If someone mention Sicilian oranges, ginger from Jamaica, the finest bergamot in the world, pistachios and pink pepper my mind immediately starts to vision some of the most delicate fragrances available. I can sense the fruitiness and the darker notes, I see flowers and woody tones from different nuts and almonds. It is safe to say that I feel at home. I feel happy.
That’s why I was really intrigued to get the chance to sit down with the enigmatic Founder of Premier Chocolate brand Coco Jalila and the “nose” behind the luxury: Maestro Guido Gobino, Master Chocolatier.
I believe that the most interesting meetings are the ones when you know next to nothing about the topic and get an exclusive opportunity to learn a lot. It is also amazing when these kinds of meetings may result in something I can share with you all. Education and new knowledge is something amazing! I’ve often said that I’m a firm believer that beauty and art goes hand in hand. Sure, we can detect the art scene by looking at shades and textures of the latest makeup collection, but even more so – a lot of the basic ingredients and technologies used within the beauty industry are being shared by or resembled to those used for other artisanal branches. The process of creating and then savouring a fine wine or rare chocolate is not all that far from how we enjoy niche perfumery.
Dubai is not short of luxury chocolate; the Arab world is well known for their love for sweets. But as with everything rare and refined, there are levels of quality. It is easy to find expensive chocolate brands for gifting but what about what’s in the product? A pretty box or lush marketing can easily distract us from finding something special. I find it quite exquisite that the founder of Coco Jalila, an Emirati woman with very low profile and modest approach decided that she wanted to start a chocolate brand with focus on only sourcing and working with the finest of ingredients; and the best people in the industry. Through her friendship with the Chairman of Ferrari (don’t we all just love that!?) she was introduced to Maestro Gobino, a world known and awarded chocolatier in second generation based out of Turin, Italy.
When I met with the two of them (and also got to speak with one of the daughters involved in the family business) we all ended up chatting across the table, tasting and savouring the pralines while Maestro Gobino patiently tried to explain his business for a new beginner like myself! I had already tasted some of the chocolate during the World of Fashion Exhibition arranged by Mall of The Emirates and Harpers Bazaar Arabia via the House of Bazaar. I was curious as a child!
First of all, I wanted to know why chocolate? Why do you even decide to become a chocolatier and how do you do it successfully? Maestro Gobino described Turin as an old centre of chocolate making, run since the 17th century. A bit like Grasse is for the fragrance industry. His father owned a family factory there and young Gobino grew up learning everything from his dad. He calls it an “easy transmission”, an inherited know-how and in 1985 he started working on the factory and at the same time traveled the world in source of inspiration and the finest ingredients.
Maestro Gobino clearly stated that in order to be successful in his creations it was and still is important to know all international traditions, dare to develop them and take the inspiration a bit further but always know that there can’t be no evolution without tradition. That small line there, was what had me captured. With my respect for history and attention to details, I instantly felt the connection. It is very easy to fall in love with a brand which you connect with.
When I wanted to know what his most important message is the answer came quickly and almost simultaneously with the founder of the brand: in a time where people are battling weight issues, it is crucial to know the difference between “bad sweets” and quality. “Chocolate isn’t bad for you” was something Master Gobino wanted to emphasise by showing me that his creations never contains hydrogenated oil or preservatives. They are meant to be savoured, not eaten like potato chips. Let me describe this man for you all: super Italian, kind eyes and smile, very fit and healthy with an exclusive taste in clothes and accessories. Perfection, quiet and humble, but without me focusing too much on someone’s body figure, I must say that if a man that look as trim as this one can taste and eat chocolate on a daily basis then I’m prepared to accept his standpoint. Great chocolate in moderate intake is not bad for you. It enhances the life quality!
