This is a magnificent love story in which chocolate and passion are the main ingredients. When they first met, they had totally different jobs and careers. Ronya was working in the tourism industry as a tour guide around Europe for a Russian tour and travel company, whereas Andrey had a business selling heating units for homes. This couple of chocolatiers, Andrey and Ronya Dubovik, has reached the top of the world in a short time thanks to their incredible bonbon designs and innovative techniques, with an incredible appetite for success that has taken them to teach their chocolate master craft at different culinary schools from around the world. Their big secret – perseverance. Both of them are the protagonists of a complete article in so good #24. This interview is a part of it.
‘Neither of us had any previous culinary experience. We acquired all the knowledge by watching free YouTube videos and practicing in the kitchen by ourselves.’
‘The result is not always 100%. We are always thinking of making perfect things. Sometimes we do have problems, we can make 100 molds which come out perfect and then something happens and some of them are not ok. I hate making those mistakes. The more you work, the more questions you have, and that’s why the more you practice, the more answers you find to solve the mistakes, but then more questions too! This never stops.’
How did you meet? Was it love at first sight?
We met almost 10 years ago in a bar. At that time, neither of us was thinking of chocolate or the confectionary world in general. But it’s worth mentioning that from the very first days of our life together, the kitchen was -and still is- our favorite place at home.
Tell us how your passion for pastry and chocolate began?
We are self-taught chocolatiers. There are no good culinary schools in Belarus. After we met, we spent all our free time in our kitchen or in our friends’ kitchens. We used to buy some food and go to our friends’ place to cook and create something. One day we made a dessert and haven’t been able to stop since then.
When did you open your first business?
We didn’t have money to buy expensive equipment, so we started running an éclairs business. We would take orders from friends and family. We were inspired by Christopher Adam. We had never seen anything like that in the country: the colors, flavors and different designs… they all looked beautiful. We became very popular (Andrey: I would do R&D on the internet. We really started doing our first batch of éclairs. We had never done éclairs before… I remember when someone ordered us a Croquembouche! Now, that was a challenge! It was 1 meter high. We love challenges). (Ronya: I would make the éclairs and Andrey would go deliver). We decided to open a professional kitchen since we started the business in the kitchen of our apartment. We became an instant hit, and we were known for our éclairs, so we decided to extend the offer and continue with cakes. We started with a basic sponge cake. They were simple cake flavors, with unique designs, and we decided to make some chocolate decorations.
‘It’s hard to say when I decided to become a chocolatier, but I clearly remember that moment when I realized I couldn’t live without chocolate anymore.’
When did you decide to pursue a career and start working with chocolate?
Andrey: It’s hard to say when I decided to become a chocolatier, but I clearly remember that moment when I realized I couldn’t live without chocolate anymore. It was in spring 2016; it was a complicated decision for me to leave my job. However, at the same time I realized that if I didn’t take that step, I might spend the rest of my days living someone else’s life, but not mine. Ronya was always by my side and supported my decision; she made me sure that we would get through it. Neither of us had any previous culinary experience. We acquired all the knowledge by watching free YouTube videos and practicing in the kitchen by ourselves.
Is it easy to obtain good-quality chocolates and ingredients to produce your bonbons in Minsk?
We were used to certain chocolate and certain cocoa butters and chocolate materials. One eye-opener was when we visited Moscow. It was impossible to find most of the ingredients in Minsk, so we drove (700 km) to buy some chocolate. It was an incredible trip full of new discoveries, both emotional and gastroandrey & ronya dubovik 99 so good.. nomic. A whole new world of tastes, a wonderful assortment of chocolate had opened up to us. We started to play around, and of course, sometimes it ended up in failures. There were some times when we had to redo a cake design for 5-7 times during the night and after that I had to go to the office in the morning fully exhausted after so many failures.
‘The more you work, the more questions you have, and that’s why the more you practice, the more answers you find to solve the mistakes, but then more questions too! This never stops.’
Tell us about your work ethics. What do you think made you successful in life?
Andrey: I like to find different ways. I like to do every day better; I am a perfectionist when it comes to bonbons making. We are not afraid, we try everything, we also have a lot of questions, we like to do our job more and more perfect every day, we want our work to look beautiful and we want to develop good skills. The result is not always 100%. We are always thinking of making perfect things. Sometimes we do have problems, we can make 100 molds which come out perfect and then something happens and some of them are not ok. I hate making those mistakes. The more you work, the more questions you have, and that’s why the more you practice, the more answers you find to solve the mistakes, but then more questions too! This never stops.’
