Story by Marti Rosenquist | Photography by Nina Lee
What began as just another day at the office in the diamond district of Belgium took a turn that would lead Melanie Boudar on a global exploration of an elixir that has been shrouded by mystery, marvel, and pleasure since 2000 B.C.
For twenty years, Boudar had visited Belgium regularly for her job as a gem dealer, and although she had become acquainted with the many renowned chocolate shops in that country along the way, it wasn’t until a diamond deal went awry that she seriously took note.
“One day, after buying a beautiful parcel of diamonds, I was ready to go home. In Belgium, after you make a deal, you shake hands, and seal it by pronouncing, ‘Mazel, mazel!’ For me it was done, but about an hour later, the seller came back and told me he had underpriced the parcel dramatically. Embarrassed, he nevertheless asked me to give it back.
“I was tired, and rather than go through the whole rigmarole of sorting it out in diamond court, I said, ‘Okay fine,’ and gave it back. The next day I received an enormous, gift-wrapped box of the most exquisite chocolates I’d ever seen in my life, crafted by a specialized little chocolate shop in the diamond district. It was gorgeous, the smell was incredible, and I worked my way through that box quickly. It was amazing.”
Fresh cream is the key that makes artisanal chocolates remarkable, according to Boudar, who opened her first Sweet Paradise Chocolatier in Kailua, O‘ahu, in 2008. Chocolate products in America are typically made with milk powders to ensure a long shelf life. But when crafted from fresh ingredients, chocolate melts on the tongue, revealing enhanced top notes and adding a long, satisfying finish. “Even the best commercially made product doesn’t compare. I’ve always been a cook, a baker, an amateur chef; it was the freshness that impressed me.”