Sunday October 13, 2019 By: May Allam
After living for many years in Europe, where she learned to make chocolate and pastries in some of the best Chocolate Academies in Belgium and the UK, the passionate Chocolatier and Pastry Chef Mervat Dissoky settled back in Egypt. She turned her passion for chocolate into a business.
In 2012, she opened her chocolate store Chocola, creating premium artisan chocolates. “Fine chocolate is my identity. I carefully select only the finest natural ingredients to make my chocolates and use classical melting methods to bring out the depth of its flavor. I patiently wait for the chocolates to crystallize, and they come out like precious jewelry, shining with a dreamlike gloss,” Dissoky wrote on her Facebook page.
In 2018, she founded the International Pastry and Chocolate Center in Cairo, the first Chocolate and Pastry Academy in Egypt to train Egyptian chefs to compete in the international markets.
WoE: What inspired you to become a chocolatier and not be a traditional chef for instance?
MD: I was not always a chocolatier! I began my journey as a ballerina, leading the audience to a different world through storytelling, where music is expressed through delicate dances. However, ballet careers are among the shortest-lived and following a decade of travels, I decided it was time to retire.
I endlessly sought the next medium through which I would express my art and it was not long before I discovered and fell in love with the art of chocolate-making and trained at the world-renowned chocolate academies.
I love chocolate. I love it fragrance, colors, textures, and even the long hours it takes to create and perfect my recipes. I consider myself very lucky for being able to share my simple dream of producing fine chocolates with people. I love the smiles on their faces as they enjoy the delightful pleasure of chocolate; simply.
WoE: Belgium is known to be the best chocolate-producing country in the world. You worked there and you had a prominent position. Tell us about your experience.
MD: From the moment, I discovered my passion of chocolate- and pastry-making, I didn’t rest and intended to be in the ranks of the distinguishedchocolate and pastry chefs. I vigorously learned and trained under the world’s most renowned chefs at Chocolate Academy, including Chef Philippe Vancayseele, Chef Bart Van Cauwenberghe, Chef Patrick Aubrion, I made progress every single day until I eventually became among the professional pastry chefs.
WoE: Why did you choose to return to Egypt instead of staying and working in Europe with some of the best chocolate producers in the world?
MD: I have a family and my husband’s work required we travel very often. Traveling depended on my husband’s work, and so, the family was the priority. Not only did I travel to Belgium and Europe, but also many other countries like Japan, Mexico, and other Arab countries.
WoE: How do you manage when products become scarce in Egypt due to high taxes/import bans?
MD: We are grateful to have a strong importer here in Egypt, a respectable company that always has in stock the raw materials for chocolate and pastry. As for the price increases, well, that has been an issue that everyone has had to deal with.
WoE: Who attends your Academy? Is it opened only for professionals in the chocolate-making industry or anyone can attend?
MD: To give you a brief on our Center, International Chocolate and Pastry Center is the first private training center in Egypt. Through our courses, we aim to raise the technical skill of Egyptian chefs and amateurs in the fields of chocolate and patisseries through an integrated and sequential academic approach that reaches the highest level both internationally and professionally. ICPC has an area of 230 square meters. And it is equipped with a premium setup that includes everything we need to deliver top standard training courses.
WoE: How were you chosen to create the chocolates on Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday in 2013?
MD: At the time, the British Community Association of Cairo was organizing the Queen Elizabeth II’s Birthday Ball, and having previously known my work, they reached out to me and asked that I make the chocolates for the event. Something, of course, I was delighted to do.
In 2018, the Belgian Ambassador in Cairo, Madame Sibille de Cartier also asked me to make the chocolates for the occasion of King Philippe of Belgium’s Birthday, celebrated at the Belgian Embassy in Cairo.
WoE: How do you see Egypt in the market of creating chocolates, especially since it is still a developing country and lacking resources?
MD: There is no doubt that many aspects of the Egyptian market are beginning to improve due to the up and coming new generation, which has been able to distinguish between products of high quality and others that are not.
WoE: What can you do to further promote Egyptian chocolate-makers around the world, seeing you have a huge network of connections in many countries?
MD: There are many things that I do to that end. As often as I can, I invest my time and energy in training or assisting young Egyptian chefs; I am currently helping a team of chefs and preparing them to participate in international competitions. I am also in touch with international chocolate and pastry magazines and academies, and I collaborate with them on experience exchange. Finally, I try to direct recruiters to the best Egyptian chefs in my network who are seeking work outside of Egypt.
WoE: What are your dreams for the future on a personal and professional basis?
MD: I have many big dreams! Oh, and they are without end! And all related to this beautiful field. I want to train the highest number of chefs and amateurs and to raise awareness on the true culture of chocolate. I want to travel to learn much more. I want to participate in an international competition through a team of Egyptian chefs. I want to create a generation of Egyptian chefs trained in the highest standards and able to confront the countless challenges found in Egypt. I know that the time ahead of me is limited, I’m 60 years old but I wish to continue with a relentless spirit until the very end.
WoE: Would you consider going back to Europe to teach chocolate-making or have you settled in Egypt?
MD: I see that the optimum place to be is the one where I could be of most value. I am grateful that I have been able to transfer what I have learned to Egyptians and to help as many as I can, young or old, chefs or amateurs. As for Europe, and specifically Belgium, they both have given me a wealth of knowledge and I could never truly part with them, for they are the sources of inspiration and state-of-the-art techniques, and innovation. I am still receiving support from European academies, Belgian companies, and the lovely Belgian Ambassador, Madame Sibille de Cartier.
WoE: What advice would you give to Egyptians working and living abroad?
MD: Anyone who already lives outside of Egypt would not really need my advice. However, any chef who seeks to live and work in Arab countries should know that the field of chocolate and pastry has evolved and is now an entirely different field than before. The techniques, knowledge, recipes, and jobs have changed, and so, if a chef aspires to grow in this field, he or she should work on themselves to present products of superior quality.
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