By Oleg Volk –
Rostislav Ikonnikoff likes guns. From 2012 to 2016, he was an avid IPSC competitor. He is also a professional dessert chef, a designer and an engineer, and an expert in advertising. He’s been a lifelong fan of military history and sport photography. In 2013, all those qualities came together upon a request from his shooting instructor at the time. Could Rostislav make chocolate bars with images of sporting pistols for use as gifts for the shooting team members? Turns out that he could.
Originally educated as an engineer, a maker of industrial equipment, Rostislav could create the necessary detailed vacuum forms. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, he also had an extensive background in confectioneries. Following his engineering career, he later headed an advertising department of an instrument manufacturer, which provided publishing and advertising expertise. He worked as a video operator at a TV station for a while. After that, six years as a wedding photographer and videographer prompted an interest in competitive shooting for stress relief. That shooting hobby brought him to his chocolate-making experiment, which has turned into a steady business. “Gunsmith Chocolatier” was formalized around 2015, with the English-language web portal en.militarychocolate.com.
After the initial set of bars with bas reliefs of handguns was enthusiastically received, Ikonnikoff created numerous designs featuring rifles, military aircraft and tanks. He then made life-size recreations of cartridges, modern and historic handguns, and even an F-1 “pineapple” hand grenade. In addition to various military and police models, the chef’s favorite CZ-75 SP01 Shadow is represented. For greater realism, 3D recreations are hand-painted with food dyes. Typically, his painted chocolates are perceived as more realistic adult gifts, while his unpainted bars are bought for kids. Chocolate cartridges are liked equally well by all ages: Rostislav’s nephews, for instance, await his visits eagerly for the tasty “ammo” he dispenses.
Unlike many decorative sweets, Military Chocolate uses only the best ingredients. The chocolate formula used contains just three ingredients: ground cocoa beans, cocoa butter, and sugar. The taste is incredible, with the richness of dark chocolate without the bitterness.
Each design had its own unique challenge. For example, the thin barrel of the chocolate “broomhandle” Mauser C96 seldom survived postal or parcel service attentions intact. While all chocolate pistols are carefully packed into structurally substantial, multi-layered cardboard boxes and cushioned with paper straw, the abuses inflicted by postal workers remain a threat. Shipping anything to hot climates is also challenging. For states like Arizona, these edible masterpieces are a seasonal item.
While the United States and Russia are his top markets; China and Japan also generate a lot of sales. In Asia, people generally order exotic models. In the US and Russia, more popular are chocolate guns with which the purchasers are more familiar, like the Makarov, AK74 and the Beretta M9. In Russia, the T34 tank chocolate bar holds the sales top spot. Many of Ikonnikoff’s customers use his candy pistols, magazines and ammunition for decorating special occasion cakes. Since the tasty “weapons” aren’t cheap, they are often purchased by police and intelligence agencies as rewards for their employees.
“In Russia, gun culture isn’t well established” said Ikonnikoff, “people in general are afraid of personal weapons and instinctively fear this theme. Once we offered the [T34] tank and the [IL2 Shturmovik] aircraft, the public reaction improved.”
Everyone loved those, but Facebook and other advertising venues received numerous complaints about Rostislav’s product promotions, the chocolate grenade getting the most reactions of revulsion. Fortunately, equally enthusiastic responses proved numerous enough to sustain the business. Covid lockdown and the attendant breakdown of shipping affected mainly the E.U. and Japan business, but the situation has improved.
The degree of detail and accuracy in the confections is impressive. Alas, the time required by the business cut into Ikonnikoff’s range time. His twice-a-week shooting regimen had to take a back seat to creating designs, molding forms, packaging, and promotions. In addition to chocolate, Rostislav offers a professional grade vacuum press of his own design for pressing chocolate and other thermoplastic materials. He’s steadily expanding his arsenal: his latest project is adding the classic M16 and the M1911A1, mainly for the US market.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V26N1 (January 2022)|