Friday, 16 November 2012


If you are interested in really miniscule cocoa plantations, then the Bajawa district of FLORES is the place you should investigate. Where on earth is Flores? Well it is eight degrees below the equator and a one and a half hour flight from Denpasar,Bali.

Flores has a brief moment of fame in 2003 when the remains that closely resembled Hobbits was discovered by paleneoanthropolgists. They lived in these idyllic island up to as recenlty as 11,000 BC.

Flores is one of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia. It is 330km long and about 70km wide at the widest point. Flores has an area of 13,540 square meters. The highest point is 2,370 meters. Close to the capital Ende is Kelimutu a volcano with a lake crater. Fed by volcanic gases the waters of the lake change colours from bright red to green to blue.

The population is almost entirely Catholic and produce more priests per head than any other country in the world.

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Yeah, yeah I know. It is the last place in the world chocolate enthusiasts expect to launch into a chocolate career by going to a school. The chances are that if you have dreams of becoming a great chocolatier, you would be considering going to school in Belgium or France. Indonesia? You must be mad, they will tell you to even allow such a thought to cross your mind.

The fact is Jakarta is a great place to go to a chocolate school. And its not because I live here. Jakarta has a long history of cocoa. I fact we had plantations here in the 1700s and were exporting cocoa to Europe in the late 18th century. Great plantations exist three to four hours from here. And it well worth a trip to just to go and look at them. They actually exist on the slopes of central mountain range and the drive up there in the morning is delightful. And the breakfast places along the way serve healthy bowls of great Java porridge. But lets get back to talking about chocolate careers and good chocolate schools.

The Chocolate School  is located in Central Jakarta. Just 15 minutes from the main street down town.Here there are a variety of courses offered; A 3-Day Basic Course, Professional and Gourmet Praline Courses and even courses that tell you how to start and market chocolate. The big surprise is  the faculty  is headed by an experienced and professional Belgian Chocolatier. Those who has discovered the school are delighted to have discovered a "secret" where they get, as even the snootiest French visitors admit, a superior chocolate education at incredible fair tuition prices. The School has drawn students not only from all over Indonesia but also from the Philippines and from the parsimonious Singaporeans on the look out for the best bargains.All chocolate used in the courses are premium couvertures.

The school is owned by FreyAbadi, a chocolate ingredients manufacturer; a joint venture between Petra Foods, Singapore and Fuji Oil of Japan. Which are excellent credentials; Petra Foods is the fourth largest manufacturer of chocolate ingredients in the world and Fuji Oil the world's number one producer of edible vegetable fats. For more information on the School you may email me for sensible guidance;

Friday, 16 January 2009


Being a very practical person, wise to the ways of world, I would responsibly advice my children to be doctors. Because, from evidence evaluated today, it does not matter much whether you are a good doctor or a hopeless one. You will still make a lot of money and have a comfortable living.Unfortunately the same cannot be said of your patients. But if you are a mediocre chocolatier, you are surely headed down the rocky road of life.

The good thing is everybody has an inborn talent waiting to blossom out to be great chefs or chocolatiers.Everyone loves to eat. Of course the majority get distracted and go into absurdities like nuclear physics. However if you are like my son, who keeps wondering and experimenting on how to make a chocolate cookie better, or his noodles more exciting or what happens if you add balsamic vinegar to rice, then it is very likely that he may see greatness in the culinary arts.And at far less cost me me than a degree in medicine or law.

Lately I have been covertly(because my wife sees him one day as a powerfully rich unscrupulous lawyer)encouraging him to pursue his curiosity in the culinary arts. I told him about Ferran Adria who began his culinary life as a dishwasher. Then a army cook. Then joined El Bulli and 18 months(I keep stressing 18 months, because my son is terribly impatient)later became head chef of El Bulli.

I told his about Heston Blumenthol and how this great man who after high school spend a week with Raymond Blanc and a few months with Marco Pierre White then lept into fame. I told my son that Blumenthal's mentor, Marco Pierre White started as a dishwasher at a the Hotel Saint George(which nobody has heard of) and then went on to establishments like the Box Tree, Le Gauroche and La Tante Clair. My son was very impressed as I rolled out these names in my best French.

The point I was trying to make is that what he needed was passion not a fearfully expensive education which undoubtedly I would have to slog for till my dying days to pay.

To be fair and balanced, as a parent must be, I told him also of Ramon Morato, probably the most famous choclatier of all. He did go to formal confectionery and chocolate schools like the National High School of Pastry, Confectionary, Ice Cream and Chocolate at Yssingeaux. I emphasised of course that Morato had won a scholarship to go there.

To bring him back from France I quoted Ferran Adria who said, "Ideal customers dont come to El Bulli to eat, they come for the experience." And that the secret of great cooking was the contrasts in flavour, temperature and texture." The study of which, I pointed out, was ever present in the street foods of Jakarta, Indonesia. Hundreds of such excellent establishments exist minutes away from our home.

