David Belo is the owner of Naviluna chocolates, where they make chocolate using organic cacao grown in Karnataka and fuse it with locally sourced ingredients.

Chef David Belo outside the structure he is restoring in MysuruInstagram
Features Heritage Saturday, February 27, 2021 - 12:37

The majestic city of Mysuru will soon get a place to experience the craft of making artisanal chocolates in a regal structure of the city as the owner of Naviluna chocolates, David Belo, gears up to restore a heritage building in the city and start a new headquarter, chocolate factory and brasserie for their brand. David, after having tended the bar for a decade was seeking a change of lifestyle when his path led him to Mysuru from a rustic part of the United Kingdom.

Speaking about his journey, the citizen of Cape Town, South Africa, says, “I studied in London and served drinks for 11 years and grew tired of the lifestyle. When I arrived in Mysuru, I discovered the cacao beans being produced in Karnataka. When I first launched the brand Earth Loaf in 2012, not many people were making artisanal chocolates, especially with the cacao locally sourced and thus, started the journey. The movement of making artisanal chocolate in the international market was just gaining momentum.”

When quizzed about how he got into baking and the art of making chocolates, David was quick to reply saying he had worked in a rustic bakery in the UK before moving to India where he worked as a pastry chef.  

Prod him about what makes their chocolate so special, David says, “We at Naviluna have a raw approach towards making the chocolate. We source beans organically grown in Karnataka and fuse them with locally available ingredients like fermented bamboo shoots. The cacao beans are cold-processed, for we try to retain the original flavour of the chocolates and the richness.”

Naviluna, he says, was launched in the national market in 2014 and has since then seen consistent growth. Hotel and coffee chains like The Blue Tokai, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts sell the chocolates indigenously produced by them.

The artisanal chocolate maker is now ready to engage the chocolate lovers in an enriching experience of witnessing the making of artisanal chocolate while relishing in the premium baked goodies and artisanal Kombucha (fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea) in the new headquarters of Naviluna where David also plans to open a brasserie. Interestingly, he picked an old dilapidated structure near the famous Mysuru Palace as the ideal spot to do so.

“The building, I learnt from my friend who owns the place, is an ancestral property which is at least 150 years old. She just took it upon herself to restore the building. For three-and-a-half long years, the plan did not work out for some reason or the other. During the lockdown, we finally took the plunge and started the restoration work,” says David about the bungalow.

David has been closely working with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), a non-profit organisation that aims to spearhead heritage awareness and conservation in India. Skilled craftsmen who excel in working with materials that were originally used to build the building, have been deployed to work on the structure to restore it to its original glory.

However, the project has not been devoid of obstacles. David and the INTACH team had expected to complete the work by April 2021 and have the brasserie up and running by June, but were faced with a shortage of funds to restore the heritage structure. He started a fundraiser on the platform Kickstarter to carry on with the restoration works, which has achieved its basic goal. 

“We plan to create a space mere walking distance from the Mysore Palace where Naviluna and craft chocolate fans can come and witness the art of craft chocolate in front of them in a space that tells our story as a brand, before going to enjoy a meal at our alfresco terrace, in our brasserie or popping into the dessert room for plated desserts. For you co-workers, we'll have a couple of hot desks too. We also plan to host events in the space and hope for it to become a hub of culture within the city,” wrote David about the project on their fundraiser page.

“As an entrepreneur, you are married to your business and you want the best. The making of this brasserie will be a stepping stone for me. I have plans to open brasseries across India in cities like Bengaluru and start a chain,” says David, elaborating on his business goals before signing off. 


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