Raffiné, which in French means refined, sophisticated, is an apt description of the kinds of products Mona Keady serves up at her chocolate shop in Danville, Calif. Raised in a family of culinary perfectionists, Keady knew that when she decided to pursue the art of chocolate, second best wouldn’t do.
Having trained at the École Le Nôtre, the École du Grand Chocolate Valrhona at Tain l’Hermitage, the Callebaut Chocolate Academy and the École Bellouet Conseil, Keady mastered classical techniques used by the chocolatiers in Europe.
She’s taken that Old World sophistication and applied her own special touch to create elegant and flavorful chocolates. Using fresh fruit purees, spices and specialty flavorings, Keady creates little masterpieces that are a visual, tactile and sensual delight.
In addition to producing solid chocolates and pralines, she offers up an assortment of caramels, creams, ganaches and giandujas. Stylish gift boxes have become a Raffiné specialty.
Be it Venetian-style chocolate masks for Mardi Gras or a ganache designed to pair well with a Cabernet Sauvigon, Keady’s up to the task. But then, she’s been trained to rise about the ordinary. (Visit www.Raffinechocolates.com).
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
A psychiatric nurse. Then I wanted to work with the mentally retarded, followed by geriatric nursing. After college I went to work in the private sector in Silicon Valley, where - after more than two decades - I found myself in France taking culinary classes leading me to the world of chocolate.
Name one or some of your favorite movies.
I enjoy movies that offer entertainment and escape, whether they are action, adventure, comedy, drama or historical. A classic is “The Quiet Man.”
Describe your perfect dream vacation. A vacation you don’t have to come back from, actually anywhere in France, Switzerland, Belgium or Italy.
What book are you currently reading?
“Chocolate Fusion” by Frederic Bau. I also frequently refer to books written by the culinary professionals listed below.
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
I would like to be stranded with an accomplished chef, with a professional kitchen on hand so we could create savory and sweet classics.
What’s your pet peeve?
People who don’t work to the best of their capability.
I’d give anything to meet:
I would like most to spend more time with “the notables” in the world of chocolate, which whom I’ve trained with, such as Jean Pierre Wybauw, Stéphane Glacier, M.O.F., Ewald Notter, Pierre Hermé, Thierry Atlan, M.O.F., Joel Bellouet, M.O.F., Jean Michelle Perruchon and Gilles Maisonneuve. I also admire the work of Robert Linxe and Gaston Lenôtre.
The best piece of advice that I’ve gotten:
While not actually being told, I was raised with the belief of always being able to do better work, to improve on what was done in the past.
What excites you most about your job?
Having the ability to be creative coupled with the challenge to create new products. Much of my work is creating chocolate products for client businesses.