Forty years ago, the Debbas family brought the great heritage of byzantine art, food and culture across the sea and began hand-crafting gourmet chocolate truffles in their kitchen using only the finest ingredients. Today this artisan tradition is continued with Debbas Gourmet.
Two generations of culinary artists have traveled the world, mastering the craft of global cuisine, to create the finest chocolate and gourmet fares. The Debbas family is committed to crafting products distinctly superior in quality and taste.
“Sweetening the world one bite at a time.” - Guy Debbas
Studied Food Science at California State University, Fresno. While
completing graduate school he contributed a thesis on ice cream production and
another on agriculture self-sufficiency in Lebanon, which was published in An-
For the past 38 years, Guy has been working in the chocolate arena focusing on
product development, marketing, and sales. Currently he heads his company,
G.Debbas Chocolatier, an innovative venture into the art of hand-crafted artisan
Guy and his products have been the subject of many published articles and many
of his products have graced the covers of several industry magazines, such as MC
Manufacturing, Coffee & Tea, Parade, and Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
In 2005, Guy was named “Chocolate Trend Setter” by Candy Industry, as he has
always been at the forefront of innovation. Most notably, he was the first to
introduce “chocolate truffles” to the United States, bringing his international food
knowledge to the US market. Guy was also voted by his peers to be the best
chocolate innovator in the industry (2001) and was asked to be a guest speaker at
the Natural Food Show, presenting on “The Real Challenge of Functional
Favorite Chocolate Pairing: Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate Gianduja
Having been in the candy industry his entire life, Max studied under many of the best chocolatiers in the world.
Studied Mass Communication/Journalism: Electronic Media Production, with an emphasis in Marketing and Journalism. Masters of Arts in Informational and Educational Technology.
Published Thesis on Authentic Collaboration and featured on VoiceThread Higher Learning Research
Dedicated to innovation and flavor, Max has traveled the world documenting chocolate processing and culinary arts.
Working in Research and Development, Max has launched many successful product lines across verticals such as Specialty Stores, Online Sales, Mass Market, and Private Label.
Products have been featured in Candy Industry, Top 5 ECRM Products, duPont Registry “Best Chocolate,” Subscription Insider.
2014, Candy Industry named Max and Guy, “Innovators, Not Imitators.”
Serves as an Adjunct Professor at CSU, Fresno.
Favorite Chocolate Pairing: Marzipan and Dark Chocolate
The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club: Vol 5 No 5
IN PURSUIT OF CHOCOLATE
It begins just outside Beirut in the troubled period of Lebanese history during the mid 1970’s. The brutal civil war that gripped much of Lebanon from 1975 through 1990 was fought along both religious as well as political borders, pitting, among other groups, Christians, Muslims and Communists & Socialists within the country against each other. Due to the country’s proximity to other nations in the middle east, countries such as Israel, Palestine and Syria found their own motives to get involved with the warring factions of the country, both financially by backing certain groups and physically, by contributing their own troops to numerous battles during the strife. Truly a geopolitical hotbed during these troubled times, the role of Lebanon in Middle Eastern history has been pivotal, and the DeBas family has played a part from early on. In fact, a great uncle of Guy’s was actually the first president of Lebanon. Like the region itself, however, his family has experienced drastic changes and tragic losses. Before the tumultuousness of the mid 1970’s, the wealthy DeBas family owned a tremendous home near Beirut. They had plenty of land, a country club, and even owned a large chocolate factory. As Guy himself puts it, “we had everything the world would think you’d have if you had it made.” Theirs was a family of prominence and a lifestyle of comfort and prestige. It was from these early years of Guy’s life that he gained an admiration for the finer things in life, including an appreciation of the finest confections available. However, tragedy struck in a terrible accident in Guy’s youth when his mother and one of his brothers were killed in a home gas explosion.
Another Chance at Life
Some years later in 1976, Guy’s father George, a well known Greek Orthodox countryman, found himself nominated to become president of Lebanon. Not surprisingly, in the religiously and politically charged climate, many were not pleased with the nomination and soon the family was dealing with death threats and actual assassination attempts. As leverage to pressure his father, Guy was taken hostage and was held captive for 32 days by the Palestinian Communist Party, during which time he was subjected to severe psychological and physical abuse. Fortunately he was rescued from captivity, oddly enough by The Communist Party of Lebanon in a daring gun battle of a rescue effort. The irony that communist sects were shooting one another over the life of a Christian politician’s son was not lost on Guy, yet his saviors never divulged their reasons for helping him.
