International Chocolate day: UAE residents reveal why they love chocolates
Radhika Sil developed a knack for all things chocolate seeing her mother exploring with boutique chocolates.
Did you know?
International Chocolate day on September 13 is the birthday of Milton S Hershey who first added caramel to chocolate and gave us the little Hershey's Kisses and Milk Chocolate.
Never too late for chocolates
Qudsia Kareem's endless passion for chocolates has made her a trendsetter and a flavourful artist today.
Her education in chocolate started at the age of 37 when most people would refrain from starting anything new. Her children were already in secondary school during the time. "I knew they would fly of the nest soon and was wondering how to use my time productively," she said.
"I fell in love with chocolates after I visited France, my curiosity piqued. Everyone around me encouraged me to pursue my interest and my family told me what you start you must finish. That's how one after the other I kept completing courses in the art of chocolate making," said the Pakistani-Canadian chocolatier who started her homegrown concept Cocosia in 2013.
Thereafter, she went on to hone her chocolate magic with a Master's course in the art of chocolate making at the Ecole Chocolat, Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia. She pursued courses in the field of chocolate artisanry and art from Barry Callebaut Academy and The French Pastry School in Chicago. She was trained under Thierry Mulphaut, a well-known chocolatier of Strasbourg, France.
"I have a palate for French chocolate. French techniques and their vast knowledge on chocolate really inspired me. Back then, I studied the local (UAE) market and saw a niche for European style chocolates. So, I continued my training and met more European chocolatiers to understand their concepts", says Karim.
Several of her bestsellers are named after places she has visited. Baden-Baden, packed with almonds, is inspired by her trips through Germany. The Schwyz is a tribute to the small town in Switzerland and contains raspberry gianduja. She named one of her other offerings as Michigan Avenue after she visited Chicago and labelled a creation as 'young street' after a major arterial route in the Canadian province. She paid homage to the UAE with the Desert Safari chocolate - made with camel milk caramel.
But chocolate making is an expensive pursuit, says Qudia. "This business entails high costs and during Covid-19 times, it's been a challenge to keep things afloat. So, we've had to scale down things. My passion for artisan chocolates fuelled with the desire to experiment with intriguing creations will hopefully keep the lights on."
Heaven in every bite
Meanwhile, Radhika Sil developed a knack for all things chocolate seeing her mother exploring with boutique chocolates. "I saw my mother going to the Wilton School in the US to pursue her passion in the early 1980s. She personalised homegrown chocolates that employed a few destitute women and soon after, expanding it to a level where we became the gifting partners of some major brands in India. That's where my love for chocolate began," said the connoisseur hailing from Mumbai.
She went on to study Hotel Management in Switzerland and soon after became a pioneer of boutique chocolates taking her family business to a commercial level. "I tried to keep the essence of artisan chocolate intact while trying to go commercial. I believe every bite of the chocolate should be heavenly."
While in Bahrain, Radhika often occupied the centre stage at schools, summer camps, and corporate events and even took her skill to Bahraini Royal Family Birthday Parties. "We taught mothers to cook without guilt and making healthy treats for their children by taking away artificial flavours and using real things", said Radhika.
The Indian expat who now lives in Dubai has helped her company's brand recreate everything in a healthy sugar freeway. "Melting, moulding and crafting chocolate into healthy treats is my passion. I also feel this is the way forward as people are health conscious these days. So, we have developed keto-friendly chocolates. Some of our other offerings include items like berry scrumptious, Chococonut berries (a trail mix of no sugar added dark chocolate), cinnamon armour (energy balls with an assortment of nuts) which is good news for people who watch their waistline."
Most people love chocolates but concept development is imperative in this business and temperatures to pose a key challenge to this industry. So, one has to constantly innovate to keep themselves relevant," said the New Product Development Chef at Munchbox Dubai.
Loving with cocoa
Five-years ago Pooja and Hritesh had an unusual engagement. Those were not Covid-19 times but their ceremony, by all means, was unprecedented. Puja was in Mumbai and Hritesh was in Dubai.
"He could not get leave around that time for some reason. Our parents were keen on getting us engaged on a specific date of the Hindu calendar as it was considered auspicious. So, our families had exchanged the respective rings in advance and we solemnised the ceremony virtually, with him being in the UAE," said Pooja, who is now a Dubai resident.
Soon after, Pooja had a friend travelling to Germany via Dubai. "I decided to send a box of chocolates and a bouquet to celebrate the moment. My friend called my then-fiancé-now-husband and asked him to meet without telling him the exact reason. He said he wanted to explore Dubai as he was on a stopover and wanted guidance."
When Hritesh reached Pooja's friend's hotel, he was handed over the first token of love from his newly engaged partner. "Hritesh was extremely happy to have received that box of chocolates as it was totally unexpected. We still talk about it after so many years. It was my first-ever gift to him. We still have a picture of that chocolate. That box of chocolate was my first expression of love," said Puja.
A choco-bar a day for a year
When Nausheen was 11, a Cadbury chocolate or a Crackle would wait for her every day on her desk.
She would pick it up looking intrigued and guessing who may have possibly kept, but never really bothered after a point. After all, she was the Green House Junior School Prefect and many may have wanted to please her. "I never exerted myself to find who was keeping the chocolates. At that stage you don't think so much, you just enjoy what you've got," said Nausheen.
"I studied at a convent school where there were day-scholars and boarders. I never discriminated between both while selecting students for cultural programmes. Maybe, I had a secret admirer," she added.
Weeks passed into months and the school year quickly passed, but a bar of chocolate always waited for her. "In fact, I started looking forward to receiving it. I didn't care about anything else."
Until one day, when Nausheen found a note. "A scrap of paper said: For all this time you've enjoyed the chocolate, now say thank you to me. The name read Florine Fernandes."
She went looking for Florine whose identity had finally been revealed. But her classmate who was only an acquaintance, was already gone. "I went to the hostel to check on her, but she had already left for her hometown. She never returned for the next session. I could never convey my thanks to her. She was gone."
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