Nick Malgieri explores a new concept in chocolate.
In a move designed to meet increasing demand for both artisanal products and hands-on experiences for consumers, Voilà Chocolat opened in a cozy 1,400-square-foot space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in December 2014. At the West 79th Street store (slogan: ‘Make Your Own Happiness’), decorated in white and natural tones brightened with pops of red color, customers can not only purchase fine chocolates, but groups of up to 75 can also dip their own, enrobe truffles, and create customized bars in sessions lasting from 30 to 60 minutes. Classes—frequently pegged to specific holidays—for children and adults are also available. A private party space can hold 15 people.
Food Network personality Serena Palumbo, who lives nearby, said, “I am so glad to have a Voilà Chocolat in my neighborhood! The venue is fantastic and the concept is brilliant and well executed by a team of passionate and dedicated people. Being able to create your own truffles and chocolate treats is a great experience for adults and children.” Indeed, the idea is clever, but as always, the proof is in the product. At a party celebrating the shop’s upcoming one-year anniversary, filled chocolate walnut confections were offered alongside edgier offerings like a yuzu-basil chocolate and a hauntingly flavored green-tea chocolate. Other products include strips of candied orange peel enrobed in dark chocolate, chocolate-covered figs, hand-piped mendiants covered with nuts and raisins, and a duo of hot chocolate mixes. Palumbo is also a fan of master chocolatier Christophe Toury’s peanut butter pop rocks, speculoos, and mango truffles.
Toury, an experienced 45-year-old chocolatier, is a native of Chartres, France. He started his career at the Ritz in Paris and also worked at the Essex House Hotel, the Four Seasons Maui, the Four Seasons New York, and served as Executive Pastry Chef at the Mandarin Oriental before becoming Chocolatier and Executive Pastry Chef at Jacques Torres Chocolate, a position he held for three years.
Toury recalled that he was initially hesitant when founder Peter Moustakerski (who also proudly wears the title of “Chief Cacao Nut”) first contacted him about the unusual venture, but when he saw that Moustakerski had a solid business plan, he began to warm to the idea. “Once we clicked, we shared many ideas and I merged totally with this concept. It’s not an easy process to retain sanitary conditions while delivering great tasting and beautiful products that our customers often make themselves,” Toury said. “We both work from the heart and share a great passion for chocolate.”
Moustakerski holds an MBA from Columbia and for 13 years lived in China, where he ran a confectionery company and several other businesses. He found his calling during a tour of the Scharffen Berger factory in San Francisco and went on to study chocolate at the French Culinary Institute, as well as in Costa Rica with Canadian chocolatier Pam Williams, the founder of the École Chocolat.
Voilà is really “four businesses in one,” Moustakerski explained. About half of the store’s revenue comes from walk-in customers or those with reservations who want to make their own chocolates. Another 25 percent of the business stems from events—everything from corporate team building to bachelorette parties. Moustakerski expects that to expand to close to half of the business. Another quarter of the business derives from retail chocolate sales, and the online ordering system currently in the launch phase should cause that to grow as well. Brand-driven custom gifts and products round out the revenue sources. Moustakerski would like to replicate branches in the New York area and farther afield.