"I never limit myself. So, I can be creative.” Filipino chocolatier Raul Matias, creator of Manila Chocolatier and Machiavelli Chocolatier brands creates rare artistry on luscious chocolate bars. One could say he has a creative way to introduce Filipino chocolate decadence to the world.
Raul Matias, whose family origins are from Pampanga, was working in the United States in a field totally unrelated to food when his fascination for making chocolates moved from a dream to reality. In 2001, he searched online for business ideas and Googled “personalized business.” He found a site that customized chocolate wrappers.
“If I personalize the wrapper, I might as well make my own chocolates,” Raul said. And that was the beginning of his chocolate-making enterprise. He took online Ecole Chocolat courses on how to make chocolates. In Florida, he took advanced chocolate-making classes with a Belgian teacher. He interned with chocolate stores in Connecticut, New York, and Orlando. His perseverance was unstoppable. He moved to New York and rented a commercial kitchen to create more chocolates. A friend drove him around the city to give out samples to artisan establishments. With each masterpiece, Raul infused Asian flavors into his artisan chocolate creations like mango, jasmine, purple yam. He started selling to gourmet stores and took private orders.
Raul labeled his first chocolate brand Machiavelli, after his favorite author, Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. By 2008, he moved his chocolate-making business to the Philippines, where he had more access to ingredients and to expand his workforce.
Raul uses sustainable, fair-trade ingredients. He sources his cocoa beans from all over the world, including the Philippines and doesn’t mind paying the price to get the best. “I use pure chocolates. There are no added cocoa butter substitutes. I source ingredients from reputable institutions,” Raul proudly said.
“I don’t want to limit myself to just one origin. This way, I am not limited to the flavor profile I want to concoct.”
Raul Matias offers two brands: Machiavelli Chocolatier is a brand with Asian flavors fused with gourmet European notes. The second, Manila Chocolatier is exclusively Filipino in taste and reflects Philippine history, culture, and tradition. Both have dark and milk chocolate varieties for customers.
Manila Chocolatier infuses popular Filipino flavors like purple yam, the famous Barako coffee-flavor, fruit-essence guava, a leche-flan-based treat, or sweet langka (jackfruit). For those who relish traditional flavors, Raul offers a Grand Marnier variety. He pays tribute to Filipino icons and heroes and has offered The Cory, a rich concoction with cashew paste in honor of the late President Cory Aquino, whose favorite was the cashew nut.
Raul Matias’ achievements have gained the attention of his Pampango peers, which is evident from the major awards he has won: Most Outstanding Kapampangan Award (MOKA) 2017; and the 4th Cong Dadong Awards-President Diosdado R. Macapagal Awards 2018 for Outstanding Lubenians. Both recognitions were for Business and Entrepreneurship. His brand also received the Number One spot in the Top 10 Gourmet Chocolates 2012 from Spot.ph.
These Filipino chocolates are a visual pick-me-up. It’s not just that the chocolate flavors are immensely addictive. Raul Matias’ creations convey stories of Philippine culture. The unique artistry on each piece distinguishes the confection as proudly Filipino. One finds iconic Philippine symbols drawn on the chocolates: A nipa hut; the carabao; a jeepney; coconut trees; the barong Tagalog; a woman in a terno; the Philippine map; a Christmas parol; the calesa; the scenic volcanos; and even national hero Jose Rizal. Each chocolate piece is a snapshot of our Philippine world.
Currently, both brands are commercially sold to corporations on a large scale. The Barako Coffee Bar and Pili Nut Bar are served by Philippine Air Lines in business class. The Pili Nut Chocolate Bite Pralines are served in economy and business classes. Future plans include selling at selected high-end stores locally and exporting abroad soon.
Raul Matias always keeps up with what’s new. “I read, I travel, I relax, I imagine, I experiment, I experience, and I create.” Thus, his chocolate flavors and designs defy convention.
He is not lacking for inspiration either as he continues to concoct these delectable creations. “A lot of people inspire me, and it is reflected in my recipes. I am not afraid to experiment and introduce new flavors.”
Raul Matias is raising the bar in the worldwide stage of chocolatiers. And to young, future entrepreneurs he advises they should be courageous enough to make a difference in the world, no matter how small or big they are. “Always be inspired to create the best.”
Raul Matias is promoting the Philippines internationally through chocolates, one of the world’s most beloved food. His artisan chocolates have become a way of expressing the best in Philippine culture, in the sweetest possible way.
Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey is a journalist and author of the “How to Cook Philippine Desserts: Cakes and Snacks” Cookbook. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site AsianInAmericaMag.com.