Celine Nativel and David Mullner opened Maison Mulnati French Vegan Chocolates on Eckhardt Avenue two months ago. Mark Brett/Western News

Vegan chocolatiers set up shop in Penticton

Celine Nativel and David Mullner, of Maison Mulnati French Vegan Chocolates, discuss their craft

Penticton’s newest chocolatiers are bringing a twist with their craft — their decadent French chocolates are vegan.

Celine Nativel and David Mullner opened Maison Mulnati French Vegan Chocolates, located at 756 Eckhardt Ave West, in mid-September. The pair sampled chocolates across Canada before settling in the Okanagan and agreed that they couldn’t find what they were looking for.

“Here the chocolates are sweeter. In France, we are more focused on the bitterness of the cocoa,” said Nativel. “So it’s very intense flavours. We’ve had people taste our chocolates who have visited France and they say ‘It’s just like being back in France.’”

The couple and their two children lived on Reunion Island, a region of France that has a tropical climate, before moving to Canada. Nativel explained that humidity greatly affects the process of making chocolate, which is why they wanted to pursue their craft here.

“We didn’t have an air conditioner, and working with chocolate in 32 degrees Celsius with a lot of moisture around, it was not possible,” said Nativel. “And we still wanted to have our chocolate. So when we arrived here it was easier, even to experiment with it at home.”

Their family made the switch to a healthier lifestyle, which is why they chose to pursue vegan recipes for their chocolates. Although they use different ingredients than traditional chocolatiers, they believe the quality of their chocolates is not affected.

Related: New bakery to offer influences of Europe

“Why vegan? Because a few years ago, we realized a lot of things and decided to change our diet,” said Nativel. “So of course when we were looking, other chocolates contained milk and different kind of dairies like butter or eggs. So there was not a lot of possibilities for vegans to have good chocolate.”

“We always try to reduce the sugar as much as we can to have first the flavour of the element. For example, we use organic fruits, and we want to find a good balance between all the ingredients,” said Nativel. “Or if we use jam or jelly we’ll reduce the sugar. Usually, when you add a lot of sugar it’s about preservation.”

Although they have come across customers hesitant to try their chocolates, Mullner said once they try a sample, they always receive the same response. The two take great pride in their craft, even taking the time to soak the seeds and nuts they use in their chocolates overnight, then drying them at a low temperature so as to break down the enzyme in them that humans can’t digest.

“They know it’s a vegan product and they’ll go ‘I’m not vegan’ but we say to just try it anyway and it’s always just ‘Mmmmmm’ every time it’s the same thing,” Mullner said with a laugh. “I love hearing that.”

Related: Video: Future brightens for Walla Artisan Bakery in Penticton

“We had a woman come in to ask questions and get information not to buy anything, then at the end, we gave her a sample and she ended up leaving with three boxes of chocolates,” said Nativel.

Nativel was previously a psychologist and Mullner was a physiotherapist before they took up the craft of chocolatiers. They agree they enjoy working together and Nativel appreciates the opportunity to be creative with her work.

“I have so many ideas, always ‘I have to do that, I have to try that’ … so it’s always creative,” said Nativel with a chuckle. “We worked separately before, but I’m not fed up with (Mullner), I’ll keep him.”

Since they’ve opened, Mullner and Nativel have developed nearly 30 unique recipes, saying that while they did attend some classes, they didn’t receive much help as the instructors weren’t familiar with vegan alternatives they could use in place of dairy ingredients.

Their kids are appreciative of the family business, especially as taste testers for new recipes. While they have some time before they need to decide if they want to follow in mom and dad’s footsteps, they get to see what goes on behind the scenes firsthand.

“They are happy for sure, they always ask how they can help like ‘What can we do?’,” said Mullner.

“My son was asked if he’d be a chocolatier and he said no, but then maybe,” laughed Nativel. “It’s not in his school program, but he can be whatever he wants to be. We did it because we wanted a change.”

To learn more about Maison Mulnati French Vegan Chocolates, visit their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Those looking to place orders for the holidays are advised to do so before Dec. 15.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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David Mullner prepares his bananas flambé. Mark Brett/Western News

David Mullner prepares lights his bananas flambé in the kitchen of Maison Mulnati French Vegan Chocolates. Mark Brett/Western News

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