By spending an hour with these two beautiful souls, it was quite clear that they share the same love and passion, the same dreams and vision as their partnership exceeds. Coco Jalila is an SME company with the specific approach of being an Italian brand Made with love for the UAE™. The gift boxes and pralines are available at Harvey Nichols Dubai or via the company’s webshop. What impressed me a lot about the founder were the fact that she was willing to sacrifice some income by turning down certain opportunities, in order to place her brand only where she really could see it fit. It is a bold strategic move when you’re trying to grow your business, but personally I can really relate to this way of thinking as it resonates with my way of running That Luxurious Feeling.
Maestro Gobino gently tried to talk me through the process of producing these rare pralines, starting with the cocoa bean. He only works with the highest quality beans sourced in Central America where they have adopted 40 farmers down in the south of Mexico to run a fair trade operation, all with the Slow Food Movement. The cocoa must be rich and with high amount of antioxidants. Criollo beans are the ones he utilise and they are rare, only 5% of the crop, with no acidity what so ever and a white color! In order for the farmers to produce such a bean, the right soil, altitude, no pesticides and fields located about 2000m above the sea makes for the best environment. What separates the Gobino Factory and Best of Practice is the way they work with safety and debacterization. This high-tech process is fascinating in its own right, I urge you all to read more about it on http://guidogobino.it/en/the-new-production-unit/ I swear, your Christmas chocolates will not taste the same after this!
Now, tasting chocolate in front of a chocolatier is simply embarrassing! Do you spit it out like with a good wine? Do you eat it all like a child in a candy shop? Yeah, you could see my confusion here! I got to taste a number of the creations while the enthusiastic team tried to talk me through them all. My first love must have been Cremino Al Sale: Imagine a soft, smooth praline with Gianduja Chocolate infused with organic Sea Salt and mixed with the finest Extra Virgin Olive oil!? This is what I mean when beauty and art goes together. I wouldn’t mind wearing a fragrance similar to this composition.
As it so happens, this particular praline was rewarded “Best Praline of the Year” 2008 by the London Academy of Chocolate.
Single picture by: www.giogambino.it
The second of my findings were these small, hand crafted beads. Scorzette di Bergamotto; delicious treats of Bergamot covered in the finest of white chocolate with infusion of Black Tea. It is mysterious, tangy and rich. Nothing like I’ve ever sampled before and I couldn’t help but think of one of my good friends, a male connoisseur with a taste for fine perfumes. I knew he would fall in love with it as I did.
One final part that sets the partnership between Coco Jalila and Maestro Gobino apart from many other brands is the fact that they create fine artisanal chocolate without adding any dairy. I have always tried to stay away from eating too much chocolate as I’ve felt that the dairy and added fat made my skin react badly. After having munched on these luxury chocolates for a week, I can happily report that I’ve not experienced anything of the sort. My body seem to like it as much as my tastebuds!
When I asked Maestro Gobino if he had a baby, a special praline he smiled and said that MAXIMO +39® will always be close to his heart. This was the first praline that he developed and produced all on his own, investing his private money without ever knowing if it would sell. It is premium and rare as it contains of over 39% of pure hazelnuts and can only be manufactured and sold during the period of October to March. It is beautiful and melts in your mouth. This little gemstone has received a number of awards over the years and is a well loved praline in the collection.
As a serious artisan and chocolatier, Maestro Gobino pays huge attention to the raw materials and the transformation of the same. As with great high-end beauty he encourage us consumers to read the INCI-label and find out of what and how the product has been made. Working under the rule that less is more, one can see that there are no extra ingredients added to the mix, no vanilla or sugar if you don’t need it. Better to utilise seasonal ingredients like zest and nuts and spices. It came as no surprise when I was about to leave the interview, that I accidentally got to know that this man also works in creating chocolate for famous houses like Audi, Bvlgari and Ferrari. Obviously, in all his Italian style, he can see fashion in chocolate as well. In scents and tastes as well as wrapping and decoration. I believe that Coco Jalila will be very well received by the market. If you are in Dubai, bay them a visit at Harvey Nichols Dubai until the 15th of December. If not, check the website and be prepared to order your Christmas goodies.
I know I will ♥
Thank you to Maestro Guido Gobino & Coco Jalila for having me