The question Arno Backes gets asked most often is how he remains so slim. The master chocolatier and managing director at Gânache Chocolate in Melbourne says it could have something to do with the quality of chocolate he eats.

Backes consumes about 1kg of chocolate a week and drinks 10-12 cups of coffee a day, an occupational hazard, but his doctor is very happy with his health. “Probably because I keep active all day," he says, explaining what seems like an indulgence.

In Mumbai last month for an event organized in partnership with the Australian chain Coffee by Di Bella and Visit Victoria, the Victoria government’s lead tourism agency, German-born Australian resident Backes spoke about his twin passions, coffee and chocolate. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How and why did you get into chocolate?

It goes back to my grandmother, who used to bake for the whole family, and I would help her. My passion is to make nice chocolates, and being a pastry chef is so challenging. Chocolate is difficult to do anyway and the easiest to muck up.

It’s not a family business—my family is all good people, I am the only one who works as a chocolatier. What I learnt from my grandmother was: Use the best and freshest ingredients and don’t hold back with new ideas or something unusual.

Coffee and chocolate work well together because they have similar profiles and attitudes…

We have a product (with the Melbourne tram’s picture on it) called Café Latte and it tastes like a cappuccino. It’s creamy and has a bit of brandy in it. There is one called Irish Cream, which has a sharp espresso flavour but with a kick that comes in late and has a good amount of brandy in it.

You have heard of chocolate-coated almonds, coated hazelnuts. We take it to a different level. We caramelize perfectly roasted almonds and then we chocolate-coat it seven times in dark chocolate and roll it in pure cocoa powder, only just. When you buy that fresh, it’s a totally different experience. The hazelnut we use has been roasted a day before and not months before. When we coat popcorn, it takes five days because every layer needs to be applied and needs to rest overnight.

The process of experimentation never stops?

Part of my job is to try everything, and it is fun. When I go back, I would like to try Indian-inspired chocolate. If I take some spices, I know which couverture (contains cocoa butter, instead of vegetable oils) will go well with that taste. You take strong spices and I would go with a darker chocolate, not something sweet. Cinnamon would go with a milk couverture.

Chocolate and coffee get a bit of a bad rap from the health industry…

I eat a lot of good quality couverture chocolate. It’s the sugar that’s not good for you, which comes in cheap chocolate. Couverture chocolate has antioxidants. Darker (chocolate) is not always better. Big industries make a vast amount of chocolate to make a vast amount of money. So what they do is add a lot of sugar, not cocoa butter. What we do is more cocoa butter and a little bit of sugar.

It’s like anything in life: good in moderation. For example, if I can’t get a really good quality coffee, I simply will not have it.

What’s the next big thing in chocolate/desserts?

You can do limitless experimentation with chocolate. I once thought you can’t discover the new, but there always is. The latest fad in Melbourne at the moment is freakshakes. It’s basically ice cream/cold drinks with heaps and heaps of crazy toppings, a pile of stuff like cakes, macarons, marshmallows, etc. But I can imagine it will fade away quickly. Fads like these keep everything fresh but. A few years ago, it was the macarons. We had to build a whole new kitchen for the macarons but that (fad) has slowed down.

The trend is definitely going into higher quality (of chocolate), less industrial and more gourmet style, which is music to my ears. I can see that happening in India as well.

What is your personal favourite?

If I go home after a 16-hour shift and feel like a little treat, then it’s the Figaro for me, which we make. It’s got hazelnut praline, roasted almonds, pistachios and Amarena cherries, and a beautiful mouth play. I love food which is crunchy, gives different feelings and is not just plain chocolate.

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