There’s a new candy shop on Winslow Way, and the duo behind the new confections is whipping up sweet treats to delight any chocoholic.
Chef Tamas Ronyai and pastry chef Tae Tran are no strangers to Bainbridge Islanders as they were the inspiration behind the now-closed Chocolate and Waffles restaurant on Tree Lane. Together the two have opened a new chocolate boutique, L’Atelier TR, a sweet idea they started dreaming about 10 years ago.
Since opening in October, people have been drawn into the store by the 8-foot-wall of melted chocolate viewable from the street that fills the room with an appetite-inducing aroma of cocoa. Once inside, visitors cannot resist viewing the variety of jewel-like candies displayed in gleaming cases ready for tasting.
It is here where Ronyai’s wife, Fiona, chats with visitors and shares Tamas’ passion for chocolate and pastry while pouring cups of velvety drinking chocolate and fills the cases with rows of colorful bonbons and confections.
Originally from Hungary, Ronyai trained with some of the best chocolatiers in France and Belgium, including the luxury chocolate makers Valrhona, the premier pastry house Ladurée Paris Champs Elysées and the Académie du Chocolat in Montreal.
“I’m a chef de cuisine with an international education,” said Ronyai, who has worked in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Europe. “I love pastry and chocolate because it’s a totally different approach.” His creativity comes from his experiences working with flavors from around the world, “I’m more outgoing with that.”
After forming a partnership with ChocMo in Poulsbo earlier this year and becoming part of the Crabtree Brands family, Ronyai and Tran offer chocolate from both L’Atelier and ChocMo along with their drinking chocolate and house-made pastries.
These busy chocolatiers favor Belgium and French chocolate for their candies in the boutique and pastries served at Crabtree where Ronyai is the chef who uses a bean-to-bar approach for processing cocoa they use in their recipes. Tran, a pastry chef who won the 2014 Salon du Chocolat competition in Seattle, brings a passion for pastry to the partnership.
Ronyai enjoys working with chocolate, it’s his favorite form of creativity and says that it takes time to learn the craft. “Creating and matching good flavors together with so many ingredients takes knowledge and experience, you need to be an older person.”
Fiona is the friendly shopkeeper who greets customers and sells the different styles of chocolates.
The filling for the ChocMo chocolates is made with Dominican Republic beans that are poured into a frame, cut into squares and covered in chocolate. The L’Atelier TR chocolates use Belgium beans to make the filling that is poured into molds, painted with natural cocoa butter and sealed with chocolate. All the beans are roasted and processed in Poulsbo.
Though their waffles are no longer available in BI, they are on the menu at ChocMo Cafe in Poulsbo. Ronyai said they are planning to open a new restaurant at the Tree Lane location. They are considering a farm-to-table concept to offer, “some jams and preserves, and maybe soups and quiche with some roasted vegetables.”
For Fiona, the best part of being in the chocolate business is the people she meets. “There are people from all over the world who come here, it’s amazing. When we were at the other location, people would walk over a mile from the ferry because they heard about us. There was a girl from Malaysia that came in, and a couple of flight attendants from Norway.”