We love chocolate here at Anchor & Den and we are super lucky to have our very own in-house Chocolatier, Denise! We think she is a serious genius when it comes to anything chocolate-y!
Our La Bomboneria concept at Anchor & Den was developed in 2015. With the delicious variety of flavours and great design of our bonbons, they became an instant hit with locals around the island after our appearance at the local foodie festival ‘Taste Of Cayman 2015.’ The branding of our Bomboneria is in honour of the first pioneers of chocolate – monkeys! These awesome creatures were the first to discover cacao beans. Monkeys would break open the cacao pods to get to the delicious pulp that surrounded the beans. Little did they know that when they would eat the pulp and spit out the beans they were also spreading the beans, which led to cacao trees growing all over south and central America. Looking back, we have these monkeys to thank for all our favourite chocolate creations!
Denise was a big part of this movement and concept design for A&D and we had the pleasure to sit down with Denise to pick her brain about her journey into the world of chocolate.
Q: Denise, tell us a little bit about you. Where did you first discover that chocolate was so special to you and what made you say, ‘I want to be a Chocolatier!’
I was born and raised in Buenos Aires Argentina, my parents owned a little restaurant (Pizzeria a la Via) in my hometown so I have so many fond memories of my parents in that kitchen. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in the culinary world. I was raised in it! But it was my grandmother who swayed me towards pastry as she was an amazing baker. I started studying in 2005 at the Instituto Argentino Gastronomico for pastry at the age of 19. I was offered an incredible opportunity to move to Dubai in 2011 to work in the well-known Burj al Arab a 7-star hotel. This was an amazing experience for me at the beginning of my career. While I was working there I took advantage of the chance to learn about chocolate design from the chefs; they had a great program for it at this hotel. I knew this is what I wanted to do, I felt it and from that moment I never looked back! When I moved back to Buenos Aires I began working in the chocolate business straight away. I started at Easter so I was thrown in the deep end and I had to learn quickly. I had to make SO MANY Easter eggs!
Q: When you are coming up with your creations where does your inspiration develop from?
A lot of my ideas come through personal food and drink experiences, I love to dine out and I love to try new things. For instance, I came to Anchor & Den with my father last year and tried for the first time the drink ‘Monkey Food.’ It was so delicious, made up of local banana, coconut rum and fresh pineapple. All these flavours work so well together and it’s a great Caribbean flavour. So I thought why not put this flavour into a bonbon, its refreshing, tropical and it comes with a kick! It’s one of my favourite flavours – it is awesome.
When it comes to design, everything is an inspiration to me: the ocean, the colour of the palm trees, when you live in such a paradise you have visual inspiration on a daily basis! I use Instagram and Pinterest to really understand and relate to the trends that are happening in the chocolate world, it’s always good to know where other Chocolatiers get their inspiration from also.
Q: Is there anyone who you really look up too?
For me, Jose Ramon Castillo from Mexico is a huge inspiration for me. The passion and love that he puts into his craft is incredible. He really puts his heart and soul into everything he does - he’s a true artist. It is not just about the techniques and the temperatures when he is making chocolate; it’s also about transforming how people perceive chocolate. It’s emotional and sentimental to him and that’s why he is so good at what he does. Also Patrick Roger is a very well-known Chocolatier from France. He is a god to me, the chocolate god!
Q: In this world today, from social media to TV, every field has a new trend happening. Are there any cool trends that you predict for the upcoming year for the chocolate world?
I see that smoky chocolate is a thing now. Unfortunately, I am not really a fan of it. It gives me a headache and is very overwhelming to my palate, but everyone has their thing, right? For me I love using cheese - blue cheese with dark chocolate is a match made in heaven, sounds weird I know, but if you are willing to try it you will understand the balance of the savory and the sweet. It’s amazing. A trend I see a lot on Instagram is the Farm-to-Table movement and locally sourced menus. I think it is really great and I try a lot to incorporate it into my work. I try very hard to purchase local ingredients for my fillings. For example, we have amazing mangos here in Cayman and when they are in season they make delicious fresh fillings for my bonbons.
Swing by our Bomboneria soon to meet Denise and see why everyone at Anchor & Den has a sweet tooth!