Interview with Hans Westerink of Violet Sky Chocolate

Hans Westerink is a craft chocolate maker located in South Bend, Indiana.  I have been lucky enough to have been able purchase his bean-to-bar chocolate in November at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA.  In my opinion, Violet Sky Chocolate features one of the loveliest chocolate bar packaging which is so colorful and often shiny which really makes it stand out, and Hans often uses unique inclusions in his bars as well.  Read on to find out more about Hans!

Hans Westerink of Violet Sky Chocolate with his wife Alison Continue reading “Interview with Hans Westerink of Violet Sky Chocolate”

Interview with Kara Hayes of Chocolate Pursuit

What does rap, chocolate tours, dancing, running a business, teaching chocolate classes, and the Portland Chocoholics Meetup all have in common? Kara Hayes founder of Chocolate Pursuit, which offers craft chocolate tastings in tours in and around Portland.  Grab some craft chocolate, put your feet up and read on to, as Kara would say, “melt into the experience”.  

Kara Hayes of Chocolate Pursuit Continue reading “Interview with Kara Hayes of Chocolate Pursuit”

Mini Interview with Luke Owen Smith and Chocolate Tasting Course The Chocolate Bar

Luke Owen Smith of The Chocolate Bar in New Zealand puts together amazing bean-to-bar chocolate bars from all over the world for a monthly chocolate subscription box as well as leads chocolate tastings.  As if that wasn’t enough, want to know what else makes Luke pretty special?  Sometime ago he found out that I never had the chance to try Marou’s no longer available Treasure Island bar so he sent me a piece from the last bar he had in his personal chocolate stash!  When I was trying to locate Chocolate Naive’s one-off bar made with sea buckthorn, The Chocolate Bar was the only place I could find it listed any longer and Luke added an extra one to his site just so I could order it. In fact, my full order arrived quickly and in great condition from New Zealand all the way to where I live in Port Townsend, WA USA.

Luke recently sent me his newest creation, a monthly Chocolate Tasting Course.  The course includes 4 bite-sized pieces  from 4 different tasty craft chocolates by makers from around the world. The first 6 months of the course feature a different lesson card each of those months, such as How to Taste Chocolate and the very first box includes a chocolate tasting notebook. 

Read on for my mini-interview with Luke followed by pictures of his new Chocolate Tasting Course and my video on the course too. 

Luke Owen Smith of The Chocolate Bar Continue reading “Mini Interview with Luke Owen Smith and Chocolate Tasting Course The Chocolate Bar”

Interview with Bo San Cheung & Thomas Delcour of Beau Cacao with Victoria Cooksey

The once London-based bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Beau Cacao, has recently made a big move!  Known for using cacao from Malaysia, having super shiny chocolate bars, gorgeous packaging and the “Chocolate is Changing” motto, where and why did they move and how does this effect their chocolate making?  What does “Chocolate is Changing” mean?  Thanks to Bo San Cheung and Thomas Delcour of Beau Cacao you will find out all this and more below!

Bo San Cheung and Thomas Delcour of Beau Cacao Continue reading “Interview with Bo San Cheung & Thomas Delcour of Beau Cacao with Victoria Cooksey”

Interview with John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy with Victoria Cooksey

Most likely, if you have spent time in the craft/specialty chocolate world you have heard of, or often times had assistance, knowledge and overall mentoring from the one-and-only John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy. John’s very first blog post on the Chocolate Alchemy website was posted on October 1, 2003.  Now that’s a lot of chocolate making, experimenting and experience! Back when it was thought that there was no way chocolate could be made at home John Nanci thankfully didn’t listen and instead paved the way for people to make both chocolate at home as well as start up their own craft/specialty chocolate business.  John continues to share his knowledge through his Ask The Alchemist posts. It  just so happens that John is also a FCIA 2017 Lifetime Achievement award winner.

And now for the interview.

John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy Continue reading “Interview with John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy with Victoria Cooksey”

Interview with Domantas Užpalis of Chocolate Naive with Victoria Cooksey

Chocolate Naive is a specialty bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Vilnius, Lithuania.  Chocolate Naive has won several awards and Domantas was recently named 2017’s Chocolate Maker of the Year by Chocolate Uplift. After being a fan of Chocolate Naive’s bars, and communicating through direct messaging, I was pleased to met Domantas Užpalis in person at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA.  Domantas is great at giving complete, one- on-one, attention which is sometimes rare these days.  Even more recently I had the chance to interview him.

