Meet Pierre Abi Haila: Lebanon's Youngest Premium Chocolate Maker

As a child, Pierre Abi Haila wasn’t exactly an angel. The second of three sons born to a Lebanese father and Armenian mother in Dahr el Siwan, Pierre was rambunctious both at school and in the community where his family lived. He adored fruits, supposedly subsisting on them the first three years of his life, and was known to snag them stealthily from neighbors’ trees. In the classroom, he was every teacher’s nightmare: disobedient, inattentive, and eternally the troublemaker.



Meet Pierre Abi Haila, Lebanon's up and coming chocolatier


So it was no surprise when the principal of Saint Coeur Bikfaya summoned his parents and told them that Pierre would not be permitted to return for eighth grade. Grief-stricken, they threatened to place him in a technical school to learn a trade or discipline. Pierre couldn’t have been more pleased!

At the age of 12, he enrolled at École Technique Saint Joseph in Bhersaf, which proved to be more grueling than conventional school had been. Over three years, he learned 16 subjects straddling both academic coursework and practical know-how, but the aha-moment happened in pastry-making. A self-professed chocolate lover, Pierre was enamored with sweets and committed himself to the art of crafting them.



Pierre making macarons (photo courtesy of instragram.com/lenoirchocolat)


After acquiring his brevet professionnel and subsequently le bac technique, he labored assiduously in the kitchens of Fadel, Nazira Catering, Al Bustan and Bellevue Hotel. By the age of 21, he was hungry for a challenge, so when an opportunity presented itself at Le Vendome in Ain Mreisseh, Pierre applied and was snatched up by the five-star property.

The eight years he spent at Vendome afforded him a rich, varied career as a pastry chef. He was directly responsible for the hotel’s exquisite penthouse dining venue, Sydney’s, as well as room service and external events catering. Every three months, world-renowned chefs from Europe are hosted by Le Vendome, and Pierre had the privilege to ingest a wealth of knowledge and rub elbows with connoisseurs in his field.  



In the foreground, Pierre's creation: a chocolate macaron filled with sea-salt-kissed caramel and 
enrobed in a dark chocolate ganache


A cross-section of the signature macaron. Watch the cool making of it here!

At the hotel’s encouragement, he traveled to France for training stints at the École du Grand Chocolat (Tain de l’Hermitage), École Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie (Yssingeaux), and Lenôtre (Plaisir). Back in Beirut, he took the reins on Le Vendome’s chocolate boutique, Chocodôme, crafting edible art using entirely premium raw ingredients, namely Valrhona imported from France. Every Christmas, Pierre and his team would produce nearly two tons of chocolate to sell to both gourmands and local enterprises.

Between 2010 and 2014, Pierre entered competitions in the major hospitality fair in Beirut called Horeca. Each time he garnered accolades for his impressive creations, among which were chocolate-fabricated dresses. Catching the eye of restaurateur Marwan Keyrouz, Pierre was commissioned as the consulting pastry chef at Gilt, a trendy restaurant-bar in Saifi Village.



Cross-sections of filled chocolate squares. At the ends, ground sesame with praline.
 In the center, orange zest with a layer of marzipan.


Six months ago, Pierre stepped down from his venerated post at Le Vendome to pursue a dream. Eight years of meticulous work and mastery had propelled him to do something wholly proprietary, and the time was ripe to open his own chocolate atelier. Earlier this year, partnering solely with his elder brother Pascal, he secured a space at a commercial center in Broumana, where he has since launched Le Noir.

Le Noir is an ode to refined luxurious chocolate produced with premium-quality ingredients and a labor of love. Pierre even prepares his own praliné, a confectionery combining nuts, sugar, and often cream to be incorporated in chocolate. His clients are diverse, from hotels, restaurants and pastry shops, to individual and corporate customers as well as caterers.



An assortment of Le Noir chocolates, truffles, a macaron, and fruit jelly


Pierre fully acknowledges that the chocolate culture in Lebanon is amateurish, but he’s endeavoring to change that. He's taken it upon himself to inform customers precisely what ingredients go into the end product, because with education comes awareness, and with awareness, appreciation.

There are a select handful of chocolatiers in Lebanon with whom Pierre competes, but rather than feel intimidated, his approach is more sanguine. Competition drives the quality of the product—chocolate—up, thereby forcing the Lebanese palate to evolve and stimulating Pierre to continue innovating. He looks up to the inimitable work of master patissiers Patrick Roger, Pierre Marcolini, and Alain Ducasse, the three of whom are celebrated as gods in their industry.



Also on the menu, reinvented ginger snaps (photo courtesy of instragram.com/lenoirchocolat)


Pierre is proud of how far he’s come, but he admits there’s still much to be done. His vision is to grow not only within Lebanon but throughout the Gulf and Arab states too, potentially through franchise outlets. In the meantime, he’s taking it a day at a time to crystallize his identity all while tickling the cravings of Lebanese consumers.

And not a day goes by when he doesn’t thank his lucky stars he was thrown out of school. Life has a sweet way of working itself out, now, doesn’t it?






Le Noir: Atelier du Chocolat
Centre Rizk Plaza, Broumana
+961 3 039219 / 3 997714
Instagram: @lenoirchocolat

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.
Be sure to enjoy the making of Pierre's signature macaron here

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