WHO’S BEHIND “M” DE NOIR?
She was my marketing professor at the university when she asked in class if there were any students who would like to help her open her chocolate store; curious about this world, I said yes and started working with her immediately. Wearing her brown apron, she became a different kind of professor, the kind who teaches you about life, dreams and risks; who makes you realise that no matter how old you are, you could and should always pursue your true passion. And here I am, three years later, visiting the Salon du Chocolat in Paris, and finding her on a stage being honored with the “L’espoir Etranger” award among other renowned European and Asian pastry chefs. Her name is Maya Maalouf Kanaan, founder of “M de Noir”, a delicious chocolate atelier in Lebanon.
Maya started out in something else, marketing. She earned her MBA degree in the States, then worked at Impact BBDO in Beirut where she met her husband, the father of her two beautiful young daughters. She also taught marketing courses at the Lebanese American University for more than ten years, where I was one of her students. And then one day, after watching a TED video about someone who pursued his dream, she started questioning herself and decided to do the same and go after a passion she has long developed since her adolescent years, which was chocolate-making. Thus, she went to take a chocolate-making class in Paris at the Ritz Escoffier as well as a class in Valrhona few years ago. Once she finished her courses, she came back to Beirut and started making her own chocolate bonbons and truffles from home, but the demand started growing too fast, and having a real atelier became inevitable. And here’s how “M de Noir” chocolate atelier was born.
Inspired by the works of European pastry chefs like Pierre Hermé and Pierre Marcolini, “M de Noir” is known for its different chocolate offerings, filled with its homemade ganaches using Valrhona dark chocolate. But most importantly, unlike the rest of the Lebanese chocolate makers, M de Noir presents its chocolate naked and not wrapped, the European way. A fresh chocolate can’t be wrapped. Maya believes in greatness, and “greatness starts with the beans and the quality of the cocoa butter used to make the chocolate, the freshness and quality of the raw materials used to make the ganaches, and end with the know-how and the artisan’s own final touch”, she claimed. No additives whatsoever are used. She focuses a lot on the fait-maison aspect, i.e. she makes her ganaches, pate de fruits, ice creams from scratch using fresh cream, fresh milk, fresh fruits. That said, for every occasion, the brand offers new creations, example for Christmas, people await for its marrons glacés and chocolate truffles; for easter, people await for the “Demi de M” chocolate eggs. Ice cream was also one of M de Noir’s best-sellers this past summer.
After a long career in Marketing, her shift to pastry was remarkable. From preparing the desserts for her mother’s dinner parties as a teenager, Maya was able to raise the name of her chocolate brand “M de Noir” in the world and thus raise the name of Lebanon in the world of pastry, being the first Lebanese to win this award, noting that we have other big names in the industry in Beirut. Even though she didn’t expect winning an award on an international level, her belief in excellence, thoroughness and detail are what led her to the top. But now that she has won this prize, she feels more inspired to create new flavors and she is now more keen to enter the French market. “Les Saveurs du Liban“, the chocolate line she created for the Parisian chocolate fair, will now be available at Via Chocolat, 5 Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Paris 9, as of beginning of December. And as for the M de Noir shop in Lebanon, which is currently located in Biyada, Maya has plans to open soon another store in the heart of Beirut, hopefully.
After two months of closely working with her, I got to know Maya on a different level. The mother, the wife, the sister and the amazing chef. I could say that she is an exceptional woman, full of life, bright and smart. The risk she took to change her career and pursue what she truly loved was impressive, and we should all learn from that. And the proof is that barely three years later, her passionate love and hard work payed off. Here are two memorable things from my experience at M de Noir: I will never forget my first day of work, when I saw Maya drop a whole bucket of chocolate on the table and started twirling it left and right in order to adjust its temperature (as seen above). I was just amazed; it was like fulfilling my inner child’s wish. And I will also never fail to remember when we hosted a birthday at the atelier for an 8-year old girl, who had her friends over and they all started making their own chocolate tablets. You should have seen their bright eyes and their faces, simply unforgettable, as if they had been teleported into a Willy Wonka movie.
Today is the last day to check out the “M de Noir” booth at the Salon du Chocolat in Beirut, that is being held at the Biel Exhibition Hall. Don’t miss it!
M de Noir store address: Biyada, Metn, 1st street. T.+961 71 223240 . Free delivery to most of Lebanon’s cities (orders must be placed 3 days in advance).