Maison Mulnati our Local Chocolate l’Atelier
In 2018 when we opened our coffee shop there were a few other new food businesses just starting out in Penticton and one of those was Maison Mulnati. Celine and David make amazing vegan chocolates and organic pastries using a lot of local ingredients that they painstakingly prepare themselves- activating nuts, preserving fruits and mostly going the extra mile to provide our town with healthy and delicious chocolate delicacies. The best part about Maison Mulnati is they are always experimenting. We have enjoyed working with Celine and David to get our syrup game on point. We couldn’t go the way of adding flavored sugar water to coffee, because mostly it is just not right – to you, to the coffee or to the planet But…. we know that many people are accustomed to a little sweetness in their latte, so Maison Mulnati has developed with us our three sauces; Dark chocolate, Carmellasse and the newest addition- Squirrel Sauce which is made with REAL Hazelnuts.
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As a part of our getting to know each other Blog series, I had a chat with Celine about food and diversity. If you didn’t know about Reunion Island where Celine and David met and had their children then you should read a bit of this interview – When the world is normal again it sounds like a place worth visiting.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Celine, you know I read your website quickly to get some points for what I wanted to ask you about and I read that you are from Reunion Island and I had no idea where that was so I looked it up and it is really interesting -there is no local population from there everyone is an immigrant?
Yes absolutely – you have people coming from China, Pakistan from yah, Africa France of course, from all around the world.
Did you grow up there?
No I was born in France but both my parents were raised over there, I spent all my life in France so when I went to Reunion Island it was kind of new. I went every 4 years in holidays for 2 months over there with my parents so I knew the place but never lived over there before I was adult.
So you and David were both there working and making our life at the same time, you met and then decided to live there?
Yes and I don’t know how long we stayed, but years because also both of our kids were born there.
It sounds like a very unique place,
Yes it is, but it is very crowded, that is why we left because there were too many people, not like here where you can have your privacy in Reunion Island you have a neighbor here and a neighbor there, just next door and because it is always hot people are outside always making parties and everything so its…noisy. Now we want to rest, and there if you want to rest you have to rest with your neighbours and it is nice when you are young interested in parties and having night fun, but when you become a parent, it’s not the same
I guess it also teaches you a lot of things about diversity
Because everyone lives in harmony there, they don’t fight because of religion or because of racism …. They are all mixed, my grandmother was a black woman, I have Chinese in my family my mom was really from a white blue eyed background…
So from Reunion Island your family left to travel?
Yes after that we went to Cambodia, but before we were used to travelling a lot in Asia because it is close so we went often to India, Thailand Malaysia… when we left Reunion Island we went to Cambodia
With your kids?
Yes but we stayed only two months there and left because yes, it was not a good place to raise kids
Child abuse is pretty horrible in Cambodia.
Yes and well we left and went to Philippines’ not Manilla but we went to an island that is mostly an expat community so it was very safe and you didn’t see child abuse or drugs… So we stayed there two years and half waiting for our papers to come here to Canada)
Did you apply because of your professions?
Yes we came because of our professions so we had the first cut for the immigration office so we came and we didn’t have our status yet to immigrate so we came as Woofers…
Woofers, that is workers in the agricultural industry?
Yes we were working on organic farms
How long were you doing that for?
About 6 months with the whole family, we bring our kids everywhere we go to restaurants to wherever,
I think about that too everyone says now that I am having a kid my life is going to change, and I am like, Why?
Kids are very flexible, you take them everywhere they are not shy they can talk to people, you see some kids, especially in France not so much here, but they are scared by others or adults .
What are some things you have seen in Canada culture that is different? What about how Canadians believe they are very multicultural do you believe that?
Not really, when you come from Reunion Island not so much. The cultural profile of Canada mostly mix people from Europe but the others, the ones who came more recently, still stay in their community. Even the Native people keep their own identity because there is not a lot of blending. That exists of course but it’s not the major part of those populations. You can see how multicultural Canadian society is during events like the one world festival where you can see a lot of cultures represented.
One thing they say about Canadians is that we are really good at integrating cultures not assimilating them, so we enjoy the differences, maybe not like on Reunion Island its really…not as obvious
Yes there they are really mixed together; here if you are from China you are most likely going to marry the same. India it’s the same, Reunion Island everyone is mixed together and also they have several religions.
Yes, you can be Christian and have Chinese culture, for example lots of people from India practice traditional things, like the procession with the cow, the walk on fire, and then they also go to the Christian church.
So basically you know peace on earth is possible?