Domantas Užpalis of Chocolate Naive with Victoria Cooksey at the Northwest Chocolate Festival November 2017

Victoria Cooksey: How has your work with craft chocolate changed you?  What changes have you seen in the craft chocolate industry since you started Chocolate Naive?

Domantas Užpalis: My former background is with IT and urban city development – nothing to do with food.  So jumping into chocolate was quite a change and it did change everything.  I have no official culinary education although I was always interested in what we consume and where our food comes from.  I was and still am a proponent of the slow food movement and this is where it all started.  My first encounter with slow food concept was through the making and selling of fresh farm-made dairy products and then I slowly shifted towards more sophisticated produce – chocolate.  It has been  almost 8 years since I became fully engaged with this multilayered product.   Continue reading “Interview with Domantas Užpalis of Chocolate Naive with Victoria Cooksey”

Interview with Jessica Tupper, the Seattle Dessert Geek with Victoria Cooksey

If you are visiting Seattle, WA and want to know the best spots for chocolate and desserts then check out Jessica Tupper, the Seattle Dessert Geek.  Between Jessica’s website, YouTube channel and Instagram account you will find a ton of useful information and dessert recommendations.

And now for the interview:

Jessica Tupper, the Seattle Dessert Geek

Victoria Cooksey:  What inspired you to focus on desserts?

Jessica Tupper:  Allergies!  Well, kind of.

I started blogging way back in 2011, and back then I was covering more general stuff.  (The first major food event I covered was Tales of the Cocktail). I took a break to graduate from grad school and when I got out I knew I wanted a niche.  Thing was, when I was covering, all food my sensitivities had been making things tough.  As in, I can’t eat raw tomatoes, cilantro, or be around any kind of cooked eggs.  Makes it slightly hard to cover brunches out here.  Continue reading “Interview with Jessica Tupper, the Seattle Dessert Geek with Victoria Cooksey”

Interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Part 2 with Victoria Cooksey

Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate. This time we find out Shawn’s thoughts on how chocolate flavors change over time, Chocolate University, what chocolate means to him and more!

Need to catch up? Read Part 1 here:

http://darkmatterschocolatereviews.com/2017/08/18/interview-shawn-askinosie-askinosie-chocolate-part-1-victoria-cooksey/

And now for Part 2!

Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate

Victoria Cooksey: How does pressing your own cocoa butter from the same beans used to make your chocolate affect the flavor versus buying/using other cocoa butter?

Shawn Askinosie: The way this works in FDA packaging land, labeling land, is that, let’s say we have a 70% chocolate. Well, it’s 70% cocoa mass, and in our case it’s 30% sugar. The FDA doesn’t require the separation of the numbers between cocoa butter, or they don’t require a statement of the percent of cocoa butter as it relates to cocoa mass, they just say if there’s cocoa butter, then to list that in the ingredients; and so we often don’t know how much cocoa butter is in addition. Now let’s say we have, not just my chocolate bar, but anybody’s; and if there is cocoa butter added then it will absolutely impact the flavor if you’ve got cocoa beans and sugar which is added to enhance the mouth-feel of the chocolate and give it a smoother profile. Well it would be like saying the salad dressing that I’m putting on my wonderful salad of fresh produce that I bought at the farmer’s market down the street wouldn’t impact the flavor of the salad; well of course it would. It’s an ingredient in the salad. I mean, think about it. If we’re taking liquor from those same beans we just roasted that we are going to make that same chocolate with, now we’re making cocoa butter with that liquor; it’s going to have flavor components of that crop of beans, so it can’t not impact the flavor, so it’s important to us. We’ve always done it. Continue reading “Interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Part 2 with Victoria Cooksey”

Interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Part 1 by Victoria Cooksey

Shawn Askinosie has been making craft chocolate for over a decade now, but he was originally a criminal defense lawyer and back in 2005 Shawn switched to bean-to-bar chocolate making. Askinosie Chocolate is located in Springfield, Missouri. This bean-to-bar chocolate factory sources 100% of their beans directly from the farmers with Shawn Askinoise making frequent trips right to the source of the beans in Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Philippines.

I recently got to have an amazing conversation with Shawn Askinoise for the purpose of this interview. Despite being a bit under the weather, Shawn was extremely generous with his time. I could have asked him a 1,000 questions, but did my best to limit them down to a two-part blog interview. Shawn Askinosie has such a positive approach to life, is involved in several projects to truly make a difference in children lives (more on that in part 2), has a huge depth of knowledge of craft chocolate and all that is involved with it and still somehow manages to remain extremely humble at the same time.

And now for the interview Part 1:

Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Continue reading “Interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Part 1 by Victoria Cooksey”