French-inspired chocolate made in the kitchen of Nairobi
- These are artisanal, almost ornamental, brightly colored chocolates and pastries that he says are a symphony of flavors.
Martin Kirui created L’entremet, a chocolate brand, a year ago in his kitchen in Nairobi. These are artisanal, almost ornamental, brightly colored chocolates and pastries that he says are a symphony of flavors. Maryanne Maina spoke to him.
Your Instagram page has beautiful chocolates in ruby, red, gold …How did you start the business?
I started the business to keep myself busy after my work as a private chef and recipe planner ended during the foreclosure. I had worked in France as a pastry chef. I thought I could turn my skills and knowledge into a business: making tasty, beautifully packaged chocolates. I started with a few parts and the demand increased.
Why a French name for Kenyan chocolates?
The entremet means dessert in French. I chose a French name to pay homage to the country and the language with which I fell in love.
How did you get started making pastries and chocolates?
My first introduction to commercial cooking came from the International Hotel and Tourism Institute, a culinary school in Nairobi, almost seven years ago. In 2018, I moved to France to continue my studies. I am a saucier, sautÃ©ed by profession and I have been baking for several years.
After cooking school, I had the chance to work in a few Michelin starred restaurants in the south of France. Working in a Michelin-starred restaurant teaches you to respect ingredients, to handle them with precision, and ingredients measured to the nearest gram.
Not a gram less or more, not even by portioning anything, not an inch more or less. Working in restaurants like this puts you in a robotic way of doing things in the kitchen that I think every chef should follow.
How to create chocolates in your kitchen?
It starts with a design idea. The next step is the endless polishing of the molds because that is where the shine comes from. Making the garnish is another step. I try not to have a fixed choice because people ask for different flavors. A customer once ordered mango and chilli candy because he loved fresh mango with chili, a street snack.
It was amazing creating sweets, associated with high end stores, and filling them with street food. The following is chocolate tempering which is the process of increasing the temperature of chocolate.
The degrees vary with each chocolate from dark to milk to white. This is done for two purposes, forming crystals in the chocolate which gives it that shiny and shiny appearance and hardening it to create a certain chocolate design.
What machines do you use to create your chocolates (candies)?
I have a bunch of little kitchen utensils. For shine and detail I use an airbrush with different needle fittings that are attached to an air compressor. This allows me to create a clean and detailed look, thermometers for tempering chocolate and an immersion blender for making colored cocoa butter.
What flavors do you make?
The flavors are endless. I was thinking of an ‘achari’ flavored candy. Just imagine the chocolate snack bonus, but the coconut part is mixed with baobab powder, sugar, and natural coloring.
My bestsellers are the hazelnut praline, pistachio praline, salted butter caramel, chocolate ganache and some fruit creams.
Where do you get your products from?
The chocolates come mainly from Belgium and France, the equipment from the United States and China, the mussels from Italy, the raw cocoa butter from Ghana and the vanilla from Madagascar.
The process is to seek out the best products, because great products come with great taste. I don’t use cocoa pods, just ready-made chocolate couverture sachets. I mainly use dark chocolate (74%), milk chocolate and white chocolate from Callebaut.
What are the prices of your chocolates?
A chocolate filled with yuzu gel would cost a lot more than a simple chocolate ganache filling. However, for bestsellers, a box or six candies would vary from Sh1800 to Sh2000, and a 12 pack would cost between Sh2000 and Sh3200.
How many do you sell per week and per month?
For general pastries like desserts and pies, maybe two or three items per week and sweets like four 12 packs per week, but this all varies on holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Easter. I sell online and with home delivery. I would say the buyers are 60-40% female versus male.
Guide us through the design process.
I try to stick to the color palette of the flavor toppings. For example, if it’s a strawberry compote garnish, I’ll use more red colors and another contrasting color to break up the monotony. My tools include mini brushes, airbrushes, spray guns and stiff brushes. I let my imagination run wild.
When it comes to designs, the shape is determined by the mold used. If it’s a bitter and sour flavor I use smaller inserts because no one wants a bite of bitter tasting chocolate. With sweeter things like caramel or fruit compotes, I use slightly larger inserts.
The process begins with a base color (if it’s a colored candy). The base color is applied with a brush, then I let it dry at room temperature then I load my airbrush with tempered colored cocoa butter and spray inside the candy cavities the desired color.
After 15 minutes of waiting, I pour the tempered chocolate shake, give it a few hits, pour it all and now I have a shell. This shell must rest for 12 hours in the refrigerator. I wait 12 hours as this is about the maximum time required for effective crystallization of cocoa butter.
The next day is refill day. I fill each cavity almost three-quarters full, then cover it again with tempered chocolate. This should sit for about an hour, then turn the mold over and hit it on a marble platter.
This is the most nerve-racking process, because if the chocolate or cocoa butter didn’t temper properly, they would simply stick to the cavities.
Your business is in an industry of desires, not of necessities. What are your victories and your challenges?
When I started I knew I wanted to offer something different, something that only a handful of people do in Kenya. I want to meet the needs of greedy consumers. The main challenge is the lack of local vendors who sell couverture chocolate (high end chocolate) or even chocolate working tools.
It forces me to import ingredients that are expensive and there is a waiting period. An order that can be processed in two days and take two weeks to arrive in my kitchen. I want The Entremet to be associated with the most high-end artisanal chocolates and pastries in Kenya.
Ms. Maina is a luxury expert based in Paris