I told my son about Heston Blumenthol's philosophy on food which was to discover and exploit the diner's perception of his expectations of types of food and surprise him or her out of their minds. That too can be studied intensively in Indonesia. After all, I reminded him that Indonesia was home to all ingredients and spices and herbs know to man. As well as all the textures and flavours and indeed temperatures. You are, I told my son, in the finest cooking environment in the world. It was these 17000 island archipelago that the world was supplied with spices for a thousand years or more. Here his vision could be as broad as he makes it. Never as blinkered as French cuisine which is over-rated, over-priced and mostly arrogance.Chic yes, but predictable.

Coming back to my son becoming a chocolatier I told him of the passion of Charles Barry who in 1842 travelled to Africa to look for beans. Of course he should have come to Indonesia but it no good moan about it now. Besides Africa was closer. But my son can find great cocoa beans throughout our islands. Cocoa plantations existed on Sulewesi, Java, Sumetra, Papua, Maluku,West Timor, Bali, Kalimantan, Nias and Flores. His backyard was rich with exciting beans.Bernard Callebaut actually treated his father's brewery turned chocolate factory as his playroom. And eventually learned all the secrets of making chocolate. A bit of apprenticeship with chocolaterie Menunier and off to Calgary, Canada where, much against all advice from snooty Europeans, he started his own thriving chocolate factories.

In Indonesia my son would find in most communities at least one home industry engaged in baking or chocolate or both.And because these homes dream of sending off their children to universities the motivation to successfully compete and innovate, throbs relentlessly. The country, without exaggeration is an backyard university campus in the craft of chocolate.The best best thing about it was the chocolate created was unique to the country and relevant to consumer needs. This country being the third largest consumer market in Asia, its an opportunity and challenge not to be sneezed.

Summing up, I told my son, he may not make as much money as a lousy doctor or an unscrupulous lawyer, nor afford a divorce(which he thinks is mandatory on a route to fame), but he may well be able to afford the Honda he seamed to take a fancy for. Unless of course he can reach the heights of Ramon Morato or Ferran Adria. Here, to be fair, I told him that El Bulli actually operates at a loss. They make their money on their books.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


It had to come from Japan. A friend gave me a pack of CHOCO LADY. At first I thought it was a cosmetic of some sort. It turned out to be slimming pellets. Made of chocolate they had baked biscuit centers. The pellets, I was informed were enriched with polysaccharide(mushroom citosan) that the manufacturers claim will prevent the absorption of fat. If you are enticed, it is recommended that you eat five pellets before a greasy meal. My pack contained a seven-day supply. However if you are particularly addicted to greasy meals a thirty-day convenient pack is also available.In spit of its name, it is claimed to be suitable for men as well.
The product is manufactured by Oacac, Japan.

Saturday, 3 January 2009


In some elite circles Compound Chocolate is rarely, if ever, mentioned.Among practical groups, it is chocolate. It is what they work with. During the holiday season we saw lots and lots of compound chocolate being used for confectionery, baking, snacks, beverages and innovations.

The reasons for using compounds are several. First it is easy and quick to prepare for use. It is great for meeting large volume orders. Second it is cheaper that couverture which means the price to the consumer can be kept, "reasonable." Thirdly we found that the average festive consumers enjoyed them their chocolate, joyously.

Though we found that compound lacked the shine of courverture we were able to give every product we made a rich and "chocolate intense" appearance. To vary tastes, we got different quality brands and mixed them in various proportions and developed some very interesting variances. We used it for toppings, fillings, rum balls, liqueur chocolates,and as thick spreads, which gave a crunchy bite, between chocolate cake layers. We tried wine infusions and though we had some experts advising, they didn't quite work out.

Under the category of innovations we found that compound chocolate readily accepted spices like cardamon, chili, cumin, peppers and salts. With grains of undissolved sugar and shavings of caramel they were very intriguing, delicious and delivered a great mouth experience.

It also turned out good with slightly over-roasted nuts, especially cashews, which we placed whole for better bite sensations. Walnuts were hard to get and expensive but sugared or salted or both they proved popular and were sell-outs. Marshmallows, very thinly coated worked well. The artists among us made snowflakes, stars and snowballs that glittered.

Under the present economic condition, home industries will work more with compounds. New comers will also find compound chocolate a good and profitable beginning.

And I wonder if you noticed that chocolate boutiques and hotel outlets have raised their chocolate and chocolate dessert prices or reduced the portions appreciably?

Chinese New Year is around the corner. For us it will be more innovations with friendly compounds.It is the Year of the Ox. Recommendations are to be patient, pragmatic, sensible, methodical and generous.