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Chika Hanyu is the executive chef at MarieBelle's gourmet chocolates in New York City where she manages seven other chefs and helps make 14,000 bonbons every day. When she’s not busy whipping up new recipes and taste testing, she hangs out with her boyfriend, Henry, in their apartment on the Upper East Side.

Chef Chika Hanyu Mariebelle chocolate
MarieBelle

My alarm goes off… at 5:30 a.m., but I usually snooze it about five times. I take a quick shower and make sure that my hair is neatly tied up before putting on something casual like jeans and a T-shirt. At work, I wear a uniform—a white chef coat, black pants, a brown hat and comfortable shoes. We have a store in Soho, but I work in our Brooklyn factory, so my subway commute takes about 40 minutes. I try to get in to work by 7:30 so that I can catch up on some paperwork before my co-workers start trickling in and we all have breakfast together (usually coffee and an egg sandwich). After we’ve eaten, we’ll start work at 8:30. 

My morning… is usually spent going over emails, filling in paperwork and making sure that the rest of the team feels good. There’s eight of us and we’re like one big family, always sharing stories and listening to music (a lot of Latin songs) while we work around three big tables tempering chocolate and making ganache. 

For lunch… I’ll usually bring in leftovers from home and take a break around 2:30. I’m Japanese, so it’s often some sort of meat or vegetables over rice. I need a lot of carbs to keep me going because I’m on my feet all day, helping to temper 220 pounds of chocolate. But I try to keep it healthy because I have to do so much tasting at work—I eat almost one pound of chocolate every day!

In the afternoon… it’s more chocolate-making. In addition to our Soho store, we do a lot of wholesale to places like Dean & DeLuca, Bergdorf Goodman, four stores in Japan and one store in Dubai—it all comes from here. We make about 14,000 bonbons and 2,000 chocolate bars and clusters every day, using over 500 pounds of chocolate.

I finish work… around 7 p.m., but I let everybody else go home around 5 p.m. Alone in the factory, I’ll usually spend some time checking on orders, inventory and organizing future orders. Because we ship our products overseas, a lot of my time is spent filling out forms and keeping production records for the FDA—they’re very strict. 

After work… I might go to the gym or just head straight home. I live with my boyfriend who works in the financial industry but is often home before me and has dinner on the table (usually some type of French or Asian dish). At the end of a long day in the kitchen, the last thing I want to do is cook more! But I love to do research so I’m always checking Yelp or Instagram to see what’s trending around the world. I have a lot of friends in the pastry industry all over the world, so I’m always asking them if they have something new or looking at their social media feeds. After dinner, we’ll watch a movie or play a board game together and just unwind from the day. I’m in bed by 11. 

I got the job… by taking a culinary class for fun at the University of Nevada. I originally majored in business management, but after taking the class, I decided to switch tracks. I loved pastry making—something about creating a chemical reaction from scratch was just so fascinating to me. After graduation, I did an internship at a hotel in Las Vegas and then followed my boss to Norwegian Cruise Line, where I spent three years making cheesecakes, strawberry shortcake, brownies and more restaurant desserts. After that, I moved to Lyon in France (which was always my dream) to make chocolate and pastries. One day, I was in Las Vegas for a world pastry competition when I met someone from MarieBelle who asked if I wanted to join the company—another dream come true. I started working with them six years ago as an assistant chef and now I’m the executive chef. 

The best part of my job… is making chocolate! I love creating all of our products and I have such a great team—we play music, dance and really have fun while we’re cooking. It’s important to be happy because if you’re sad, then the product will be sad. 

The worst part of my job… is all the paperwork. Between the FDA forms, various inspections and health department documents, it’s a lot to organize.  

My most memorable moment… is anytime I see someone enjoying our product—whether that’s in our store or posting something positive online. And when I go back to Japan (where MarieBelle is super popular), everyone always thinks it’s so cool that I work there.

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