When Yasushi Sasaki moved from Japan to Belgium at the age of 19, he spoke not a word of French and had no clue what he would do with his life.

Last month, at the age of 52, he was named Brussels' chocolatier of the year by the prestigious Gault & Millau food guide — no small triumph in a country that considers itself the homeland of chocolate.

"Whenever I go home to Japan and mention Belgium, people say to me 'Ahhh ... chocolate!" Sasaki says.