While there are certainly plenty of chocolatiers that have gained a claim to fame in Europe, few artisans have made their presence felt in North America like Pierre Marcolini. When a chocolate gets featured on Oprah, it’s a pretty good indication that the brand is destined to a quick rise to the top of the American market. Still, Pierre owes much of his success to his strong European roots, which continue to garner success in his field. Like many artisans, Pierre Marcolini runs a bean-to-bar operation, controlling every step of the production process and infusing subtle differences in each variety that rolls out the door and into the hands of happy customers. Still, compared to the overall chocolate market, this type of operation is still considered to be quite rare and specialized.
Many chocolate masters trace their interest to their younger years, but few chocolatiers can claim that making quality chocolate was a childhood dream. Born in Belgium, Pierre certainly enjoyed the flavor of the confection as a young man, as did most of his competitors. However, he was so passionate about chocolate that he maintained from a very early age that this amazing substance would shape his life and career. As a young man, he studied extensively under pastry chefs, with a strong focus on chocolate artistry. Pierre began making a name for himself beginning in 1991, when he earned an award for the Premier Belgian Ice Cream Confectioner. He followed this feat with pastry awards in both 1995 and 2000, cementing his name in the world of fine desserts. Along the way, he turned his full focus to chocolate, the love of his childhood.
Pierre Marcolini first appeared on the chocolate-making scene in 2003, with the opening of his first chocolate shop in Paris. The master, however, had been working with chocolate extensively since 1994, when he officially founded Les Chocolats l’Iris. He spent nine years nurturing this storefront, marketing his products and perfecting his art. In 2009, another Paris location joined his flagship eatery. Today, Pierre Marcolini is a worldwide name, with shop locations in areas as varied as Kuwait, New York, Tokyo, London, Paris and his home country of Belgium.
As a young company, Pierre knew that quality was going to be the one factor that could make his product stand out. Because of that, he takes a very hands-on approach to chocolate making. He also believes that simple flavors have a complexity that adding more ingredients can ruin. From the very beginning of his company, his production process has started with the basics, building flavor combinations from only the most pure ingredients. Pierre transforms his beans into pure bars of chocolate before adding the infusions that make each chocolate taste experience.
From the very beginning of the company’s inception, Pierre maintained a strong focus on quality ingredients and distinct sourcing of the beans. As an artisan bean-to-bar company, Marcolini knows that his chocolate is only as good as the cocoa beans that it comes from. Pierre still works with growers in Venezuela and other South American countries. The rest of his ingredients are also from the best sources, including French dairy products and the best Madagascar vanilla.
After experiencing distinct success in the European market, Pierre made the decision to move across the pond in 2005. His first shop in America became a partnership with Julia Collins, who serves as the head of the North American branch of Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier. Because of the sophisticated tastes and open-mindedness of the New York palette, the location was a hit. Like many European chocolatiers, Pierre found New York to be the perfect American flagship. The New York shop carries more than one hundred different varieties and flavor combinations and Julia plans to expand the North American market to other boutique locations as demand increases.
Pierre Marcolini continues to build on his success and is constantly perfecting his art. Unlike some chocolatiers who keep a fairly small product line, Marcolini feels that each customer has his own unique taste and offers one of the widest varieties of flavors on the luxury market. From pralines to truffles to ganache, Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier carries it all. Dark chocolate is a popular seller, with an 85% chocolate bar catering to the most discerning aficionado. Most dark chocolates in the line, however, range from between 60% and 80%. Pierre uses fruit, spices, nuts and coffee to create his distinct flavors. In addition to the regular product line, Pierre also creates seasonal flavors and packages, including gift boxes for Christmas, Valentines Day and other chocolate-heavy holidays. While Pierre isn’t opposed to mixing bean sources to create palette-pleasers, some of the best-selling chocolates are still regional and single-source bars that highlight the flavor complexities of individual beans.