The gourmet chocolate revolution in Israel continues to shine — with Tel Aviv’s chocolatier Ika Cohen recently being named a World Finalist at the International Chocolate Awards in London.
Cohen – who runs a chocolate boutique on Yad Haharutzim Street — was applauded for her lemon praline bonbon at the semi-finals competition.The contest was set up to recognize the best fine quality chocolate from around the world.
Winners at the event included French chocolate specialist Michel Cluizel, British chocolatiers Paul Young and Matcha Chocolat, Catalonian/British Damian Allsop Chocolates and Israel’s Ika Chocolate. The International Chocolate Awards recently held semi-finals rounds in Italy, the UK and the US. The Grand Final is set to take place in October.
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Surrounded by bland, scrubby landscape, Negrin said everyone wore the same clothes and did the same things. “So I created my own little world in my imagination with colours and beautiful things,” says Negrin. “I have always been a free spirit.”
Decades later, she’s one of Isreal’s most prolific jewellry and clothing designers, with 59 stores in 24 countries and a studio factory in Tel Aviv where 250 employees hand-make thousands of pieces to supply the stores.
Negrin was in Victoria this week to open the first Michal Negrin Concept Store in Canada at 1222 Government St.
Her work is described as romantic and dramatic and is based on lace and vintage designs intended to “evoke images of a fantastic world filled with optimism and happiness.”
Maya and Efi Ben-Dor are the owners of the local franchise outlet. The couple left Israel three years ago looking for a better life for their three young children.
He’s a stock market researcher and she’s a graphic designer. They Googled “Best Place to Live in the World” and Vancouver was the top hit.
The Ben-Dors applied for permanent residency, sold everything and travelled across the U.S. in a trailer, arriving in Vancouver in December 2010.
The idea to open a Michal Negrin store came from a family friend who owned several stores in Europe. While vacationing here, Maya said they fell for Victoria and found the Government Street location when Rocky Mountain Chocolate moved further down the strip.
“We feel Victoria, with its rich past and vibrant present, is the perfect location to launch this unique store,” says Efi. “We feel very at home and really look forward to putting down some roots.”
Michal Negrin and her husband, Meir, started the collection in 1988 at Tel Aviv’s open-air market. The designs caught on and the first stores started springing up around Israel and then overseas to Japan, South Africa, France, Spain, Mexico, China, Australia, the U.S. and other countries.
The inventory has grown to include dresses and other clothing, three-dimensional artwork and unique personal and home accessories. The jewelry, ranging from small earrings to necklaces over $1,000, feature hand-set Swarovski crystals and glass beads in nickel-free bases.
“The quality is very high and each piece has a lifetime guarantee and we hope in time they become heirlooms,” says Maya. “It’s something we felt confident bringing to the Victoria market and eventually to other cities in the future.”
Negrin says despite the turbulent global economy, business in all outlets has been brisk. “People are still buying things that are affordable and make them feel good,” she says. “It brings them back to their childhoods, gives them a good energy.”
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