As many of you know, Dello Mano has launched an all-vegan line of vegan brownies, vegan cookies, and vegan gift boxes and hampers. While these eggless confections are some of Dello Mano’s first vegan products, Read more…
Dello Mano customers often ask why we wrap all our brownies in foil. The reason for this choice is bound up in the romance I associate with foil-wrapped chocolate. Foil comes off more slowly than modern plastic packaging, and it’s easier to reseal, encouraging more mindful consumption. Its lustrous sheen hints at precious metals, suggesting that chocolate should be held in as high regard as silver or gold. The crinkle of the first tear sounds sweet as Pavlovian bells to those who remember it from childhood. Those too young to remember foil-wrapped chocolate may think of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — that famous scene of Charlie tantalisingly pulling away his chocolate bar’s silver foil to reveal the golden ticket within. That romance is what we lost when the food industry moved to flow wrapping.
To watch the flow-wrapping process in motion is to be truly astounded by the power of modern manufacturing. The naked products speed along a conveyor belt towards a snakelike strip of plastic, long enough to wrap many thousands of chocolates. A separate machine seals and cuts the plastic into separate packages. Through this precisely-engineered process, thousands of chocolate bars can be wrapped without a soul in sight. It is the last step in a process that involves minimal human involvement from beginning to end; the chocolates were mixed, poured, and moulded with similarly efficient marvels of machinery. There’s little wonder that mass-produced chocolate so often tastes so soulless.
By the time I entered the food industry in the 1980s, flow wrapping was already beginning to dominate the industry. However, a few companies still used foil to grant certain products a sense of luxury and old-fashioned quality. One of those companies was Cadbury, which tends to hold on to traditions longer than their competitors; perhaps they remain influenced by the themes of heritage, hard work that characterised their Quaker beginnings. In those days, Cadbury produced a line called Cadbury Favourites, a box of assorted, miniature chocolates each hand-wrapped in patterned foil. Though I was by that time well into adulthood, I felt like a child every time I opened the box to see the bright, colourful foil packages within. (Cadbury still sells their Favourites line, but the tiny chocolates are now — of course — flow-wrapped.)
During my time working with Cadbury, I had the chance to visit a small factory in Tasmania where a tight-knit group of women had been turning out Favourites and other chocolates for decades. Their years of dedication allowed them to develop near-superhuman efficiency. As they worked, their hands moved so fast that they seemed to have far more than two, as if they were multi-armed goddesses of chocolate. Their teamwork and fierce loyalty were even more impressive than their efficiency. Every worker on the conveyor belt knew that she couldn’t slack — if she did, the bars would pile up at her station and hold the whole line back. The familial bond among these women fascinated me; they brought a deep sense of humanity to the chocolate box.
When the time came for us to determine how our own Dello Mano products would be packaged, I remembered the humanity of the Cadbury women, as well as the magic tied up in all the foil-wrapped chocolates of my youth. However, we didn’t have the Cadbury women — in the early days, the Dello Mano permanent staff comprised little more than our four-person family, two of whom were little girls. In order to hand-wrap every brownie we sold, we would need far more massive people-power. Besides, as much as I liked the idea of foil packages, there was no denying that our classic brownies looked beautiful au naturel. We decided to wrap only the centre brownie in each box of nine with gold foil and a tiny ribbon.
This centre brownie would serve as a bit of an engineering fix; the ribbon would help to loosen the first piece from the tightly-packed box. As time progressed, however, we learned that the foil-wrapped brownie was much more than a convenient piece of leverage for our customers. Rather than pulling out the gold brownie first, they would leave it for last, as if it were as precious as its colour suggested. The romance of foil-wrapped chocolate meant more to our customers than a slightly easier-to-open package; in fact, we received frequent requests to wrap all of the brownies in foil. We began hand-wrapping all of our brownies as soon as we had enough woman-manpower to do so.
Today, we continue to wrap each and every Dello Mano brownie that leaves our kitchens. Every jewel-toned hue corresponds with one of our delicious flavours, from the jewel-toned purple that wraps our Ginger brownies to the scintillating silver enveloping our Espresso Walnut. And, of course, as always our original Classic Luxury Brownie comes wrapped in gold foil, because our painstakingly-developed browine recipe is as precious to us as gold. As soon as you try your first bite, we think you’ll feel the same.
Got a story to tell us about your Dello Mano Brownie experience – just send us a note on our Facebook page – look forward to hearing from you.
Dello Mano led the Australian Brownie Revolution. You can find our brownies online http://www.dellomano.com.au or at either one of our Brisbane Stores – Tattersalls Arcade or New Farm. We have tasters every day and look forward to seeing you there.
