Kenora Chocolatier Turns Passions into High-End Sweets
By Matt Prokopchuk
When Maurizio Le Donne found himself off work from his oil and gas construction job due to sciatic pain about 15 years ago, he would use that as a launch pad for a journey that took him all over Europe and eventually back to his hometown in Northwestern Ontario, where he now produces his own line of high-end chocolates.
Le Donne founded Cioccolato Povero in Kenora, the city where he grew up before moving out west for work. His return to the northwest followed just under 10 years in Europe, where he lived in Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, and Austria, training in hotel management and eventually working in a number of food and hospitality jobs. That included a three-year period working in a quickly expanding bakery in Brunico, Italy, right in the heart of the Dolomite Mountains, followed by a stint in a Vienna bakery and confectionery, where he mainly worked with the chocolates. “Your production is pretty hectic,” he says of his time there. “You’re making chocolates for eight, nine shops, it’s pretty crazy, so I learned a lot.”
In early 2014, after returning to Canada, Le Donne moved back to Kenora, where his parents still live, and took what he learned in Europe and slowly began to build Cioccolato Povero. “I thought I was ready to start […] the business,” he says of why he returned to the northwest. “I probably could have stayed longer, travelled more, gone to different countries, but I wanted to get going, get started.” Le Donne uses chocolate from a small company that harvests its product from Ecuador, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. His current collection, made in limited quantities, includes chocolates flavoured with lime, raspberry, passion fruit, and bergamot; the interior tray of the box is also edible as it, too, is made of chocolate.
Aside from his passion for chocolate, the whole package represents passion in other ways. The box is wrapped in paper with sequential—or comic-style—art (without speech) on the inside, an artform that Le Donne has long admired. He says he’ll be commissioning a number of artists who work in this style from all over the world, with each artist getting a limited run of 1,500 pieces. The booklet that also comes in the chocolate box has some of Le Donne’s free verse writing dedicated to a previous relationship that didn’t last, as well as inspired by a time in Hawaii experiencing the waves crashing near the shore. He says the whole package is “a love letter to love.”
“The whole idea is[…]when you buy the package, you buy the gift. It’s meant to be given to your partner, if you want to apologize or if you want to say ‘I love you,’” he says.You can check out Cioccolato Povero at cioccolatopovero.com.