Chocolatier Håkan Mårtensson began his culinary career at the top. After enrolling in the pastry arts and design program at Österäng in Kristianstad at just 15, the Swedish native was mentored for Stefan Johnson-Peterson. He joined his country's national culinary team at 22. In 2008, he competed in the Culinary Olympics and helped Sweden bring home the gold.
“When you’re young and need access to everything, New York City is perfect,” he says.
Mårtensson immediately jumped into work as a chocolatier for Fika, a Swedish lifestyle and coffee shop in the city named after the term for a relaxing coffee break.
“Fika expanded very fast, but it didn’t hold,” says Mårtensson. He worked there for 10 years but in 2019, Fika closed its doors for good. Mårtensson began his own chocolatiering venture with partner Steven Pipes, focusing on weddings and private events. The company launched in January of 2020, did a couple small events, and promptly had to change shape as the pandemic began.
“We were wondering how to move forward, and considering just going fully online,” says Mårtensson. At the time Mårtensson, his one year old son, and his pregnant wife lived in Astoria. Mårtensson had to focus on taking care of his son and keeping the business alive, as well as avoiding COVID-19 in the overcrowded city.
The pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise, however. “I had wanted to open up something in the Hudson Valley for over 10 years,” says Mårtensson. “I called up Steven and said, how about we look for a place upstate? I would move up there in a heartbeat.”
In September 2020, Mårtensson and Pipes began scouting. They hit all the Hudson Valley highlights, including New Paltz and Kingston, until arriving at the final place on their list, Beacon. “I didn’t know much about Beacon,” says Mårtensson. “But I saw there was a lot of diversity, people, and business. It looked like a great place to raise my kids.”
Pipes and Mårtensson toured a spot at 462 Broadway, an c.1890s building. Mårtensson knew right away that it was the place for him. He moved his family up in February 2021, to a spot five minutes away from his shop.
“I loved the city, but it has its time,” he says. “The thing about Manhattan is that everybody comes there, but eventually everybody moves on.”
Mårtensson immediately began noticing the benefits of living upstate. “When we walk in the evening, we can actually see stars,” he says. “The air feels lighter. And I know more people here in Beacon than I ever knew in New York City.”
In May 2021, HÅKAN Chocolatier’s Beacon storefront opened. There, Mårtensson crafts chocolates behind a wall of windows so customers can watch him at work. He experiments with plenty of flavors for his bonbons, from a classic salted caramel to the tropical superfruit soursop. The bonbons resemble tiny gems, with bright jewel tone colors and interesting shapes. There’s also plenty of pastries, coffee, and even a dragon. Yes, you read that right. Mårtensson crafts sculptures out of chocolate, and he’s currently putting the finishing touches on a dragon, adding texture to its scales.
“Sculpting a dragon is great because you can give it nine heads and no one can tell you it’s inaccurate,” he says.
In the future, Mårtensson plans to host chocolate making workshops in his space. He also wants to use the backyard for summer tastings of complex new flavors. “I want to incorporate meat, fish, and so on into the chocolate in a very specific kind of way,” he says.
Mårtensson also plans to continue building out the aesthetic of his shop. The walls of the kitchen are covered in funky paintings by local artist Elin Lundman, and he hopes to extend that to the brick walls of the storefront. As all these plans take shape, those looking for a taste of Sweden can come and see what Mårtensson has to offer.