An unlikely name for a specialty chocolate line that celebrates Filipino flavors.
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 ”“ 1527) was an Italian political philosopher and statesman. His political treatises ”“ most notably, The Prince (1513) – generated controversy (then and now) because of its outlined strategies devised to keep a dictator in power. Those musings are the basis of modern political philosophy, giving rise to the terms, “Machiavelli” (one who connives and contrives) and “Machiavellianism” (the use of deception or scheming, usually in politics).
Like the name Machiavelli, its chocolate namesake is also susceptible to all sorts of interpretations. Says Raul Matias, the chocolatier-owner of Machiavelli Chocolatier, “Historians made him [Machiavelli] look bad but actually he’s very pragmatic. He believes that there’s no such thing as absolute good, absolute virtue, which I think is true. He was way ahead of his time.” Pointing at his boutique’s signage, he avers, “It’s a very strong name. And easy to remember. The quotes on the website are also from him.”
Politics have no relation to morals. ”“ Niccolo Macchiavelli
Chocolates have no relation to morals. ”“ Machiavelli Chocolatier
In just under a year since Machiavelli Chocolatier has hit local shores, runaway favorites include the Yema de Manila (patterned after the leche flan ), a divination of egg yolks and sugar mixed with chocolate, and Purple Yam Yum whose whimsical color peeks out upon first bite. I never even considered that ube and chocolate would work, but here it does. There’s something appealing about the balance created between the earthiness of the tuber and the smoky tones of the chocolate.
Raul spent what he calls, “… the first half of my life” in the States working as a Physical Therapist. As his interest in that profession waned, he remembered his childhood love for chocolates, specifically his daily breakfast of Nestlé Crunch. “I loved chocolates even back then,” he recalls. So, through hard-edged diligence, Raul put himself through four years of schooling in Canada and Paris, pursuing his passion for the cocoa bean.
In 2004, Raul shuttled between Florida, Connecticut, and New York apprenticing at various chocolate boutiques and molding truffles with the likes of notable pastry chef, Fritz Knipschildt. “Those stores were very secretive about their techniques. I’d only arrive when the ganache was already made,” he exclaims, waving his hands animatedly, a charming mannerism of his. Before the year ended, Machiavelli was born in a rented professional kitchen in New York. “I’d make chocolates on the weekend and peddle them from store to store,” Raul remembers.
Machiavelli met with moderate success and after much thought, Raul decided to bring the business to Manila. “Wala pa naman chocolatier na Filipino,” he muses, “and I really wanted to come home.” A pause, and then he declares, “I’m very patriotic!”
I fix him with a blank stare.
Raul chuckles, “Believe it or not, Lori, I’m a Filipino first and last.”
“My gosh, I wish I interviewed more people like you,” I reply in amazement.
But once we move to the display cases and I take a good look at the chocolates’ gleaming exteriors, there’s no denying the Pinoy national pride that Machiavelli chocolates are a paean to. Flavors whose names conjure tropical, sugar-full fantasies that are as exotic as the ingredients used to make them: Coconut Screw, Lychee Noir, Guava Asia, Negros Crunch Dark, and my favorite, Ivorie (IH-vo-ree; short “I”) Jack. The latter is a white chocolate ganache infused with langka (jackfruit), its distinct aroma and flavor enhanced by the lushness of the white chocolate ”“ sweet, flowery, a touch of peach even, layers of flavor building a taste-echo of memory in the mouth. Truly, European chocolates married to Asian flavors.
”Experience the chocolate. Eat it slowly. Sit down and drink water in between flavors. Arte no? Raul laughs.
Using native ingredients is the cornerstone of Machiavelli Chocolatier. Raul’s latest creation, the Negros Crunch (dark and milk), is named after the muscovado sugar that Negros is famous for. “Negros used to be the top exporter of muscovado. [Abroad], it’s now called Barbados sugar. I want to take it back, I want to take history back.” He details upcoming flavors, one he calls a classic “vintage truffle” made with Palawan honey. “Ayoko maging boring,” Raul says proudly, emphasizing his point with his hands. “I like reinventing and I want Machiavelli to stay forever; it’s a global name, no boundaries.”
G/F Rustan’s Makati, Essenses Area, near Glorietta 4.