Interview with Richard Tango-Lowy Owner, and Master Chocolatier of Dancing Lion Chocolate with Victoria Cooksey

Note:  This interview was original published on 9-30-16 on my Dark Matters Fine Chocolate Reviews blogspot site.

Richard Tango-Lowy, Dancing Lion Chocolate

Today I am so pleased to bring you this interview with Richard Tango-Lowy, a physicist turned chocolatier, who is the owner, and master chocolatier of Dancing Lion Chocolate.  Richard also teaches the Mastering Chocolate Flavor course with Ecole Chocolat. (I learned so much from him when I recently took the course).  Oh, and did I mention he was named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in America by Dessert Professional magazine in 2016.  Congrats Richard!!!

 Victoria Cooksey:  How does your knowledge in physics influence your approach to working with chocolate?

Richard Tango-Lowy:  I didn’t really understand tempering until I came across the phase diagram for chocolate and began to comprehend what was happening at a molecular level. The crystalline behavior of cocoa butter is *incredibly* complex, and tempering is rather mystical until you understand it.

 VC:  What is the difference in crystal formation between chocolate tempered in a machine, and chocolate tempered by hand?


RTL:  When I temper by hand, I can easily control the number and size of crystals I’m forming, which impacts how the chocolate will develop in your mouth. Given the physics “law of conservation of energy,” your mouth must expend the same amount of energy to break down the crytalline matrix as I put in when I create it (by tempering).

VC:  Throughout the history of chocolate what fact do you find to be the most interesting?

RTL:  I think it’s most interesting that people figured out how to make chocolate at all. Wine’s easier–grapes fermented and the result tasted good. Chocolate requires fermentation, drying, shelling, and grinding; a much more complex process.

 VC:  In terms of handling, and serving chocolate what did the Mayas get right, what did they get wrong?

RTL:  They got it *all* right, although it really began with the Olmecs. The Mayans, however, actively and seriously developed the strains of cacao traded up from Ecuador and Peru into we the spectacular varieties we now know as the “criollos.” They were a sophisticated people. The Spanish considered the xocoatl they experienced to be bitter, but I wonder if that was more a matter of taste norms. I’ve tasted plenty of criollo cacao that wasn’t bitter at all.

VC:  What are the top 3 things you look for when picking out a source for the chocolate you’d like to work with?

 RTL:  Flavor, flavor, and flavor. Which includes mouthfeel, nuance, and how the chocolate develops in my mouth.

VC:  When designing a new chocolate creation how do you start the process of which flavors to include in the bar, or bonbon?

 RTL:  I consider myself an artist rather than an artisan. Every piece begins with some sort of inspiration, be it from a special chocolate, a particularly beautiful ingredient, or a mood. Once I have the starting point, the piece tends to tell me what it wants, and I add layers and character to make it happen. The sculpture’s already in the stone, the artist’s job is to uncover it.

VC:  Is there a country of origin, or a type of cacao bean that you would consider to be the most approachable to someone just getting into buying, and tasting fine chocolate?  Why is that?

 RTL:  I find folks to be open to almost any excellent chocolate. That said, some beans are easier to work with than others, and more likely to result in approachable chocolate. Ghana and Dominican Republic chocolates, for instance. Madagascar beans usually make for nice chocolate as well. More important, I suggest new folks keep their chocolate in the 60%-70% range. It takes more skill to make a great high-percentage chocolate; the 60%-70% range is easier.

VC:  What tasting exercises would you recommend for consumers to practice in order to improve their tasting palate?

 RTL:  Close your eyes and pay attention to what’s happening in your mouth. Don’t worry about specific flavors or what others are saying or writing about the chocolate. How does it affect *you?*

VC:   Is it possible to pair chocolate with sparking wine?  If so, do you have any pairing recommendations with certain types of sparkling wine, and chocolate varieties?  What is your favorite chocolate pairing with a beverage, or food?

 RTL:  I’m most fond of pairing chocolate with European-style soft red wines. Sangiovese, temperanillo, etc. It’s best to avoid wines that are particularly dry or tannic, as they tend to clash with the chocolate. Sparkling wines pair easily, provided you follow the same rules (not too dry). I find Cava and Prosecco particularly nice with chocolate. Personally, my favorite nosh is dark chocolate with crisp apple, freshly-baked bread, and dolce Gorgonzola.

VC:  Once a consumer gets a fine chocolate bar home what is the best way for them to store it if they don’t eat it right away?

 RTL:  The best way to store chocolate is tightly-wrapped in a cool, dry place. Not the refrigerator!

VC:  What is the strangest flavor you’ve ever tasted in chocolate?

 RTL:  In our recent Ecole Chocolate Recipe Development Master Class, one of our students paired miso paste with Guatemalan milk chocolate–it was fantastic! A few years ago I crafted a Shrimp & Ginger Cream White Chocolate Bonbon collaboratively with a local chef. It was crazy-good.

VC:  Other then your own, what chocolate do you like to eat?

 RTL:  Anything made by Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate.

Thank you Richard Tango-Lowy for this interview!

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