WE as a species can live without chocolate — we simply refuse to live a life without it. Even at the height of wartime privation in the 1940s, governments somehow still deemed chocolate a necessity, and it was allowed in stores, even if the wartime bars were of lower quality. Chocolate found itself in soldier’s kits, to boost morale and to serve as emergency rations (those bars weren’t very good either, according to reports).
The chocolates of Christian Valdes aren’t of dubious crisis quality. Mr. Valdes is behind CMV Txokolat, a brand dedicated to creating luxury chocolate pralines with a mix of the cosmopolitan and the local. The pralines can be filled with salt and pepper caramel, kaffir lime and coconut, minted calamansi, or even gumamela (hibiscus).
With a commissary located at his home, we talked to Mr. Valdes about continuing to create a sweet life under lockdown, despite the hardships of a pandemic. Perhaps it’s hard to imagine why little luxuries like chocolate are still present during a crisis. We like to think of them as small mercies.
OF ALL THE THINGS TO BE AN EXPERT IN, WHY CHOCOLATE?
To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting to take up chocolate as a hobby; let alone as a profession. I’ve always had an interest in chocolates. I’d say that interest was inspired by my grandmother, who when it came to food, could do it all and do it exceptionally well! It wasn’t until one of my friends who was interning at the Mandarin Oriental showed me how to make chocolates. That’s when my interest really took off, and fast became a hobby gone passion and profession. I mean, the things you can do to chocolate go beyond just things you can eat. It’s something you can sculpt and design. Chocolate is extremely versatile and the uses are infinite.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORKSPACE AT HOME? HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE ONE YOU LEFT BEHIND BEFORE QUARANTINE?
My workspace is at home and not much has changed.
HOW HAS THE QUARANTINE CHANGED YOUR WORK ROUTINE?
Quarantine hasn’t changed our work routine too much. In terms of staffing, we’re working with a skeleton crew. We want to ensure the safety of our employees and also ensure that there is no cross-contamination. As for production, we have created stocks in order to cope with demand based on our historical data, so that we can also alleviate the added pressure on less staff.
My team consists of five marketing staff, one CPA, one person in business development. Our production team consists of three chocolatiers, but to ensure the safety of our employees and to prevent cross-contamination we have one chocolatier working on production. Our marketing, CPA and business development people do not need to visit the office; we have them all working from home.
DESPITE THE QUARANTINE FEELING LIKE A VERY LONG BREAK — DO YOU STILL TAKE BREAKS FROM WORK?
This quarantine definitely feels like a large break melded together, or like grade school during the summer! Yes, I do take breaks on the weekend, we all need time to rest up and recharge our batteries, but it’s easy to lose track of time at my job because it’s something that I love to do. I mean I get out of bed excited to start working!
DO YOU STILL DRESS UP FOR WORK?
Yes, I still dress up for work. It’s integral to be in uniform as it helps maintain our safety standards and helps us maintain that normalcy.
HOW DO YOU STILL MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE, WHEN WE DO EVERYTHING AT HOME NOW?
I would have to say it’s quite easy to maintain a work-life balance. I have my schedule of things I need to accomplish, or production that needs to be completed, along with various other things that need to be done on any given day. Knowing this, I know how much time I need to get these things done before I can relax and let home life kick in.
HOW HAS THE QUARANTINE AFFECTED YOUR SOURCING FOR INGREDIENTS, AS WELL AS SENDING ORDERS OUT?
Yes, we’re continuing to take orders, and of course, it’s made sourcing a bit difficult during these times. It’s not so much getting the supplies necessary to fulfill orders but the logistics involved. I have my suppliers that I’ve worked with for a long time. Because we are in the food industry, we’re considered “essentials,” so despite the ECQ, we are business as usual.
CHOCOLATE ISN’T ALWAYS REGARDED AS AN ESSENTIAL, AND IT’S STILL CONSIDERED A LUXURY, ALBEIT A SMALL ONE. JUDGING FROM YOUR CONTINUED WORK, WHAT’S THE IMPORTANCE OF SMALL LUXURIES (LIKE CHOCOLATE) DURING TRYING TIMES LIKE THESE?
I think chocolate is really essential during these times. Chocolate in general contains tryptophan which is linked to the production of serotonin. These chemicals make us feel happy, loved, and just good, all in all. Each bite of chocolate despite our confinement is like a reward. These simple joys are necessary to keep us happy during these times of confinement.