Building chocolate Burj Khalifa was no sweet treat

The man who created the Burj Khalifa chocolate replica spills the beans on how his creation came to be.
Andrew Farrugia, right, with his brother David and some of the chocolate blocks used to make the structure. Courtesy Andrew Farrugia
Andrew Farrugia, right, with his brother David and some of the chocolate blocks used to make the structure. Courtesy Andrew Farrugia

DUBAI // It stands more than 44 feet tall, weighs almost five tonnes and tastes absolutely delicious, but building the world’s largest chocolate replica of the Burj Khalifa definitely was not a piece of cake for master chocolatier Andrew Farrugia.

Mr Farrugia and his team were in Dubai recently to create the soaring chocolate creation in Dubai International Airport from 500 boxes of fragile chocolate blocks shipped from Malta.

Standing on mechanised boom lifts and using small cranes to shift chocolate chunks, some as heavy as 150kg, they created a Guinness World Record last Sunday for the world’s tallest chocolate tower at 44ft 2in.

Wooden supports, a flexible cage-like contraption with ropes and a metal frame helped to cradle the chocolate blocks without exerting pressure.

“This was my biggest challenge,” said Mr Farrugia, who set a record last year for the longest chocolate sculpture in Brussels, an elaborate steam train, 34 metres long.

“I made detailed plans on how to create such a heavy structure because it was almost five tonnes of chocolate. It was an intensive operation because the structure was very delicate and could break. It was a matter of exact calculations and measurement.”

The tower now stands at Concourse A in Terminal 3 and will be on display for two weeks as part of UAE’s 43rd National Day celebrations.

“We had to make the inner structure robust, with very thick pieces of chocolate,” said Mr Farrugia, who is a lecturer in pastry and baking at the Institute of Tourism Studies in Malta. “We did the central column first and all the pieces were attached to this. So 70 per cent was the inner core. Every piece was holding on to the central core so it wasn’t one piece on top of the other, because that would have collapsed.”

A section was left open for viewers to verify that only chocolate was used.

“I have one part open so people can look inside. I didn’t want people to think it was a piece of wood covered with chocolate.”

Sadly, chocolate lovers cannot sink their teeth into the 4,200kg of Belgian chocolate because, because of Dubai Municipality’s health and safety norms, it will be dismantled after a fortnight and thrown away.

It took three months for Mr Farrugia’s team, comprising his brother David and five former students, to build 40 sections of the tower working from sketches and photographs.

They worked in temperatures between 18°C and 22°C to prevent the chocolate from melting. The boxes were transported to Dubai in a refrigerated container.

Once here, the team spent two weeks repairing breakages and supervising transport to the airport before the final 24 painstaking hours it took to set up the tower with help from airport engineers and staff.

David Farrugia’s main concerns were the heat and the heavy machinery.

“Heat and chocolate don’t go together. At any time if refrigeration in the truck was not working, it was out in the sun even for 15-20 minutes, we would lose it all,” said David, a logistics expert.

“When chocolate gets to a certain point of melting, it collapses under its own weight. Also we couldn’t make big movements on the machinery because one mistake, a little bump, can crack chocolate. When we lifted sections with the crane, it was a very big heartbeat I felt.”

Another unnerving experience was moving the incomplete tower a few metres within the airport to a more secure location because of concerns about the weight of the machinery.

With help from airport staff, the structure was supported with wood, the floor soaked with soap and water to enable it to slide, and the tower slowly pulled into place using a rope.

Andrew is already planning his next venture, a steam chocolate train for the Toronto train station.

“As a chef I enjoy making art from chocolate,” he said. “Like any artist it’s getting a simple idea, visualising, and then seeing it in reality. A lot of work is involved but the idea and dream are finalised.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae

Published: December 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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