What Inspired Willy Wonka?


Have you ever dreamed of starting a band? Opening a restaurant? Making a movie? Ever prepared a special meal that started simple and ended in a culinary adventure hours later?

We often have thoughts about jumping out of our daily lives to do something completely different. Sometimes we act on these thoughts and sometimes we keep them inside for reflection and daydreaming. What happens when someone in a remote corner of the world decides to act on a Willy Wonka inspiration?

Like most of us, Shahin enjoyed chocolate as a child but only thought of it as a sweet treat. Part of a fourth generation family that immigrated to Madagascar as traders, he grew up surrounded by all of the exotic fruits and spices grown on the world’s fourth largest island – cloves, pink pepper, mangoes, jack fruit, pineapples, vanilla, lychees, and more – so developing a passion for great food came naturally. This passion for flavour and discovery would eventually tempt Shahin out of his daily routine and into the mystical and enchanting world of chocolate.

Having finished business school abroad, Shahin came back to Madagascar to join the family import-export business. But before long, a blind optimism, an entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of adventure led to new discoveries.

For most of us, jumping into a void to do something completely new is both exhilarating and intimidating, whether it’s a new travel destination, exotic cuisine or just daring ourselves to do something completely out of character. This is just the spirit that drove Shahin when, in 2007, he decided to become a chocolate maker!

Not having a culinary background, any machinery or a clue about making chocolate did not cross his mind. Starting with second-hand equipment and a small team, Shahin experimented with roasting and grinding cocoa, and sought the perfect balance of sweetness and exotic ingredients that create unique textures and flavours. Trial and error, good mentors and a passion for flavour led to more and more discoveries in chocolate making and proof that it really is both art and science.

Thinking back on over ten years of experience, Shahin reflects, “If I had known then what I know now I may never have started, but having experienced the journey and all of the discoveries I can’t imagine stopping! And that’s the beauty of challenging experiences that prove richer than you can imagine before you are completely devoted. “

We may never know what inspired Willie Wonka but taking our inspiration and acting on it, no matter how big or small, will take us to new places. In the meantime, we can join Shahin’s adventure at work in MIA chocolate!