Recently, Visit Victoria, the tourism board for the Australian region, with Melbourne as its capital, organised an interesting evening, bringing together two aspects of Melbourne. Australia’s famed coffee culture and gourmet chocolate. The event showcased a masterclass by Arno Backes, founder of Melbourne’s luxury chocolate brand, Ganache Chocolate. The chocolatier conducted a workshop on how to pair coffee (Di Bella stepped in to provide some great coffee) and his own creations.
To start with, Arno took me through a series of delicious pairings which included four of his delicious creations, namely- Café Latte, Irish Cream, Noir and Melbourne Mint.
He then unveiled his exclusive creation — the Freak Shake. He said that he would have liked me to sample his famous hot chocolate recipe, but decided on the Freak Shake, which is a cold version of his special hot chocolate recipe, due to the heat wave Mumbai was going through.
After the demonstration, I sat down and got talking to the chocolatier, to gain some insights into his life and what he does.
Arno grew up in Germany and was always fascinated by the art of pastry and chocolate making. He started his apprenticeship as a chocolatier and a patissier. That sparked off his passion for chocolate. Initially he worked as a pastry chef apprentice at the Brueckencafe in St. Wendel. “When I first worked at a patisserie, ” he told me, “they had one room each for all the different types of pastries, chocolates, cakes, etc. I enjoyed the challenges and was taken up most by chocolate making, because it was always the most difficult to make and the easiest to muck up.”
His boss soon realised that Arno was gifted and took him under his wing. “I stayed back in the evenings to learn how to make chocolate with him, ” says Arno. Arno then moved to London, a few years later and worked at Marasus Petit Fours, where he even made chocolates for the Royal family.
So what does a normal day in the life of a celebrity chocolatier look like?
Arno tells me he starts his day every morning at 4 o’clock. He gets to work at 5 and works in the kitchen till around lunch and then goes on to visit clients, etc. What keeps him going? “By 9 am, I am already four cups of coffee down. And a lot of chocolate, of course, ” he jokes.
In 2008, Ganache Chocolate opened in South Yarra. From there began Arno’s amazing career. Another franchise of Ganache Chocolate opened in 2010 in Melbourne’s CBD. Initially, just one Pastry Chef worked with Arno. Now, 15 specialized chefs are a part of Arno’s team. Their collection started off with only about 150 products, and now they are up to its 450+ products, also all their seasonal products at Christmas and Easter. All their couvertures are sourced from Europe. Ganache Chocolate offers their customers everything from chocolate bars , chocolate figures, tea cakes macaroons, etc.
When I asked Arno, what he was most proud of, here’s what he said:
“There are too many things that I’m proud of. I’m very proud of what we have achieved, I am very proud of my staff. I have many staff that came to Australia to be students, and they had started working for me part time, and now they work full time. I’ve given my staff a difficult time and I am really proud of what they have achieved in that short amount of time. Having, and passing on the knowledge, passing on the training, and feeling comfortable now to be here (in India) and letting them run the show, (and its a difficult show to run), so I think that is my biggest achievement.”
Arno is a huge motorcycle enthusiast. So when he’s not making the world’s best chocolate, he’s busy riding his motorcycle across exotic parts of Australia.
I ended my conversation with Arno Backes on a sweet note. He treated me to some of the most delcious chocolates I’ve tasted in my life.
So the next time you’re in Melbourne, make sure Ganache Chocolates features on your to-do list.
Written By Kristianne Mascarenhas