Maison Pierre Marcolini has opened in The Dubai Mall, and it’s so much more than just another couture chocolate boutique…
Can you imagine, as a child, loving something so much that you’re willing to trade your favorite toys for it? That’s exactly what Pierre Marcolini did for chocolate. “Yes, it is crazy to hear,” laughs the Belgian chocolatier. “But it was much bigger than me. It was something I couldn’t control.” While reluctant to constantly inform his mother that he had lost another toy to food, he was even more apprehensive to reveal that he harbored a desire to be a chocolatier. “When I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do for a living, she said, ‘You’ve chosen an easy job.’ For her, it would mean that I had failed at everything else. It wasn’t a compliment.”
In spite of his mother’s hesitations, Marcolini was determined to pursue his dream. After training as a pastry chef, he was crowned champion at the World Pastry Cup in 1995. That same year, he opened his first shop in Brussels, selling pastries and chocolate.
Marcolini is quick to point out that life as a celebrated chocolatier is far from easy. “It’s difficult,” he starts. “There’s the architecture, the mix of flavors. The pastries are crafted like art pieces.” With 41 stores around the world – the latest in The Dubai Mall, his first in the Middle East – Marcolini has established the reputation of an haute couture chocolatier, with his USP being his craftsmanship and knowledge of the process, from cocoa bean to bar. His techniques have seen him collaborate with Victoria Beckham and Tom Dixon, producing special-edition chocolates that reflect their aesthetic.
“Before, people only had access to international market products, but slowly, small enterprises like mine came along and suddenly consumers had access to authentic brands that put emphasis on quality rather than quantity,” explains Marcolini of the fashionable desire for more unique goods. “In all food and fashion industries you see boutique brands, instead of big chains, doing well. People want authenticity.”
Every year, he travels the world, visiting cocoa plantations, meeting the farmers and suppliers. “I like to go back to the traditional and artisanal way of doing things. My work is transparent and raw,” he explains. All of his produce is ethically sourced. “If I can’t see what happens there, I will not be able to produce this end product. The produce is handmade and the quality of the cocao used is what makes the brand stand apart from others.” He pauses to offer a square of chocolate from the Los Rios Ecuador Tablet, which contains 78% cocoa. Usually, a high cocoa content provides a bitter taste, but this is silky smooth. “The most important thing is not the percentage of the cocoa but the bean itself, as each one has its different flavor and quality,” he explains.
For Marcolini, who has written 10 cookbooks, traversing the globe also offers insight into different cultures. In the UAE, he was inspired by the traditional Middle Eastern generosity when someone visits a home – “They always offer a gift.” With this in mind, the multitiered Maison Pierre Marcolini chocolate box was designed exclusively for the region. What treat does he recommend for a loved one? “A quality and luxurious chocolate,” he smiles, satisfied with the knowledge that anything from Maison Pierre Marcolini will be good enough… perhaps even worth trading a favorite toy for.