"By age 10, I had narrowed down my choices to chef, artist or some sort of mad scientist. It turns out I chose the career that encompasses aspects of all three!" —Mehdi Chellaoui
Chocolatier/Owner, Chellaoui Chocolatier
Mehdi Chellaoui, chocolatier and owner of Chellaoui Chocolatier, is in love with all things chocolate. His first exposure to the art of chocolate making came in a summer internship at Payard, where he saw François Payard pulling sugar. He started working with chocolate in the bustling pastry kitchen of Le Cirque 2000 at the age of 16 and went on to apprentice in the chocolate room under the guidance of master chocolatier Jacques Torres. Chellaoui received a C-CAP scholarship enabling him to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) before working in the kitchens of Jean Georges, Club Metropolitan, Aureole, La Côte Basque, and Payard Patisserie; he has served as private chef to fashion and hip-hop mogul Sean Combs and his designs have been showcased on the runway at New York City’s Chocolate Fashion Show. His latest venture, Chellaoui Chocolatier, is a New York City-based online chocolate company that specializes in handcrafted, artisanal chocolates.
C-CAP Alumnus Mehdi Chellaoui, Chocolatier/Owner of Chellaoui Chocolatier. Photography by David Alexander
Moroccan-born Chellaoui moved to New York with his family when he was a toddler. He got his first serious introduction to cooking in high school culinary arts at Long Island City High School in Queens, New York. As a junior, he and classmate Amar Santana received scholarships from Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) to Le Cordon Bleu in London. “We had a jolly good time, while having the learning experience of a lifetime,” says Chellaoui. “C-CAP provided valuable opportunities that gave me confidence as a young cook.” From his early days of interning to the thrill of his new business, Chellaoui cites C-CAP as a constant influence: “C-CAP has always been there to assist me on my path to becoming a chef.”
Eager to advance his skills, Chellaoui recently joined a team of chocolate makers interested in mastering the complete process from raw beans to finished products. He received beans from five farms and co-ops located in Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Dominican Republic, Peru and Belize. Daily tasks included sorting, roasting, winnowing and grinding the beans before blending it into chocolate. After the chocolate was made, he would temper, mold and package the finished chocolate. “It was truly an amazing experience to connect with the raw ingredient and try to solve mysteries about it every day with the goal of mastering its elements,” says Chellaoui.
With the chocolate he produced, he made small batches of bonbons and confections. According to Chellaoui, “The bonbon is the final step in my eyes: the final transformation of the cacao bean and the culmination of all this work. It is where I connect to what inspired me at the start of my career at the age of 15. The bonbon is where I can highlight the amazing aspects of cacao. I highlight the subtle and bold aromas and textures, rarely using more than five ingredients.”
“When Mehdi joined our team at Jean Georges, I immediately saw how driven he was to learn. He would finish his shifts in the savory kitchen and come spend time with me in my chocolate lab on his own time, asking questions and comparing techniques. His passion for chocolate was evident and his desire to grow and excel is remarkable. Mehdi knew what he wanted and he went after it with a vengeance. I have no doubt we will see extraordinary things from Chef Chellaoui for years to come. I am happy that C-CAP gave him the necessary tools he needed to start him on his sweet path to success.”
Sugar Fueled, Inc.
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