As rich as the fine treats themselves, is the history of the world renowned Leonidas Belgian chocolates and pralines. Greek chocolatier, Leonidas Kestekides, is credited with starting it all. He made the delicious treats mostly out of a desire to “share some happiness.” Leonidas Kestekides, a young confectioner born in the Cappadocia region of Asia Minor in 1876, gave the delectable chocolates its honourable name. Kestekides immigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen, where he swiftly picked up the craft of producing fine chocolate.
He spent his first five years in New York City working as a chocolate maker after arriving. After relocating to Paris in 1898, Leonidas spent another ten years mastering his craft. He visited the Brussels World’s Fair in 1910, where his chocolate treats took home the bronze medal. He returned to Belgium three years later for the Ghent World’s Fair. He married Jeanne Emelia Teerlinck while he was there, which led to him settling in the nation permanently.
In addition to serving tea, Kestekides’ initial tea store in Ghent was where he first sold his already-famous chocolate candies. Once his confections gained the same fame as the mythical Spartan hero depicted on his trademark, Kestekides admitted, “I didn’t do it for the money. I didn’t do it for fame. I did it because I wanted to spread some happiness.”
After the Smyrna Catastrophe-related political unrest in Greece in 1922, Basilio Kestekides’ nephew moved to Ghent to live with his uncle. So, Leonidas decided to educate Basilio with the finer points of confectionary making. The two were a fantastic match since one was a natural salesperson, and the other had a creative spirit. They collaborated to produce delectable pralines for a lucrative market.
The pralines were so well-liked that, up until 1983, the Belgian government even set a price cap on them, much as other countries do for milk and bread, deeming Leonidas’ sweets to be a vital component of life. Throughout the years, his successors introduced additional ingredients and goods in addition to Leonidas Kestekides’ original recipes, and as a result, the shops now sell one hundred varieties of chocolate confections.
In order to tempt palates from Brussels to New York and from Paris to Hong Kong, new inspirations that have emerged from various sources are mixed with the original chocolate formulas. At the turn of 2000, the business constructed a second production in Anderlecht, Belgium, to satisfy rising global demand in the US and Asian markets.
Today, the largest Leonidas store is in Brussels’ Rue au Beurre. The Leonidas empire now has a whopping 450 stores in Belgium, and over 1,700 stores in 50 countries worldwide. The brand has been a global success!. As of 2018, the Leonidas chocolate company brought in $107M USD in revenue with over 350 employees globally.