Michiko Marron-Kibbey's upbringing in both Japan and the United States profoundly shaped her artistic perspective in the realm of chocolate. In 2015, she embarked on a transformative journey, realizing her childhood dream of mastering French pastries at the prestigious Ferrandi culinary school. Upon her return to the U.S., Michiko wasted no time in giving birth to Deux Cranes, a delectable endeavor dedicated to harmonizing her Eastern and Western cultural influences within the American chocolate and confectionery world. We had a talk with Michiko to learn more about her journey and thoughts on chocolate — scroll down to see our Q & A!
MMK: Before I went to pastry school in 2017, I was inspired by the beautiful jewel-like chocolates of Stick with Me Sweets in NYC. It was the first time I had seen chocolates that beautiful! I began to think about how intense the flavor of chocolate is and how much impact you can have in such a small bite. For me, chocolate is the perfect vehicle for flavor and beauty. Once I started working with it I realized how technical it is: chocolate is a delicious science experiment. You need near-perfect environmental conditions, and if you can't have that, you have to figure out how to get a perfect product anyway. I love a good challenge and was instantly hooked!
ET: What kind of flavor combinations do you look for when creating a chocolate bar? Why do you think Japanese flavors marry so well with French culinary traditions?
MMK: I crave balance in everything I eat (and do for that matter) so texture, sweetness, bitterness, and saltiness all have to be accounted for. It may be an absence of one of those elements that really makes a chocolate bar sing, but the balance is what is most important. When I was living in France, I was struck by how much mutual respect the Japanese and French have for each other. I believe it's because both cultures have an ingrained appreciation for craft and they recognize that in each other. I learned in both countries that when you approach a craft with thoughtful intention, the result will always be special.
ET: What and who inspires you right now?
MMK: This is such a tricky question! I feel like there are three main things in life that I draw inspiration from.
Art: I'm often inspired by art and how it can create emotion. I went to see Guo Pei's exhibit in San Francisco last year and was completely blown away by the vision and intricacy of each piece. It was breathtakingly beautiful in how much thought you could see in each piece.
Entrepreneurs: Building this business has been the most wonderful and challenging experience of my life. So I'm very inspired by other entrepreneurs who are also creators like Jay-Z and Cristobal Balenciaga. I'm always trying to figure out how best to balance the creative process and impulses while driving the business and my vision for it forward. It's such an incredible opportunity to build something all my own and I don't take that lightly.
Food: In terms of food though, I've been loving Natasha Pickowicz's More Than Cake cookbook. She has such a unique take on flavor. It's been a blast to bake my way through it!
ET: You are a 4th generation Japanese-American and you grew up in Japan, and spent time also living in France. Can you tell us about your multicultural upbringing and your professional years living in Europe?
MMK: I grew up in a household where being multi-cultural and multi-lingual was seen as the biggest asset you can have in life. Living in multiple places gives you the ability to be a great observer of life and I believe that's one of my biggest strengths. When I went to Japanese public school at five, I had to learn quickly how to fit in and be respectful of a culture that was unfamiliar to me as the only American. When I returned to California for college, I had to figure out how to navigate young adulthood amongst Americans, even though I hadn't lived in the US since I was ten. So when my husband and I moved to France when I was thirty we were able to absorb so many amazing experiences in just twelve months. This way of living in between cultures is so familiar to many immigrants and it's a big reason why I wanted to create nuanced products that celebrate a fusion of Japanese and French flavors and techniques. My chocolates are a celebration of the nuances of flavor and culture that you pick up as an observer.
ET: What's your favorite Japanese dessert and your favorite French dessert?
MMK: My favorite Japanese dessert is warabi-mochi. I love the texture and subtle sweet/savory quality of kinako and black sugar. It's just the perfect bite. My favorite French dessert is a Beige from Mori Yoshida where I worked after pastry school. It's a chocolate tart base, filled with crunchy orange-flavored chocolate and topped with a lime-infused Earl Grey mousse. It is so balanced in texture and flavor. It's incredible.
ET: What is the meaning behind 'Deux Cranes'? What Japanese philosophy do you wish to share with people who enjoy Deux Cranes chocolates?
MMK: Deux Cranes represents the marriage of beauty and deliciousness. When I started the company, I really wanted to create a product that was as beautiful as it was delicious and that has been my guiding light since I started. I hope our chocolates give people a moment to pause and reflect on the intricacy of life and beauty. Our world can feel so chaotic at times but hopefully, our chocolates help people to take a breath and enjoy something beautiful and delicious in their days!
We're honored to carry Michiko's indulgent chocolates in a range of Japanese-influenced flavors like her Dark Chocolate with Miso Almonds and Milk Chocolate with Ginger Sesame and Buckwheat. We're also exceptionally excited to receive her two limited-edition seasonal flavors just in time for the spooky season! Get both her seasonal flavors here while supplies last, and stay tuned for more flavors this holiday season ✨