When David and Celine immigrated to Canada with their family four years ago, their resumes looked very different. Celine, who was previously a psychologist for the hospital, and David, who operated his own physiotherapy clinic, traded in their business coats for chef’s jackets when they became chocolatiers.
“When we arrived here, we couldn’t find chocolate that we really loved … so we started first to make chocolate for ourselves and finally we made people try it,” Celine said.
“They were amazed because they didn’t know this taste … it was so flavourful and in Canada they are used to sweeter chocolate. So, when people tried our chocolate, they said we had to open a store and it snowballed, and that’s what we did,” she added.
Since September 2018, David Mullner and Celine Nativel have been creating low sugar, French-style, cruelty-free chocolates under their business named Maison Mulnati – maison meaning house/home and ‘Mulnati’ by blending the couple’s last names.
This year, Maison Mulnati moved to a new location, right in the heart of downtown Penticton, at 221 Main St.
Faced with renovating a new space, the business was noticeably absent from this year’s ‘8th Annual OneWorld Multicultural Festival’ – an event hosted by South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), which helped Maison Mulnati get its start.
“I think it was an ad in a newspaper talking about free English courses and David really needed those courses,” chuckled Celine. “So we went to SOICS and we discovered the other services … we met different people and [eventually] they asked us [to participate in] the OneWorld Festival.”
The SOICS staff, who were familiar with French cuisine, knew that French dishes and pastries were popular in Canada, so they presented the idea to participate in the event.
“When they asked us if we could cook, we thought, ‘Why not? Let’s give it a try,’ and we made our chocolate for the OneWorld Festival. That was the kick I think to make us open this store because the people who tried it… were asking where the store is.”
Although originally from France, Celine shares that Maison Mulnati’s chocolate recipes and techniques were created in Canada. The recipes reflect the couple’s passion for chocolate – a passion that is highlighted by the use of local, organic, quality ingredients, including Okanagan fruits and nuts when available.
Their new location also has extended its product offerings to include pastries like pain au chocolat, croissants, petit gateaux, brioche and cookies, not to mention coffees, tea and their specialty hot chocolate. They also offer outdoor seating – perfect for people-watching.
This profile is a part of the Community Champions campaign of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP). The Partnership project is led by the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), which provides a range of services for newcomers to the region. An earlier version of this article was also published on Castanet. Photo credit: Ignacio Munoz.