Chocolate man arouses senses with fruits and nuts

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 July, 2006, 12:00am

Andy Tsang believes the key to a successful small business is passion and quality.

And while the owner of the unique Monde Chocolatier admits to having scant knowledge of business plans or profit models, he is well versed in the finer things in life.

The 27-year-old began his working life in corporate sales for IBM in Vancouver, but it was not for him, so he quit and opened a cafe. Then the wanderlust took hold and he left for a backpacking trip in Europe where his interest in good food and wine became a love.

For several years, Mr Tsang found himself working with master chocolate-maker Dominique Jarry in Paris and 'Master' Vincenzo in Verona, Italy. When he was restless, he would travel, soaking up the sounds, sights and smells he believes inspires the chocolates in the Ap Lei Chau showroom.

Mr Tsang, originally Indonesian Chinese but having spent time in Singapore and Canada, first came to Hong Kong because he had family here. He came to realise his multicultural experience coupled with the skills acquired in Europe could be to his advantage setting up a business in Hong Kong.

'For me, the most important things in this business are the quality of the ingredients because then the products speak for themselves,' he said. 'We only use the finest ingredients - cinnamon from Indonesia, vanilla bean from Tahiti - and we don't add sugar to the final product or use butter to make the chocolate.'

Another bonus is he knows the flavours and textures Asian people appreciate, and how mass-produced chocolate is considered too rich for their palate.

He uses spices, fruits and nuts in the gourmet chocolates and some of the flavours he includes are sesame, green tea and rose-flavoured truffles.

When he started, Mr Tsang was worried that customers would not enjoy the taste of his vision, no matter how hard he tried. 'I was worried gourmet culture was too weak here because some Hong Kong Chinese will still mix a fine Bordeaux wine with Coke or Sprite,' he said.

But nine months into his experiment Mr Tsang's fears have proven unfounded. He now employs seven staff, has started serving coffee with the same dedication to quality and is even selling wine that is largely from his personal collection.

Mr Tsang's claims he does not know how much money he has invested other than the 'small pool' from his parents, but the business is 'doing well'.

'We really have to be focused on the ingredients, quality and consistency of the chocolate,' he said. 'This is where the business succeeds or fails.'

And he works in the 'chocolate laboratory' no more than 10 hours a day, believing rest is important to refuelling his creative side. The biggest problem is fitting in his love of travel. 'It's my baby now,' he said. 'But hopefully I'll get away for three weeks - next year!'

Monde Chocolatier is located on the 10th floor of the Horizon Plaza, Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau. Phone: 2870-2988