The rescue, however, could not protect him from a later apprehension. In the time he was in captivity, the Socialist Party had invaded the family’s land and widespread warfare ensued. One after-noon his home was stormed by Palestinian guerillas and his family, guests and estate staff were rounded up, lined up outside their home, and shot. We’ll spare you the gruesome details of the assassination of his family and just let you know that Guy was shot 22 times with machine gun bullets and lived to tell the tale. Sadly, his father and many others were not so lucky. “Almost 20 people died that day,” DeBas says upon recounting the terrifying ordeal. After the execution, the gunmen left the scene and Guy’s brother, who had been hiding during the siege, came out to find his brother barely alive and critically wounded. Thanks to the efforts of his brother and Guy’s incredible will to live, he survived the 3 hour journey to get to the hospital. Upon arrival, doctors took a look at Guy’s condition and, believing him to be dead, advised his brother to get him out of the hospital and take him to the morgue, to which Guy mustered up the strength to retort, “Wait. I’m still here.”
The attack on his family was well orchestrated, with the guerillas intent on wiping out the family and anyone at the scene, going as far as using explosive machine gun rounds that were filled with poison. Some individuals were shot only once and still did not survive as a result of the poison entering their systems. Miraculously, Guy DeBas not only survived, but even with 2 of those poison-dosed bullets permanently lodged near his spine, a prognosis of permanent paralysis, and a shattered hip, he was literally up and running in 6 months time.
You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down!
In 1978, shortly after his recovery in Sweden, DeBas moved to California and attended Cypress College in Orange County in order to continue his studies of agriculture. There he met his wife, Wendy, and the couple moved to Fresno, where DeBas completed his degree at Fresno State University. When his brother in Lebanon discovered their father owned part of a chocolate factory now left to his children, the family called on Guy DeBas to come back home and make something out of the business. DeBas and his wife traveled back and forth between the United States and Lebanon for two years. During this time in his early 20’s, DeBas was building a second fortune, making $20,000-30,000 a month by exporting coffee and honey and importing Chocolate. However, this second round of DeBas prosperity was not to last. Within months of one another his new Madera home was destroyed by fire and the chocolate factory was leveled by terrorists in Lebanon.
Not willing to give up on chocolate entirely, they set up a new business in the United States and started from scratch. DeBas and his wife began making chocolate in their home. After a friend decided to invest in the business, they moved into a 1,000-square-foot retail site. The friend eventually asked to be bought out of what would unfortunately become a struggling business. DeBas imposed a deadline on the business’ success, vowing to close up shop by a certain date if things didn’t improve. The deadline was mere days away when in 1986 he attended the International Gourmet Show in San Francisco. With only 2 truffles in hand, DeBas struck gold by landing a $35,000 contract with Trader Joe’s for 100,000 truffles, and he hasn't looked back since.
The Best Yields Success
Guy DeBas has certainly sustained enough trauma and tragedy for many lifetimes. Yet despite his multiple misfortunes, he has repeatedly come out on top, always maintaining a positive attitude and upbeat outlook on life; all the while remaining dedicated to the craft of creating fine delicacies. Today, the DeBas Chocolatier Company is recognized as a worldwide leader of gourmet chocolates with sales of over $3.5 million annually. They have always sought to expand and improve their product line, currently boasting an impressive variety of fine chocolate delights, including candy bars, truffles, chocolate-covered coffee beans, chocolate-covered candied orange peels, and chocolate dipped fruits and nuts, among others. Its line of wine-filled chocolates: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot, is among the company’s most exclusive, popular and unique designer items. According to DeBas, the key to his success lies in producing the best gourmet chocolates on the market and continually coming up with new ideas. “If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I’ve tasted a better chocolate,’ I will work harder? “ DeBas says. “And to be competitive, you always have to come up with something new.”
The company has consistently maintained a staunch determination in keeping the quality of their products as high as possible. In the recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s, while other chocolate makers were implementing cost-effective downgrades to their recipes, DeBas enhanced the quality of his creations by using higher grade, expensive ingredients and more elaborate designer packaging. In doing so, DeBas earned an even more respected reputation for producing the finest gourmet chocolates available and effectively set himself apart from the competition. These candies are not the kind shoppers find on super-market counters; DeBas items are typically found in boutiques, or in fancy gift baskets sold in high-end markets. Their commitment has certainly paid off; in the late 1990’s, the company reached a milestone: DeBas Chocolatier moved from a cramped 3,000-square-foot site to a 15,000-square-foot factory. Guy DeBas credited the city of Fresno with helping him find a site to build the factory where workers produce 5,000 pounds of chocolate each day. These days Guy admits to regularly eating 1 1/2 pounds of those 5,000 made each day, an indulgence he’s certainly earned. Tasting any of the 12 varieties of truffles we’ve assembled for this month’s featured collection, we can’t say we blame him.
On overcoming his many obstacles, most importantly the attempt made on his life, DeBas says, “God kept me alive so I can sweeten the world.” And sweeten it he has. To this day every piece of DeBas chocolate is crafted by DeBas artisans. Every single one is a true work of art, and all are distinctly superior in quality and taste. Vibrant colors, delicious European chocolates, and an assortment of sumptuous gourmet fillings characterize this particular mélange of strikingly attractive fine truffles. As soon as you open the box, you’ll notice how gorgeous these fine treats really are, presenting a beautiful juxtaposition of deep chocolate tones and seductively colored decorative dressings.