Eastern France. He initially started out as a savory chef before entering the pastry side of the business, honing his expert chocolate and pastry skills in restaurants in Paris and on the French Riviera. After winning a French reality cooking competition, Guichon came to the United States for a year-long job at pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury’s now-shuttered patisserie at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
From there, Guichon went on to found his own culinary school in Las Vegas, where he teaches his techniques to aspiring pastry chefs and hosted the 2021 Netflix series School of Chocolate. Now, he’s one of the biggest food stars on TikTok, and his desserts grow increasingly extravagant by the day. Eater got Guichon on the phone to talk about his rise to social media stardom, the most extravagant chocolate creations he’s attempted, and what he does with those enormous, dessert-filled sculptures once the filming is done.
Eater: How did you end up on TikTok, and what’s it like to have 14 million people watching you sculpt chocolate?
Amaury Guichon: It started right about when COVID started to heat up in 2020, and TikTok was really just emerging. It was very slow at first, but when my Netflix show came out, people started to look my name up on the platform. That created a lot of interest, and the algorithm started pushing people my way. The account started to get a lot of attention, and my very first viral video was posted around last Christmas. It was a drummer boy, all made in chocolate, who was holding a Black Forest cake drum. I think that video got something like 60 million views.
Now all of your videos are racking up millions of views. Which has been the most popular so far?
About two months ago, I posted a life-size giraffe that was more than 8 feet tall, and that got over 307 million views. That was our biggest video ever on the platform and actually ranks as one of the biggest videos on all of TikTok. A showpiece of that magnitude, without wood or metal reinforcement, just 100 percent chocolate, had never really been done before. I didn’t even know if it was possible. As I was building it, I was always thinking that it was going to collapse, but thankfully I took enough precaution.
TikTok commenters can be very vocal, especially when it comes to food. What does your audience like to see most?
The architectural elements really please a lot of people, and anything interactive. The bigger the better, too. When I make a full-size alligator or a giraffe or a big dragon, people are really pleased at the size and the scale. I also put a lot of love and research into the texture aspect of my desserts, blending the aesthetic and the ingredients in order to get the best result of the final design. I think that really triggers people, in a positive way.
What about the things that they don’t like? Do you see the same negative comments over and over again?
I get a lot of love and cannot really complain. Sometimes people see that I’m doing sculpture with chocolate, and they think I’m playing with food and that it’s wasteful. It’s a small percentage of the audience that feels that way, thankfully, and what they don’t realize is that I have the greatest respect for chocolate and the people who produce it. We don’t waste any chocolate here at the school. I can take a showpiece once it’s finished, melt it down completely, and reuse 100 percent of it. Every shaving you see on the table is collected, melted down, sifted, and reused.
Along with often being very large in scale, many of the chocolate sculptures you make are actually functional — the safe with the lock that opens, the Connect Four game you can actually play. How do you make that happen?
Obviously interactive chocolate is very hard to conceive, and chocolate is so fragile as a medium itself, and so it can be very hard to get things moving. But I’m always up for a challenge. The safe, for example, I thought was kind of a boring project at first, but then you look at the complexity of a safe, the actual function and what can be held inside. I had this idea that I didn’t really know how to make, and I just let it grow in my head until I figured out all the different pieces of the puzzle. Then I sketched it out and went to the kitchen and started making it.
Your kitchen also has a lot of specialized tools that you don’t often see in other kitchens, like drills and a pottery wheel.
In order to create things that are outside of the normal realm of chocolate, I need to use tools that also come from outside the world of chocolate. We have some top-of-the-line pastry equipment, like the water-jet cutting machine that we just got, and I think that really helps me create more upscale and intricate designs because it’s so precise. It’s sort of like a laser cutter, but it uses a thin stream of water, and you can use it to cut through very thick layers of chocolate, cake, sugar, or whatever, very precisely. From the wood lathe to the pottery wheel to the simple drill, I borrow a lot of equipment and ideas from the world of clay, from woodworking, and sometimes from masonry.
What do you do with the sculptures once you’ve shown them off on TikTok? It seems kind of heartbreaking to melt down something you’ve put that much work into.
We keep most of them on display here for the students to use for educational purposes. Some of them are sold, but we keep most of them at the school. It would be heartbreaking for me to melt down something as big as the giraffe, but if I no longer find a use for it, and it’s taking up space, I would absolutely melt it and reuse it.
Is your culinary school just packed full of chocolate sculptures?
Yes. We’re absolutely invaded right now. We probably have 20 or more pieces, ranging from 35 inches to almost 9 feet tall.
How long can you store your sculptures? Doesn’t the chocolate go bad over time?
Not necessarily. If you keep them under the right conditions — meaning no humidity, no sunlight, and anywhere between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit — you can keep them for years. I’ve seen chefs keep sculptures for 10 years. Some aspects of the chocolate will change over time, it will lose some flavor and some of its odor, but the showpiece will remain forever if it’s well-kept. It’s not as ephemeral as one might think.