I aspired to take the art of chocolate making to the next level for years

FOR most people, holidays are a time to relax and enjoy some time away from the stresses of everyday life.

For Phani Kundeti, however, although his travels to Kerala, at the southern tip of India, with his wife and children were originally intended to provide nothing more than a quiet break, he It didn’t take long for the landscape to inspire new enterprise.

“The idea of ​​the business had been on my mind for a long time,” explained the man known to many islanders as Chief Kundeti. “I have always loved chocolate and for many years wanted to take the art of chocolate making to the next level.

“During our stay in Kerala, we quickly noticed the many plantations where farmers were cultivating thousands of hectares of cocoa beans and as I looked around these lands, more and more ideas for the business started to come up. form.”

Indeed, shortly after this vacation, the former executive chef of the Hotel de France spent two months in the Indian state, working with farmers to understand the quality of cocoa beans and production methods.

“Grain quality was extremely important to me,” Kundeti said. “Once I knew the standard was incredibly high, I set up a cocoa processing unit in Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India, and then taught some farmers how to handle beans after harvest to ensure they were dried and fermented in the right way to give them the flavor profile needed to make chocolate.

With the processing unit operational, Kundeti launched Kâuma, a range of Bean 2 Bar artisan chocolate products, which are sold in supermarkets and health food stores across India.

“The name Kâuma comes from two Indian words meaning peace and tranquility as well as the name of an Indian god, which reflects cocoa’s origins as food for the gods,” Kundeti explained. “Chocolate was well received in India but when I came back to Jersey I wanted to create a more sophisticated product as the European palate is a bit more developed when it comes to chocolate.”

So Kundeti set out on a mission to develop a “platform that would showcase both Indian beans and Jersey terroir” – a mission that earlier this summer culminated in the launch of Cocoa49.2.

“It took about six months to develop the recipes for the initial product line,” he said. “Before working in the kitchen I did a lot of research in the UK and Europe which showed that although people understand that dark chocolate is the healthier option, milk chocolate is the most popular in terms of flavor and creaminess. .

“As a result, I set out to create a recipe that tasted like milk chocolate but had the benefits of dark chocolates. This product contains 49.2% cocoa solids, which is why the company is called Cocoa49.2.

Coincidentally, 49.2 is also one of the island’s GPS coordinates.

“It’s the Jersey latitudinal line – although I would have changed the recipe if the grid reference had been slightly different, I’m not sure,” he laughed. “With 49.2% chocolate as a base, I then developed a white chocolate as well as a selection of dark chocolate, ranging from 70% to 100% cocoa for anyone adventurous enough to try. “

As a qualified nutritionist and chef, it was important to Kundeti that his chocolates were not only tasty, but also healthier than most brands found on supermarket shelves.

“Chocolate is generally considered quite unhealthy and a lot of the bars you see in supermarkets contain a lot of sugar,” he said. “However, the cocoa bean itself is a superfood, containing several essential nutrients, and cocoa butter is considered one of the best fats to consume. When I tested beans from Indian plantations, they contained 52% fat, which is a testament to their high quality.

And it was her desire for a “healthier alternative” to a product loved by her children that inspired her second line of products.

“So many kids love chocolate spread,” he smiles. “At home, we eat it on toast, we mix it with milk and we generally like it. As these spreads are so widely consumed, I wanted to create a healthier option for people to enjoy and so I developed a range of white and milk chocolate products blended with ingredients such as sesame, hemp, almonds and the chef’s classic, hazelnut and chocolate. .’

While he admits to being “a bit addicted to chocolate”, Kundeti’s culinary career hasn’t always revolved around cocoa.

“My love of food comes from growing up in South India, as my whole family are real foodies,” he said. “In India we tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and my grandmother, mother and aunts were all good cooks. When you grow up eating delicious home-cooked food, you naturally develop an interest in cooking.

Despite this, Kundeti did not initially plan to work in commercial kitchens.

“I did an MBA in finance before the hospitality world seduced me and went to France where I worked in a range of five-star hotels and Michelin-starred kitchens,” he said. -he declares. ‘This is where my real training and introduction to the world of gastronomy and pastry started.’

After eight years in France, Kundeti was ready for a new challenge.

“I wanted to move forward with what I had learned and, as I considered my next move, the Hotel de France offered me the opportunity to join both as pastry chef and develop the concept of Saffrons – an Indian gourmet-inspired restaurant.

“It was a three-year contract initially but, 15 years later, I’m still in Jersey,” he laughed.

While her time at the Hotel de France included ten years in the dessert section, throughout that time a small voice in the back of her head was still whispering “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.”

With its first Cocoa49.2 lines now available on its website, fetch.je, madeinjersey.je and fungidelecti.com, Kundeti is already planning for the future.

“While the launch ranges include chocolates, hot chocolate powders, spreads and truffles, I have so many ideas for other products, but I want to make sure each product is correct before to develop anything else,” he said.

“My five-year plan not only includes other cocoa products – including healthier snack bars and low-sugar ice cream – but also the launch of something like a chocolate museum, where people can watch the products being made and see the journey from the bean to the bar I wish this would include a “bar” where people could choose the flavors they want to add to their chocolate and it could be done in front of them so they have a unique treat to take with them.

But before getting there, Kundeti wants to identify commercial premises that will allow her to increase her production without incurring the wrath of her family.

“At the moment everything is made, stored and packed at home, so I need to find a bigger kitchen before my wife starts complaining about all the equipment and boxes, which have already taken over a room in the house,” he smiled.

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