HomeGeneralMona Lisa: The 3D Studio Turning Technology into Edible Art

Mona Lisa: The 3D Studio Turning Technology into Edible Art

(This article appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

In 2019, Pastry Arts Magazine reported about the trend of 3D innovation hitting the pastry world. In February 2020, Barry Callebaut Group announced they took that concept one step further and unveiled their new Mona Lisa 3D Studio. The first of its kind, the innovation specialists at Mona Lisa have developed a 3D printer that can produce personalized chocolate decorations affordably and at scale.  These creations can be used for plated desserts, pastries, and confections, allowing any chef, regardless of specialty, the chance to create something new and unique.

Previous 3D printing technology was limited to one piece at a time, and the new Mona Lisa model can print thousands simultaneously, if need be. Their studio offers the new technology along with the chocolate expertise that customers have come to expect from all the Barry Callebaut brands. Until now, 3D chocolate printing technology required the need to compromise the chocolate, by adding oil or other ingredients to make the substrate workable for the technology. What makes the Mona Lisa printers different is that they figured out a way to print in their high-quality Belgian chocolate without adulterating it in any way. This means chefs and customers can expect the same taste, shine and snap of perfectly tempered chocolate, without sacrificing anything for the sake of the wow-factor. The studio is currently working with their 56% dark chocolate, and they have developed the ability to work with their white and ruby chocolates as well.

“We create technologies to bring new design, new art to life,” explains Patricia Cas Medina, the Mona Lisa global brand manager. A chef can invent personalized shapes and the studio’s team of designers will create a 3D rendering and then prototype samples for review. Once those prototypes are approved, then reproduction at scale can begin. The total lead time is approximately 12 weeks from concept to production, though timing improves significantly on reorders of designs previously approved. In addition, there are plans to bring some of the original designs already created by Andreu Carulla of Acid Studios to Mona Lisa customers, giving them the benefits of the new technology without having to go through the entire design process themselves.

It took three years to develop the technology, with the innovation team quietly working with Van der Valk, a hotel chain in the Netherlands to test new products. Mona Lisa can ship globally, because they developed special packaging specifically for these products and rely on their already established supply chain to make sure the products arrive intact. The brand also has goals to expand to other regions outside of their Netherlands print location to better service global customers and reduce transportation times and costs.

What Mona Lisa stresses is that anyone can use this technology, not just Michelin-rated chefs. “You can do really intricate detailed pieces, but at the same time, you can make a lot of pieces and it’s affordable for everybody,” states Medina. Mona Lisa believes their new technology will make a big difference in the chocolate market, combining art with innovation, just as Leonardo da Vinci did centuries ago. After all, the Mona Lisa brand was named in honor of the famed inventor and artist, so who better to continue the legacy of combining design and technology for a new century of creators? For more info on the Mona Lisa 3D Studio, visit www.barry-callebaut.com/en-US/artisans/mona-lisa/3dstudio.

*Photo Courtesy of Mona Lisa

AnnMarie Mattila
AnnMarie Mattila
AnnMarie Mattila is a writer for Pastry Arts Magazine, as well as a freelance baker and pastry chef in New York. She is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Food Studies at New York University.