We love hearing about how our customers incorporate Dello Mano into the most memorable moments of their lives. Since our founding in 2006, our premium luxury brownies and cakes have been present at countless events, from birthday parties and bar mitzvahs to weddings and proposals. Some of our customers have found particularly novel ways to involve Dello Mano in their memory-making moments. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite stories from the Dello Mano archives.
This story belongs to a customer we’ll call Alice, who visited our former Doggett Street store to regale us with the role Dello Mano played in her fortieth birthday. The big four-oh isn’t just any birthday, and this wasn’t just any party: she and her husband took the opportunity to fulfill their lifelong dreams of climbing Mount Everest. After all, if you have to go over the hill, why not go over the biggest one the world has to offer?
They bought their plane tickets, booked their guides, and collected all the necessary gear. Then there was the question of how they would have a birthday party on Mount Everest. A cake was out of the question — they would carry all that they needed on their backs, and every extra gram would feel like a kilo. Besides, the windy, oxygen-thin Himalayan atmosphere is no place to try to light a birthday candle. Alice wanted a treat that could pack pounds of decadence into a cubic centimeter, the dessert with the greatest deliciousness density possible. Then she thought of Dello Mano brownies.
Alice was a fervent fan of Dello Mano well before we opened our shops at Tattersalls and New Farm. She first tasted our brownies at the Farmers Market at New Farm Park, where we still have a stand nestled among the avenue of trees. One bite of our Classic Belgian Chocolate Luxury Brownie and Alice fell fast and hard. Each piece of our Classic Brownie was a cubic inch of rich chocolate bound together with the finest farm-fresh ingredients, so compact and carefully-engineered that it could serve as the world’s most luxurious astronaut food. Perhaps Alice thought of astronauts, or perhaps she had heard that scientists in Antarctica snack on chocolate because it handles the freezing temperatures better than most foods. Either way, she recognised that the Classic brownie cubes were tailor-made for her journey, so much so that it was almost as though we had anticipated it.
Alice and her husband trekked for over two weeks through the Nepali countryside, a jagged landscape punctuated by bustling Sherpa villages and quiet monasteries, before they reached Everest Base Camp. It was one of the most challenging hikes they had ever completed, and it was only the first leg of a journey that would take nearly two months. Through all glute-pounding climbs, the gasping for breath in the thin air, the throbbing in her feet at the end of the day, Alice never forgot that this was the easy part. Nor did she forget the Dello Mano brownie.
It was Alice’s fortieth birthday when they arrived at the base camp. She and her husband clambered up a well-situated rock, one where they could look down upon where they had been and crane their necks up at where they had yet to go. Finally, ceremoniously, Alice took the brownie out of her pack. She pulled at a corner of the gold foil to reveal the intensely dark, warm color of the chocolate within. She felt her heart beating faster, and it wasn’t just the altitude sickness.
The brownie had frozen, though its richness prevented it from becoming rock-hard; it had something of the consistency of very cold ice cream. Her husband unsheathed his knife and sliced off thin slivers, which curled like ribbon as they fell into her hands. She placed it a slice on her tongue and let it slowly melt. Suddenly, she felt she was in New Farm Park again, among the roses and the jacaranda, falling in love with Dello Mano for the first time. The brownie recalled that first summer memory, but it also tasted of achievement. She took another sliver and relished her accomplishments, not only on their climb but in all her forty years.
“Happy birthday, Alice,” her husband said.
Alice gazed over the snowy expanse, the taste of Belgian chocolate lingering on her tongue. For once, she felt sure of her decisions and her direction in life. After all, she had certainly decided to carry the right brownie to Mount Everest!
If you have a Dello Mano Classic Brownie story to share with us then please do so by sharing on our Facebook Page – we’ll reward a random Dello Mano story with a box of the original and the only Classic Brownie. Invented right here in Brisbane, the Dello Mano Luxury Classic Brownie paved the way for brownies in Australia.
It’s hard to believe that over a decade has passed since the year our whole family — including Phoebe and Coco, who were then six and eight years old — officially signed on to the Dello Mano dream. The decision took place eleven years ago at our weekly “family circle,” a tradition we adopted to share positive, confidence-building discussions with the kids in those important formative years. This week, the topic on the table was the possibility of a small family business ( to become Dello Mano); after years of lofty plans and daydreams, would we finally launch our business? We knew the business would absorb a large portion of our time together for years to come, so it was crucial that Phoebe and Coco had as much of a say in the matter as their parents. Our daughters — accustomed to being taken seriously by adults — took some time to confer between themselves. The pros seemed to heavily outweigh the cons: Mummy and Daddy around all the time, as many brownies as they could eat. The vote was unanimous: Dello Mano would launch.
