Born in Paris and raised in the town of Perpignan, located in the south of France, Laurent Vals was 16 years old when he began his professional culinary education at "l’Ecole Hoteliere du Moulin a Vent", in 1986. He received his C.A.P Chef certification in 1988, and then, continuing his studies, received his C.A.P Pastry Chef certification in 1989. Upon completing his schooling, Laurent went to work with Robert Barajas, Master Pastry Chef, and Jean Philippe Mehamli, finalist of the famous "Prix Taittinger" in Paris.
At the age of 20, Laurent began his international career as a chef, traveling to the United States to work in Charleston, South Carolina. By age 25, Laurent was holding positions of responsibility in the kitchens of restaurants in Paris and New York City. In 2001, he settled in Newport, Rhode Island, where he initiated a career in pastry, hoping it would allow him to also spend time raising his newborn son.
In 2003, Laurent was hired by one of the finest boutique hotels on the East coast, The Chanler at Cliff Walk, to run the restaurant's pastry department as Executive Pastry Chef.
By 2004, his work began to attract the attention of the local media, capturing the front cover of Rhode Island Monthly Magazine with an accompanying ten page article, and appearing in several regional publications. Laurent and his work were also highlighted in a plated dessert segment on TV. He was then featured in a chef profile for a national pastry magazine, Pastry’s Best.
While working at the hotel, Laurent developed a popular collection of chocolate confections for guests of the hotel and restaurant, eventually leading him to the development of his own personal brand of bonbons and pastry confections.
By 2007, after only 3 years, Laurent was regarded as a top pastry chef in Rhode Island. In January of 2008, he formed his own company, LAURENT VALS HANDCRAFTED CHOCOLATES and, in August, Rhode Island Monthly Magazine awarded him the distinction of Best European Chocolates of Rhode Island 2008 in their "Best of Rhode Island" issue. His bonbon, "Porto", a caramel center infused with the richness of port wine and vanilla and enclosed in dark chocolate, was featured as The Best Chocolate of 2011, also in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.
Education is also a special skill and passion of Laurent's, and he has shared his knowledge with students of all levels through various local outlets and schools, including Bristol Community College, Newport Cooks, and Newport Wine Cellar & Gourmet. Laurent was honored with the 2014 Edible Rhody Local Hero Award for Food Artisan for his culinary contributions to the State of Rhode Island.
Wanting to challenge himself further, Chef Laurent entered Pastry Live's national competitions in Atlanta, Georgia in 2014, winning First Place for his intricately composed Catalan Verrine in the Dessert Cup category, and qualifying for the Chocolatier of the Year category.
Desiring still to challenge himself professionally, and at the same time wanting to travel and explore more of the country, Laurent initiated a professional journey, which eventually brought him to the Southwest to teach in the culinary department of New Mexico State University. Despite enjoying the profession of education and the unique Southwestern landscape, the ocean, his son, and chocolate once again called to him. Laurent returned to the East coast to work as a Research & Development Chef for a large confectionery company, inventing new products and flavors that appeal to a broader but refined clientele. After satisfying his professional responsibility with the company, Chef Laurent returned to southern New Mexico with the exciting prospect of working to open a culinary school for young students and participating in all aspects of its conception - from designing the kitchen and work spaces to constructing the school's curriculum, as well as teaching and inspiring the students to prepare them for a culinary profession.