"If you ask an Egyptian the first thing that comes to mind when Switzerland is mentioned, the first thing that pops into mind is chocolate!" Swiss Ambassador to Egypt Marcus Leitner stated.
"That is quite understandable, given the popularity of this delicacy. It is said that nine out of every 10 people are in love with chocolate, and the tenth is probably lying," he told an audience treated to fountains of flowing chocolates.
Romain Leemann and Ambassador Markus Leitner (Photo: Ahram Online)
The audience was media personnel and journalists gathered at a press conference Thursday , 13 October, at the Conrad Hotel in Cairo to witness the launch of the first Chocolate Festival, organised by the Swiss Embassy in Egypt.
One visiting guest in particular was celebrated on the occasion: renowned Swiss chocolatier Romain Leemann who is visiting Egypt for the first time to participate in a series of events that aim to make Egyptians more acquainted with aspects of Swiss culture.
Roman Leemann was born in 1981 in Boucherville, Quebec. In 2001, Leemann obtained his degree at the Boulangerie Blanc de Châstel Saint Denis. In 2007, he left for Canada where he had the opportunity to work with Morel, much reputed in Montreal.
In 2008, he was officially declared Canadian champion in the field of pastry and in November 2009 he won a gold medal at the World Chocolate Masters.
Today, Roman, who works in the city of Fribourg in Switzerland, is one of the most famous and esteemed chocolatiers worldwide.
"It is a pleasure to see Egypt for the first time, and I hope it will be the beginning of more visits to come," he said.
Leemann explained that during his one-week stay in Egypt, he will be visiting Cairo and Alexandria to conduct workshops for adults and kids, and to talk about the secrets of the craft of chocolate making to school children.
He also unveiled — as a tribute to Egypt's heritage a hand-carved statue of the sphinx, made by his own hand, in solid pure Swiss chocolate.
"I chose the Sphinx because usually people abroad mention the pyramids in relation to Egypt, and I think the Sphinx is equally enchanting," he said.
The Swiss ambassador explained why chocolate is at the forefront of cultural cooperation between Egypt and Switzerland now.
"Cultural cooperation is a key factor, showcasing deepening bilateral ties between any two countries. Culinary cooperation sends a message of openness and exposure to the world.
"The choice of chocolate was due to its attractiveness to the general audience, and to provide Egyptians with an insight into its unique cuisine."
Leitner added that it is a misconception that Swiss cuisine is merely chocolate and cheese.
"Thanks to combining modernity with traditional methods and a focus on precision, Swiss chocolate enjoys high esteem internationally. We are not solely exporters of chocolate, but rather prime consumers as well. Each Swiss consumes at least 12 kilogrammes of chocolate each year."
The ambassador concluded that many Swiss companies invest in Egypt in many fields, and that Switzerland looks forward to further cooperation and more flows of foreign direct investment from Switzerland to Egypt in the near future.