Hahaha yes for sure
They celebrate the Chinese New Year and all the island celebrates all together. so here I find it isn’t so multicultural, I am not sure here for example people marry in between I am not sure, it is not so obvious here in Canada, in Reunion Island you see someone and when you see his or her mother, husband or wife and children then can all look totally different, some black, some Asian and blue eyes in the same family. My cousin’s husband is a Chinese guy with green eyes, it’s pretty uncommon.
Do you think the values you have are because of where you have lived and what you have seen this is the reason you have made the business decisions you have? For example you make chocolate that is more humanitarian, you worry about how the chocolate impacts people’s health and you are worried about how chocolate impacts child labor..
Yes, when we were in the Philippines I spent hours and hours watching videos, reading things about food and about health and I tried a lot of things about vegan diet and I tried any kind of diets, I ate only raw veggies fruit and for example a diet eating only banana
So you experimented on yourself?
Yes, because I wanted to know what everyone was talking about, so you know fasting, and also a lot of things, and then we realized how food was important to health and it’s not only the vegetable itself but also how it is grown.
Do you believe there is something in what we eat, some energy or something more spiritual?
Yes absolutely we did also experiments – for example sun gazing I don’t know if you heard about that
No I have never heard about that
So you have to look at the sun directly –
During an eclipse?
Haha No… only little by little, for a few moments a day and only at the beginning or the end of the day and in the Philippines we had the sunsets and the ocean so it was perfect, here if you want to do that you have the mountains so you will only have the sun that is bright and too strong to do that. This sun gazing is supposed to stimulate your pituitary gland.
So you have tried everything?
Not everything hahaha but enough
Enough that you have a very open mind?
Yes we understand energy is very important
I feel the same about my business, it wouldn’t be right to make a profit on something that was not ethical, It would be harmful to me as a person.
Yes you have to match what you believe and what you sell
That is why we are also … when we arrived here first, we needed chocolate because we are chocolate addicts and really everything here was too sweet
When I was reading about Reunion Island one of its only exports is sugar…
Yes I think many desserts on Reunion Island are also too sweet. In France they focus more on the nominal ingredients the chocolate or the fruit.
Like to focus on the main component, its similar in coffee when people just add flavouring and then you miss the attributes of the coffee and then it doesn’t really matter what you are drinking and people get very addicted to that sugar part of it.
Less sugar is important and also we try to use organic ingredients, for example we try to use everything organic but when we go to the market often small farmers they say they don’t spray but they also do not have any certification. It’s a matter of trust. I don’t need them to show me a paper to prove what they say.
It is important to support farmers that are transitioning to organic farming enabling or encouraging this change is helpful.
Yeah, finally, for me, it’s, well… sometimes I wonder if it’s not the same company that provides the pesticides.
Oh yes, In case of in the case of Honduras, with coffee farming, and the people that promote the organic label, they often are the only ones that sell the organic products. So for the farmer to access organic fertilizer, pesticides they have to buy through the company that also certifies them, or there are loan mechanisms and it can be corrupt or at least there is a business being made on top of the farmers.
If our goal is to feed the world, maybe being entirely organic right now is not possible. But I don’t know, with food it it’s very complicated. Probably we could feed everybody with being organic but also the logistics and the infrastructure are challenges and people have tastes like they want a mango in December and Canada.
For us, the program is to do our best. Also nowadays you have one field of… I don’t know let’s say one cereal so it’s easier to harvest, monoculture is one of the big problems too. I think the future is to have your own garden.
Yes, I agree. And also the future in chocolate for example, there is a whole other side of the chocolate industry that’s dangerous which is, well first all the sugar that people eat, right? Yeah, that’s really harmful, but then it is where the chocolate comes from. Just like how you source all your fruits and other nuts or whatever you’re adding it’s also about where you’re getting the chocolate from because well, there’s a lot of child labor involved anything from Nestle or the other main chocolate bar companies, you know they involve some child slavery.
Yes this is true so we source all slavery-free chocolate. We want to make direct trade relationships as well but it is difficult at our size and this is not possible yet.
So just to finish off the interview, do you think that the effort you make in creating a healthy product and an ethical product means there is a difference in your chocolate that you can taste?
Yes for sure you must be able to taste the difference of course that is what we hope.
That is what we hope too! If you have not tried Maison Mulnati Chocolates the store on Eckhardt Ave. across from the Casino is open for mostly preorders only right now due to Covid-19. They do a great Saturday Breakfast with a menu posted each week on their Facebook Page that can be preordered by email at firstname.lastname@example.org