Calgary chocolatier sets out on new business venture

Bernard Callebaut lost the legal right to use his name when he lost his first business, Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut. His recognizable name was an asset to the company, but the loss wouldn’t keep him from the chocolate business. He started a new company called Papa Chocolat soon after he lost ownership of his original business, launching in December of 2010.

“Chocolate has something that attracts you,” says Callebaut. “It’s a happy business; it’s a very creative business, so you can do lots of things with it that makes people happy. And if you’re in a business that can make people happy then you’re far ahead of the game. And it grows on you—it simply grows on you.” 

Callebaut’s love of chocolate is something he says is only matched by his love of people. He loves to see the joy in the faces of his customers when they try his products. He believes that when people eat his chocolate it makes them forget about their worries and he treasures the way his business can improve a person’s day.This tempering machine is designed to make the chocolate at the right temperature, while constantly mixing it at the same time. Photo by Paul McAleer

“[The chocolate] puts people on a different planet — the chocolate planet probably!”

Callebaut grew up next to his family’s chocolate factory in Belgium. He woke up to the succulent smell of chocolate every morning, but it was not enough to make him fully commit to the business. He studied engineering before ultimately becoming a chocolatier.

“It is very similar to a chef in the kitchen, there’s no doubt about it,” Callebaut says. “A chef in a kitchen, you know, people say, ‘Oh, you lost your business, you lost your recipes.’ It really doesn’t matter.”

“A chef in a kitchen, if you take his menu and you put a lighter on it and the menu is gone, it doesn’t matter. [If] he is a true passionate chef, he is going to say, ‘Fantastic, now I can create a new menu!’”

Employees, Halyna Mandryk (left) and Mark McGuire (right) are hard at work. Mandryk fills moulds with crushed nuts, while McGuire pours warm chocolate into the moulds. Photo by Paul McAleer

Callebaut is in the process of rebranding Papa Chocolat to a more generational name. Master Chocolat: Bernard and Sons will have the same chocolate as before, but with a different face. The rebranding will serve as a fresh start that Callebaut hopes will take the business from a local success to a national one. In preparation for the name switch, Callebaut and his team are focused on making sure the base of their business is at its strongest.

“When you have a strong foundation, you can build as many stories as you want and the thing won’t tip over,” Callebaut says. “And that’s what we need: we need a strong foundation in product quality and the team around you. Once you have that in place then you can grow.”

Even though Callebaut has been in the chocolate business for a very long time, he still talks about the craft with a bright-burning passion in his eyes. 

Master Chocolat is in safe hands. 

pmcaleer@cjournal.ca

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The editor responsible for this article is Jesse Buchholz, jbuchholz@cjournal.ca