From Dilly Bars to Fine Chocolate Bars
My chocolate story begins early, early enough to be in my playpen in the office of my parents’ Dairy Queen store. My grandparents also owned Diary Queen stores, as did my uncles, great uncles, and so on. Dessert was not only an every day thing, it was an every meal thing. Sweets weren’t hidden or begged for or reserved only for special occasions. Hot fudge sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, Dilly Bars(tm), and Peanut Buster Parfaits(tm) were the regular treats of the day, and at home my mom baked chocolate pies, Toll House Squares(tm), brownies, peach cobbler, and chocolate sheet cake. That chocolate cake was my favorite, especially when it had fallen from the weight of the fudgy icing packed with chopped pecans. My mom to this day complains when that happens, as my dad, siblings, and I wait with anticipation to see just how dense it will be.
Regardless of the family tendencies, I didn’t take to running a food enterprise, and happily toiled in the business world for many years. What corporate America gave me was the boom of dotcom, and along with that lots of hard work paired not so equally with financial rewards and the ability to travel. On a airplane traveling for work sometime in 2003, I read a book called “Sweets, A History of Candy” by Tim Richardson. One of the first sentences of the book describes a “four-day orgy of confectionery flesh-pressing” as an industry event. I was intrigued. It goes on to a chapter on the history of chocolate. The land of the Maya? A history of use longer than 5000 years? Inspiration for artists and writers, espionage and slave trade? Wow, and I always just thought of it as just candy.
In January 2004 I hopped a plane to Cologne, Germany for that confectionery orgy I’d read about. I saw and ate more things made of chocolate than I’d ever imagined in my life. Came back home to Texas and couldn’t stop wondering what else chocolatey was happening out there. I read more and more. I went to Paris, for research. And again, and again, for research. I could see the beginnings of something big happening in chocolate. My corporate job took me often to the Bay Area in California, which happened to be the epicenter of not only a food movement, but a new approach to chocolate making. And I don’t mean making things with chocolate, I mean making chocolate from the cocoa bean. I encountered Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in Berkeley and I began to understand the magic of bean to bar chocolate-making that’s kept my interest all these years. There were a handful of people around the country challenging norms of American chocolate. They were searching for the best flavor in beans, sourcing with care, roasting precisely, adding few choice ingredients, and creating small batches of fine chocolate that tasted worlds apart from anything I ever knew of as chocolate.
Mentors during my time of self-education, which continues today, include Alan McClure, Art Pollard, Shawn Askinosie, Pam Williams, and Steve DeVries. The chocolate that we have available today is the finest the world has EVER known, and it is to these and many other pioneers that credit is due.
When I began my journey into the world of fine chocolate I did not know where it would lead me, and actually I still don’t. I do not make chocolate. I do not sell chocolate. I don’t bake or make confections for a living. But chocolate remains my passion, and I am dedicated to it through my goal to introduce fine chocolate appreciation to the world. I teach classes, organize tastings, host private events to large festivals, present with chocolate makers, guide tours, and create chocolate travel itineraries for my clients. All this with the focus on promoting the people and products that represent the best of the best in the industry. Thanks for coming along for my adventures in chocolate. ~ xoxo Mme C