1 – It is pretty unique to find a chef duo owners of a dessert bar and a consulting company. How did you two become so synergistic while working at ChikaLicious?
Maya: It is very rare, indeed! You may see a lot of couple owners, but not a chef duo that goes through the decision-making process at the same level as we do.
During our time building the ChikaLicious company in China, we learned to work efficiently together. Our previous work experiences were much needed to grow the brand in a different continent. Our strengths and skills from entirely different industries (Mauro is from high-level restaurants, and I come from an Industrial Design background) helped us cover different perspectives and to choose the most creative and best solutions for every situation.
2 -What did you learn from ChikaLicious that you have carried over to Marble Dessert Bar?
Mauro: We learned a lot about managing entirely different cultures, even if within the same country, as there are different values and expectations in China. It was already a challenge to move across the world on top of managing and taking care of an entire company without speaking a single word of the language, but we were able to accomplish our goals. With New York City being one of the most diverse places in the world, understanding different cultures while respecting their differences has helped us push Marble Dessert Bar forward and faster to its success!
3 – When did both of you decide it was time to go on your own and open Marble Dessert Bar?
Maya: ChikaLiciou’s successful expansion happened in a short period. After that, we decided it was time to come back to New York City, where we both had been living before China. It is where we first met, and in a way, it is our home. We always talked about building our first restaurant together. Even though it is the toughest place to begin a business, there’s no better place to start than in New York! With everything that we’ve been through, we knew that we’d never be 100% ready, but we just needed to take the risk and be prepared to face anything that could come our way.
4 – What does a day look like for chef-owners of a dessert bar?
Mauro: Our days are long, just like with most other chefs, except that the business side extends ours. Basically, there is no day off for us. However, the most important thing for us is to start and finish our days by reminding each other that we have each other.
5 – Who are the chefs that inspired you and ignited your passion for the culinary arts?
Maya: For Mauro, it’s Ramon Morato for his unique perspective of what dessert can be when combined with a sense of artistic playfulness. This shows through in his work, all while maintaining elegance in simplicity.
For me, the woman who started it all was my mum. While culinary wasn’t my original career path, my mother taught me strict discipline in the kitchen, starting from learning about the ingredients of a recipe and their source of origin to creating an experience that brings everyone together at the dining table.
6 – When putting together your artistic and creative minds, what do you think has been the greatest concoction (baked good) created by both of you?
Mauro: This is like asking us to pick our favorite child! We don’t have one creation that we feel is the greatest. But, we both have to be satisfied with the product before we offer it to our guests! We both bring in ideas on what excites us or reminds us of our childhood. In our creations, you’ll see different ingredients from all over the world. Most guests often think that Maya is the one who brings in Eastern ingredients, and I bring in the Western flavors. The funny part is that it’s actually the other way around!
7 – How did the Marble Dessert Bar name come about, and why did you choose the West Village to open your restaurant?
Maya: This exact location is where we first met each other! I was in charge of ChikaLicious’s first US expansion at this particular location. A few months later, Mauro was asked to take on the project for China’s expansion. One Saturday, my sous chef called out, and Mauro was requested to join me to see the open kitchen operation. Right away, it was as if we had worked together before. We barely talked, but we knew how to move through the kitchen together seamlessly. Something essential in every kitchen and rare to find without a long time spent together.
Both of us love to travel and love nature. It inspires us. We chose Marble for the name as marble is a natural stone that has a parallel comparison to how we view dessert. Marble is often regarded as elegant and beautiful. But if you look closer, marble has so many more characteristics, such as texture, color, temperature, time, and more, that create this unique stone. For us, dessert is the same. Most people think of dessert as something sweet and pretty or just something to end their meal with. But to us, in order to create a good dessert, every detail matters, and it has to come together in a perfect way. That’s why we focus on choosing the best seasonal ingredients, showcasing what nature has to offer at its best without trying to alter natural flavors.
8 – A new customer has arrived at your establishment, what would both of you recommend to the customer?
Mauro: We recommend that our guests keep an open mind and feel comfortable in our space while guiding them through a dessert tasting experience. We want our guests to feel welcome as if they just walked into their friend’s nice kitchen. We want them to feel free to converse with us. We believe that food is a relationship.
9 – With the Corona Virus pandemic still happening now, how do you feel the restaurant industry will continue to adapt?
Mauro: The restaurant industry consists of so many different business models. We cater to and depend on our guests. We think that it’s vital for the industry to be mindful and pay attention to other industries and sectors in order to predict and try to plan how to best adapt for the ever-changing future and our guests’ behavior.
For us, the one thing that has helped us through this challenging time is communication. We’ve spoken to and brainstormed with other chefs, owners, and staff from different places to support each other. If anything should come out of this is a reminder that we’re stronger together. – GM
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE FOOD ISSUE