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Tue, Mar 30, 2010
The Business Times
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Taste sensations
by Cheah Ui-Hoon

Jewels Artisan Chocolate
#02-31/32 Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
6509 8998

THEY melt in your mouth but not in your hand – so goes the famous chocolate advertisement, but guess what: if it's good quality chocolate, it's meant to melt.

That's what chocolatier Then Chui Foong likes to point out to customers, in her earnest bid to teach them how to identify the real stuff from the substandard variety.

Such as the fact that quality chocolate should leave a clean taste in your palate, not be chewy or have too buttery or oily a feel. And dark chocolate shouldn't be too bitter either, because the ones which are so could well be made from over-roasted or burnt cocoa beans.

If you have a soft spot for chocolate, here's a place where you can solidify some of your knowledge and appreciation. Chef Then is helming the 18 degree Celsius chocolate room at the Jewels Artisan Chocolate's space on the third level of Orchard Central.

Never mind that there's the pedestrian Burger King just across the aisle. One look at Jewels and you know you're in chocolate heaven.

There are chocolate creations placed in three angular glass-topped marble structures in the open concept cafe; and there's the show kitchen, where you can see the making of chocolates like Kyanite (pandan, coconut and white chocolate), Jade (jasmine tea and dark chocolate), Lavalier (lychee) and Coral (cola on the tip of the tongue with a chilli aftertaste).

While chocolate shops have sprouted up in Singapore in the past few years, many of which are foreign brands, chef Then wants Jewels Artisan Chocolate to be known as a premium Singapore chocolate brand.

Interestingly, the corporate muscle behind her is what might make this work. Jewels is conceived by Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS), and it's the company's first retail venture. It's to showcase SATS's culinary competence, says Tan Chuan Lye, executive vice-president (Food Solutions). And it wants to bring this experience of melding European artisan chocolate techniques with Asian flavours.

Consumers' taste for top-grade quality chocolates is growing, Mr Tan noted, hence opening Jewels to appeal to this growing segment.

While Jewels' main product is chocolate, Chef Then's macaron innovations are actually making the buzz in food blogs. Her signature creation is the Black Palm Island Salt macarons – otherwise known as kiam neng (salted egg) macaron which gives the usually singularly sweet macaron a more savoury, rich-bodied taste.

An extra oomph comes from the sprinkling of a few granules of black Hawaiian salt on top of the macaron.

With SATS behind this venture, it's not inconceivable that in the future, there would be a Jewels outlet at the airport. Given Chef Then's emphasis on freshness and proper packaging, there could even be a day when you could order your chocolates and pick them up at the airport just before a flight. That's be a great service to tourists – not to mention locals – who want to take a bite of Singapore with them.


#02-27, Cluny Court
501 Bukit Timah Road
6314 1217

MAYBE she had just had a great dessert the night before, but a few years ago, Celine Yeo woke up one day and thought to herself: I want to bake. Actually, to learn to bake is more like it – as she's never so much as whipped up egg whites by hand or buttered a baking tray before.

So she started looking around for courses she could take; learnt about Cordon Bleu in Bangkok, and decided to quit her day job (at Republic Polytechnic's graduate office) and take a nine-month long diploma there.

She returned to her former day job after her learning stint, but only for a while, before she thought to herself: I really want to bake for a living.

3 Inch Sin is the fruition of that dream, and if chocolate lava cakes are the first thing you look for on a dessert menu, you've come to the right place. "Yes, we do like dessert and sweet things. And we both like molten cakes," says Ms Yeo, referring to herself and her younger brother, Jason, who's helping out on the business side of things.

"Three inches of sin" refers to the diameter of the chocolate cakes she bakes in muffin trays, which she fills with eight different kinds of fillings – so that you won't get bored with just the chocolate centre. There's bitter orange, raspberry, peanut butter, hazelnut, coffee and mint, besides the usual dark or white chocolate centres.

They come in regular three-inch diameter sizes ($5 each) and also mini sizes ($5 for three) – if you're adventurous and want to try out the different flavours.

Ms Yeo makes them on the spot after you place your order, so they come out fresh warm and oozing with molten goodness. The mini ones seem especially good to take-away for parties, and as an added service, Ms Yeo says someone will bring it to your car if you pre-order and call them before you arrive.

Is it possible, though, to build one's business on just one product? The Yeo siblings say that the plan of course is to expand their product offerings, and eventually have more outlets. "We started with this for now because of the size of the kitchen!" says Ms Yeo.

They opened their Cluny Court outlet just about a month ago and turned it into a cheerful place with three tables, with a white interior brightened up with bright orange wording on the wall.

They do have two products now, in fact – the other is the Royal Chocolate Cake (Chocolate sponge layered with crunchy praline and bittersweet chocolate mousse; in two sizes, $42 and $60) but these are mainly made to order a day ahead and for take away as it won't be served at the outlet except on weekends.

For Ms Yeo who topped her diploma in pastry course, studying how to make pastry from scratch at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok was one of the most enjoyable times in her life, even if the nine-month course was quite intensive, she declares.

Most of her coursemates were Thai, with a few from Singapore and Asia. "I even took Thai lessons for a few months, so that I could get around and learn to order the things I wanted to eat!" she says, adding that she finally did so after too many incidents of getting a different dish from what she thought she ordered.

After she returned to Singapore, she also started an online baking business at first – so she would still put into practice what she had learnt. It was only after perfecting her cake recipe and getting enthusiastic feedback from friends, that she and her MBA-trained brother were encouraged to start 3 Inch Sin.

And did the thought of being within a 500m radius of Awfully Chocolate, which is also in Cluny Court, daunt them? "Our molten cakes are quite different, and we think we'll cater to a different market segment," says Mr Yeo, with the panache of an MBA graduate.

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This article was first published in The Business Times

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