Raanan Malkin, head chocolatier and owner of R&M Fine Chocolate, spoke to JLife’s Laura Sefton about making the move to Manchester and what makes his chocolatey creations so special.
What’s your background?
I was born in Be’er Sheva, Israel and studied economics at university. After graduating I worked for four years at Tnuva, the largest manufacturer of dairy products in Israel.
From there I worked at Haifa Chemicals, the world’s largest potassium nitrate producers, for 10 years, where I was supply chain manager. Over the years I developed a little hobby: chocolate.
When did you move to Manchester?
I’m married with two children and my family and I moved to Manchester almost two years ago. We wanted to try our luck somewhere that would be different to Israel. The process was long and difficult and lasted several years.
We wanted to be somewhere where we as a family could develop and be fulfilled. We were also looking for a place that was fit for a chocolate-making business.
After considering a few countries, we decided to try England, and after a visit to King David school we decided to move to Manchester. This is a decision we constantly re-examine. As an Israeli, despite the desire to realise my dreams and give my children better opportunities, the leaving of Israel has been very difficult.
How did you become a chocolatier?
At first I would spend weekends preparing pralines and truffles for my family and friends at home in Israel. I learned the basics by working with famous Israeli chocolatier, Maya Stern. Slowly the hobby grew and I found myself spending more and more time and resources on chocolate.
From there I started to develop my own recipes and explore tastes, shapes and different kinds of chocolate. Just a smile from the person who tasted my product was more than enough. But later on, parallel to my working as a supply chain manager, I began selling my products. After a while, I couldn’t go on doing both and had to choose between the ‘safe’ work and the hobby. I chose the hobby.
Tell us about R&M Fine Chocolate.
In Israel I established a small chocolate boutique named Zalman chocolate. Since moving to Manchester, I have changed the name to R&M Fine Chocolate.
After examining the chocolate market in Manchester I decided to make R&M Fine Chocolate kosher for two main reasons: firstly, I am Jewish and want my products to be the perfect fit for Jewish customers, and secondly there are some kosher chocolates here in Manchester, but they are not boutique chocolate as I know it.
The journey to becoming kosher was exhausting and difficult. In Israel I received a kosher certificate but here in Manchester it is very strict. Lots of the raw materials that are kosher in Israel are not in Manchester and I had to look for ingredients that would work from around the world.
How are you making your company stand out?
Currently I offer chocolate workshops, birthday products and chocolate-themed activities at Bnei Akiva.
For those seeking a sweet treat, boxes of R&M Fine Chocolates, filled with 12 different pralines, are stocked at Haber’s World and at Kosher Savers.
The consumption of high quality chocolate is growing rapidly worldwide, especially in East Asia, and I am giving Manchester’s Jewish community the opportunity to enjoy my chocolate creations.
What makes your chocolate different?
I make handmade chocolates and truffles, without the help of machines, using three main methods: piping, cutting and dipping. These methods are very common in Western Europe, but I found that in Manchester they are very rare. I chose these methods of working because they give freedom and creativity in terms of design and taste much more than working with chocolate molds.
My products are characterised by innovative flavours and artistic freedom. Both of these features mean that the learning process never ends. I am constantly learning from chocolatiers around the world, as well as from people who attend my workshops, meetings and exhibitions, food articles, social networks, and my surrounding environment.
What is the best way to enjoy your chocolate?
Development of new pralines can be a long process. They can be great on the first day, but after a few days that changes. So when you are about to eat a chocolate praline, remember that behind that bite lies a lot of hard work and thought. And please do not chew and swallow my pralines at once – let each of them melt in your mouth and allow yourself to enjoy the different aromas and flavors.
What do you have planned for the future?
In the near future I’m looking forward to welcoming people from the community to my workshops. Eventually, I would like to build my own place and establish a chocolate boutique where I can fulfill my dreams. I plan to continue to spread the gospel of chocolate and develop new products.