With your unique designs you have revolutionized the way bonbons are made around the world. What is next for Andrey and Ronya? where are you aiming your successful career at?
Thank you! We can’t even describe how thrilling it is to hear such words. We’re full of happiness when we realize that our work is appreciated and inspires other people. Talking about our plans for the future… since the very moment we met, we figured out that planning is not our strong point. Life sure comes at us in funny ways and sometimes brings so many surprises and gifts that we couldn’t even dream of, couldn’t even imagine in our craziest fantasies.
When did you created your own polycarbonate mold (Bubbles), what was crossing your mind?
Oooooh, that’s what I might name as one of the most surprising twists of fate. I could hardly believe my eyes when I got an email from ChocolateWorld. From the very beginning I limited my fantasies – it had to be a mold with a simple form, very universal, easy to wash, easy to use, the one I’d love to use myself for various techniques and designs. I changed one idea after another, but none of them was good enough to be introduced at Chocolate World… And then good friends of ours who worked with balloons decorations invited us to their place. We were surrounded by balloons the whole night and that’s when I was struck by a thought ‘Hell, yeah! That’s it!’ Two hemispheres joined together! Regular forms, endless variety of ideas and designs! That’s how mold 1921 by Andrey Dubovik was born. I’m crazy about design. I don’t think about the filling at first, I want to make something beautiful with different techniques and then I think about the flavor.
‘I’m crazy about design. I don’t think about the filling at first, I want to make something beautiful with different techniques and then I think about the flavor.’
Could you name chocolatiers that have inspired you? Also, if you could teach a class alongside someone, who would that be?
Whenever we can, we choose to do masters classes with other chefs. We still learn driven by our inspiration. We are currently working on moving on and trying to master ganaches. We have a lot of experience decorating bonbons. We are lucky to have great chocolatier friends, like Alexander Bardo and Ramon Morató, so when we have any questions, we ask them. We would love to teach a class along with Melissa Coppel; she is a dear friend and an outstanding chocolatier.
How has this crisis affected your professional lives?
In 2017, we created an online course called Pralinarium which became very popular among English-speaking students. We put all the knowledge, techniques and experience that we had in 2017 in it. A lot of work had been done. The shooting went on for 16 hours a day, but it’s all worth it! This year we launched our new course called Superpralinarium, it’s our pride and joy! This course is unique, one of a kind! Considering the level of its quality and information I can say with no doubt that it’s ‘the best online bonbon course’. It fills us with joy to hear our students say ‘that’s so easy!’ Teaching is a drug you immediately get addicted to! The moment you see those eyes… and that’s it, there’s no way back! You’re on the hook! Last April we filmed the Pralinariium video online, and this year we have beautiful ideas about our new book, with virtual material, where you take a photo of the dessert or bonbon with your phone and it sends you to the link to the video in our App called Pralinariium.
What benefits do you get when you work with only one chocolate brand? And, is it worth marrying with just one brand?
Our greatest benefit is that we can work with all chocolate brands from around the world, of course we like some more than others. We have a very close friendship with Barry Callebaut. We like the philosophy of this brand a lot. We still can’t believe that we were among the 30 chefs invited to an exclusive event in San Francisco, the presentation of Wholе Fruit Chocolate, a brand-new product. Unforgettable emotions, new people and friends that we’ve made for life! Those lucky people who were there will definitely understand what I’m talking about! And our collaboration with Ramon Morató in Barcelona… We love working with all chocolate companies. We like to work with professionals because we are professionals. Cacao Barry is also special, although we are not ambassadors.
‘We are not afraid, we try everything, we also have a lot of questions, we like to do our job more and more perfect every day, we want our work to look beautiful and we want to develop good skills.’
Sharing your passion for chocolate with your partner, is it hard to separate your professional life from your love life?
We can’t imagine a different life: It’s the only option possible for us. We complement, constantly criticize, help and support each other. Home and work life, every time and everywhere only together – that’s our personal life. All the pieces fit with each other, and that’s why we don’t divide them! Of course, we fight from time to time, but the main reason for that is because we do sometimes get tired… but at least we get tired together, so it’s much easier to make it up afterwards. We hope that our life won’t change drastically! We’ll still be a happy couple, totally in love with their work, life and each other!