Yu Hsuan Cheng got started in the industry at 19 after his first taste of luxury chocolate inspired him. After undergoing several years of self-training and professional training in France, he started his own brand, Yu Chocolatier, to bring the joy of chocolate to Taiwan. Baking Business sat down with Yu to learn all about the start of his business, its present success, and the outlook for the future.
Yu Chocolatier started from a simple notion of sharing the pleasure of chocolate. I still remember my first bite of decent chocolate—a fruity Madagascan dark chocolate,” says Yu.
This is what started him down the path of launching his own chocolate business, an eponymous brand.
“The character ‘Yu’ means ‘a land in the mountains that has been left to fallow and rest for two years, capable of nourishing all life’. It is my name, and I found it rather coherent with the nature of cacao and other agricultural produce, so it became the name of my brand as well,” he says.
That feeling that Yu had when he had that first bite of quality chocolate is something that he tries to bring to the creations that his business sells.
“Impressions of beauty tend to inspire me at unexpected moments. It could be a tune of music, a piece of literature, a colour, an image, or an emotion,” says Yu.
“I enjoy being struck surprisedly by these sudden calls from the Lady Muse.”
A large focus of the business is the combination of different flavours and styles of cooking, especially those of Yu’s Taiwanese background, his French training, and his youth spent in the USA.
“I would say the three cultures gave me different aspects of becoming who I am. I am very used to merging different cultures and ideologies in everyday life. That’s the main reason why many find my work polygonal and unique.
“Whenever I create, I strive to come up with flavour profiles which are both familiar and unique to other cultures and mine. I find that exciting, for through reflecting and redefining my own culture, I also find similarities within other cultures,” says Yu.
“I try to make my creations ‘accessible’ even for those who are not familiar with Taiwan. I always start with ingredients which act as ‘links’, usually universal flavours which are common to the entire culinary world.”
The interesting and fantastical products that Yu creates at Yu Chocolatier have proven to be incredibly popular with both local and international customers.
“Local customers enjoy savouring how their daily familiarity marries with chocolate. Foreign customers enjoy their daily chocolates with a fresh new touch of Asia,” says Yu.
“At Yu Chocolatier, our daily-made fresh pastries are very much favoured as well.”
However, the most popular products that Yu Chocolatier sells remains their chocolate bonbons, which Yu says come in many different flavours.
“I have created over seventy different recipes of ganache and praline so far, many of which are inspired by Taiwanese ingredients or culture. To name a few, smoked sesame oil, marinated plum, caramel soy sauce, oolong tea, etc.” he says.
Recently, the hard work and talent behind Yu’s work was recognised when he was named Gamechanging Producer of 2022 as part of the 50 Next Awards organised by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
“It was absolutely thrilling to be recognised for my efforts in sharing the aesthetics of Taiwanese culture through chocolate,” says Yu.
“Winning honours is always great but learning that people from different backgrounds around the world truly appreciate my work—those are the most amazing wins to me.
“We have foreign friends whose first and last to-do ritual in Taiwan is to come enjoy our chocolates. A Belgian lady who loved our chocolates upon her first visit to Taiwan learned that we were exhibiting at the Salon du Chocolat Paris. She travelled all the way from Brussels to Paris, just to have our chocolates again!
“To see my passion go into the world and receive people returning it back in an even greater manner, that truly means a lot to me.”
As for the future, Yu has plans to launch the Yu Chocolatier brand in Paris.
“My chocolate brand is currently based in Taipei. This has been my longtime goal, to open a window and share a brand-new aspect of Taiwanese chocolate aesthetics in the world centre of artisan chocolate,” he says.
“We are currently working on making this dream a reality, hopefully very soon.”
Main image by Hey!Cheese
Other images by Yu Chocolatier