In case you didn’t get your chocolate fix on Valentines day, News India Times ran a mouth-watering writeup of Xocolatti, a chocolate shop on Prince Street in SoHo. Behind the eye-catching interior lie the hand-crafted chocolates — which resemble jewels — appropriately, since the store’s 24-year-old owner, Shaineal Shah, comes from a family of Indian jewelers.
Though he didn’t join the family trade, Shah said, “My family has been in the luxury jewelry business for many generations, so it’s no coincidence that the chocolates resemble sparkling jewels.” His truffles sell for $29 for a box of nine.
The store’s name also reflects this mélange of art and jewelry. Shah said he chose the name Xocolatti because it is a creative twist on the Aztec word xocolātl (cacao), “which the ancients believed to be a food of the gods and was a luxury reserved for royalty.”
Growing up in an Indian family had a profound effect on Shah’s palate of flavors.
A lot of chocolate that Shah sells is inspired by his family’s Indian heritage. In the company’s factory in Port Chester, N.Y., he make “slates” of chocolate and paints them with either dried chilies or pieces of dried mango, rose petals and nuts or sparks – tubes of crushed butter biscuits, dusted with gold, another nod to his family’s jewelry business.
But he does not shy away from global influences either – he incorporates flavor profiles like tangerines, basil, olive oil, sake and Iranian rose petals.
For Shah, the path to becoming a chocolatier was not direct.
While growing up in Scarsdale, N.Y., he spent a lot of time in the kitchen making meals and creative desserts for his family. But dissuaded by his traditional family, he tried to fit in by studying finance. Fortunately for chocolate lovers, his passion got the better of him.
After graduating from Boston’s Babson College with a degree in finance Shah said he took over his parent’s kitchen and started “playing” with Valrhona chocolate, which he describes as “the best chocolate there is.” But what came out of those dark brown slabs were indeed works of art – sake infused truffles, bark-like mango-paprika “slates” and freeze-dried pomegranate clusters.
After selling his works online and at retail stores, Shah opened a store with the help of his mother, Mona, an award-winning cake decorator.