Our daughters were immediately full-fledged and indispensable employees. We could never predict when we would receive a flurry of orders; they often came after our other employees had left for the day. The first time this happened, we were at a loss — we couldn’t leave those orders unfilled, but there was no way we could finish everything with just two pairs of hands. Phoebe and Coco insisted on working with us all night, stirring and rolling and baking until every last brownie was wrapped in its requisite gold foil. We collapsed in satisfied exhaustion and the finally slept a few hours, then we all got ready to do it all over again.
Less than a month after we started, the Brisbane foodie and force of nature Jan Power invited us to her selective Powerhouse Farmers Market. Ms. Power, who was as detail-oriented as she is passionate, nurtured us through the process, but we were nevertheless nervous at first. We had pioneered brownies in Australia – we had disrupted the market as we know now, but in those early days, it just felt like we were on our own – seemingly the only people who cared about brownies and certainly the only ones doing anything about propelling brownies into the Australian marketplace. It was nerve-racking, to say the least. Also up to that point, we had sold our brownies almost exclusively online and by word of mouth; a physical location meant a whole list of new overhead items: tents and tables, branded decor, service staff. As soon as we brought up the question of finding servers, Phoebe and Coco volunteered. We hired them on the spot and made them their own Dello Mano uniforms: white t-shirts emblazoned with our logo and matching bandanas tied over their brown hair. We may be biased as parents, but we think they looked unequivocally adorable.
Of course, working at a farmers market requires far more than cute uniforms. Every other weekend, Phoebe and Coco had to wake up at two in the morning to dress in those t-shirts and help us pack the trunk with stacks of brownies. They slept the whole 40-minute drive to the market, roused themselves in time to help us build the tent, and then fell back asleep in the car until daybreak. Though it may be hard to believe that an eight year old and a six year old were enthusiastic about waking up at two AM, neither daughter ever complained. They were committed to helping our business grow, and they knew that dedicated businesspeople always stick to their commitments.
All the Peraltas are inveterate gourmands, so the promise of good food was a powerful motivator for those taxing mornings. As the sun rose over the Brisbane River, the girls ran to the nearby stall of an elderly couple, who greeted them like royalty and served them egg and bacon rolls fit for princesses. The savoury, buttery bites, not to mention the kindness and warmth with which they were served, gave them enough energy to power through the day. In homage to the beloved breakfasts that fueled the first days of Dello Mano, we now serve our own version of an egg and bacon roll on our new savoury menu, available at both our New Farm and Tattershall locations.
If the egg-and-bacon-roll couple were Phoebe and Coco’s market grandparents, then the other vendors were a gaggle of aunts, uncles, and cousins, all eager to teach our daughters the tricks of the trade. The girls quickly learned about bartering and haggling from their fellow tradespeople, Kylie who would ask to swap brownies for hot chocolate, Len for fresh juice, and others for a range of desirable goods. Kylie was a particularly fierce negotiator, and taught our daughters to be the same. Today, both Phoebe and Coco can hold their own in trade negotiations as confidently as experienced businesspeople — which, in fact, they are.
The market customers played an equally important role in our daughters’ business educations. In those days, we only used manual calculation — no cash register or computerised system, just a calculator and quick heads. The girls soon became far more skilled at arithmetic than their grade levels required. In recognition of their impressive performance, we promoted Phoebe and Coco to “manager” and “assistant manager” roles. Even after we hired additional staff, the CEOs and other important types who shopped at the market would often request to be served by the manager. Phoebe, looking confident beyond her years, expertly tallied their large orders while assistant manager Coco helped her box them up. This treatment was a great boost to their developing self-esteems — from that point on, they never stood for being underestimated because of their youth or gender.
Our daughters’ early education in business, trade, and self-esteem must have steered them towards their current career paths; both Phoebe and Coco are now in university, where they study double degrees in Business and Law. Despite their busy schedules, they take the time to work at the Dello Mano shop every Saturday and Sunday, when we serve our popular High Tea and Brunch menus. As parents, we naturally think they look just as sweet in their crisp brown aprons as they did in their Dello Mano tshirts ten years ago. More importantly, they are confident, capable young women with the rare ability to run a successful business with warmth and compassion. Please feel free to visit Phoebe, Coco, and the whole Dello Mano gang this weekend to experience our signature Dello Mano warmth.
We’ve been looking through old photo albums lately, reliving all the twists and turns of the journey that led us to Dello Mano. One of the most memorable moments of this journey was the 2006 Terra Madre Salone del Gusto (Mother Earth Salon of Taste) exhibition, a biennial festival organised by the Slow Food Movement in Turin. We’ve long been fervent adherents of Slow Food, so we knew we had to make the pilgrimage during our trip to Italy — but we didn’t realise just how major a role it would play in our Dello Mano destiny.
For us, the highlight of the exhibition Read more…