From New York to Japan, Maribel Lieberman has built an edible empire with her cherished chocolate company, MarieBelle, along with her more rustic brand, Cacao Market. Her gourmet chocolates are not only delicious, they’re also designed to be a work of art, which comes as no surprise, as Maribel studied fashion before following her passion for food and most importantly, chocolate – and she has been satisfying many people’s sweet tooth ever since!
The mother and chocolate master explained she found out after going to fashion school at Parsons School of Design that her “real love was for cooking and experimenting with different ingredients and creating new dishes, and New York City was the perfect place to introduce new cuisine as a chef.”
While she had no formal training, this Honduran native, equipped with a perfect palate, learned everything she needed to know while experimenting in her kitchen and putting different ingredients together. After entertaining in her home for so many years, Maribel decided to open a catering company, Maribel’s Gourmet Cuisine. Before long, Maribel was cooking international cuisine for ambassadors from all over the world at the United Nations, where she would incorporate food from a particular country or culture. While her friends encouraged her to use her culinary talents to open a restaurant, Maribel was more interested in constantly creating new menus as well as new experiences through lighting and presentation with each unique event she put together. Rather than selling the same dishes every day from the same menu, she wanted to be able to “change the colors of the food and the atmosphere depending on the occasion.”
This culinary creative, who lives with her artist husband and teenager daughter in Soho, is truly living the sweet life while making sure you can savor all the sweets you can handle! Whether you visit her deliciously designed shop in Soho or Kyoto, you will be in for a real treat – literally! MarieBelle, or the more artisanal Cacao Market shops, will transport you to a fantastical world of flavor, intoxicating aromas and innovative displays. You can even sip on their heavenly hot chocolate or bite into some handcrafted tantalizing truffles in their cozy salon cafe for the ultimate elevated chocolate experience.
“At the end of the day, I am an artist, and there are many mediums you can paint with. You can paint with flavor and you can paint with food and presentation – the taste is just as important as the presentation, but when you’re feasting the eyes, you’re feeding your brain with good thoughts and good energy, and it brings a smile and a real appreciation. You will get much more satisfaction than just from eating when something is presented beautifully, as you’ll be able to contemplate it even before the first bite.”
In addition to delighting customers with her fresh bean-to-bar sweets, this entrepreneur also enlightened chocolate lovers by introducing chocolates from countries such as Africa and Latin America, where cacao originates. “I wanted to incorporate ingredients from different cultures, but 20 years ago, very few people knew that chocolate comes from cacao,” said Maribel. “A lot of people were saying the best chocolate comes from Belgium, Switzerland or France, but while they know how to produce great products, the original cacao growers were from Latin America.”
After five years of cooking up innovative dishes with her highly sought-after catering company, this chocolate connoisseur decided to open a gourmet store with one ingredient: chocolate. The store, called Lunettes et Chocolat, which she opened with a friend, focused on both designer chocolates as well as glasses. However, after September 11th, the downtown area was suffering and many places were going out of business, so Maribel decided to take a new space for Christmas, which she only expected to be open for a few weeks. This pop-up shop, which opened in Soho in December of 2001, did so well that you can now buy your luxurious MarieBelle chocolates in that very same spot!
If you have dietary restrictions or just want to do chocolate on a diet, Maribel is going to be your new goddess of chocolate-y goodness. Willy Wonka has nothing on this chocolate wizard who is currently working on a new sugar-free chocolate using only natural sugar, so it has no chemicals, zero calories and still tastes amazing. She is attempting to make chocolate, which already has a lot of antioxidants, even stronger by adding blueberries or other fruits that are also rich in antioxidants. According to Maribel, “Mixing these fruits with sugar-free chocolate makes it even more powerful.” Problems digesting milk? That’s no problem at MarieBelle, where you can also delight in dairy-free chocolate bars.
What’s better than MarieBelle chocolates? MarieBelle chocolates inside a Nutcracker box! That’s right—if you’re on Santa’s nice list this year, you might just find yourself opening a whimsical box filled with hot chocolate, pistachio toffee and dark chocolate almonds – bite into that! With specialized gift boxes and limited-edition packaging available in all price ranges, you will find the tastiest treats for everyone on your gift-giving list – just make sure you don’t eat them all first! Maribel, whose chocolates are bringing magic back into the holiday season with each mouthwatering morsel, believes that “baskets are so thirty years ago. I do beautiful blue boxes for gift sets, but the idea to put chocolates inside books that people could carry was inspired by those big coffee table books.”
From the signature panache ganache of MarieBelle to the more rustic and casual pieces of the Cacao Market brand, you will soon be able to watch where all the chocolate magic happens when their factory moves to the Brooklyn Navy Yard next year. The new space will feature a first floor showcase where you’ll be sure to get a good look at those beautiful bars being brought to life. With another store, which just opened on Park Avenue this year, plus their Cacao Market in Green Point, Brooklyn, a store in Dubai and four shops in Japan with another one opening next year, there is no shortage of Maribel’s heavenly hot chocolate! Maribel described the Japanese as a “very demanding culture, and they are very picky about taste and are very much into presentation,” two of the things that this unstoppable chocolate-making force does best!
Maribel doesn’t just give back by giving customers the gift of her ganache; this charitable chocolate master also helps women in her native country of Honduras. “Since 2015, I have been traveling to Honduras, where I meet up with women farmers and I buy their cacao from them. I’m supporting about 60 women at the moment and doing a lot of trading with them because a lot of these women have never tasted chocolate, so I often go over to teach them how to process the cacao and make chocolate out of it. Cacao is a plant like anything that we eat and consume. I go back about two to three times a year, and I have a company that collects the fruit for me and also does the fermentation.” She has done so much to help promote products from her homeland, that Maribel was recognized by the government for her contributions and is now a brand ambassador representing Honduras.
From double chocolate bacon pretzels to lemon blueberry shortbread balls, MarieBelle and Cacao Market are bringing bites of bliss to people around the world. With a passion for delicate and designer chocolates and inventive recipes, Maribel is continuing to ensure the future of her brand is as delicious as ever!