FIVE FOUNDERS, ONLY ONE CHOCOLATIER. THAT’S WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT.
PHOTOGRAPHY: GÉRARD UFÉRAS
FRÉDÉRIC, MISTER CHOCOLAT
You really want to know all about him, don't you? We gave him a page all to himself!
PHOTOGRAPHY: AUBRIE LEGAULT
JEANYVES, MISTER COMMUNICATION
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME… (AN ART/COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR)?
Frustration. With not seeing the world the way it should be (well, according to me). With ugly posters, ugly designs, ugly comic books (for me it was Bandes-Dessinées in French, did I mention I was French?)- So, I started by drawing my own comic books. I was published once (in an amateur publication), and soon discovered that it was a very lonely job, one way too narrow for my communicative appetite. It was this experience that led me to graphic design.
Need. For creating and expressing my point of view through graphic design. For sharing my visions of the world. For taming fonts and colors, shaping messages and perceptions. This experience then led me to communication.
Pleasure (and perfectionism). For doing what I do, working on a project again and again (and again). Getting it just right, to make it simple and obvious for anyone.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST VOCATION? My world is visual. I was born before computers, so my experience started in 2 dimensions, with pens, pencils, paper and scissors.
But not as an artist, I do not have a message for the world nor an urge to impose my vision of it. I am simply a communicator who wants to make the work a little more neat and colorful.
YOUR DEFINITION OF A GOURMET? An experienced librarian. With sensations instead of books, one might explore a full library of memories in the form of taste, to gain a base in the art of appreciating.
OUR FIRST MEMORIES WITH CHOCOLATE? I guess I was born a chocolate lover. It was always a treat, a comfort, and a selfish pleasure. Milk chocolate at first (why do parents only give milk chocolate to their kids?), but eventually I discovered the dark side of cocoa. I used to buy baking chocolate bars (massive, thick and pretty dry) for my tasting trips.SPEAKING OF CHOCOLATE, WHAT DO YOU LIKE, WHAT DO YOU EAT FIRST, WHAT DO YOU NEVER EAT? I like the word (in many different languages): the spelling, the color, the smell and the taste -- everything about chocolate. I first “eat” the packaging (absorbing that first). Then, the chocolate itself. I try to match the flavor with my perceptions, and verify if the visual is adequate for the taste. Have you ever experienced colors or images when eating chocolate? I have.
Even better, I once tried a chocolate infused with “bois de Santal” fragrance (Santal wood), -- an experimentation by a French chocolatier (hi, Joël) for a major perfume company. I don’t know about you, but I have never eaten wood. The result, however, was beyond real: the chocolate had the look, the smell, the perception, and the taste of a tree. Aren’t we - humans - some special machines?
Oh and, white chocolate doesn’t matter.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE CHOCOLAT-E ADVENTURE? Frustration, again. After the 20 first years of my adult life in Paris (France), and the next 10 in Brussels (Belgium - where good chocolate is part of the culture) I moved to Manzanita, Oregon. Here, my biggest problem would show up pretty quickly: where can I find good chocolate?
I was already working with Eric on gourmet food products in/for Europe, so I asked him: Why don’t we make good chocolate available for the U.S. market? We contacted Frédéric Cassel with this funny idea (who claimed he had met me at a conference, but it was actually before - more informally - as I was a serious client of his pastry shop!), and he said yes.
Then, our biggest problem showed up: we actually have to do it!
WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY CARE ABOUT CHOCOLAT-E? The vision. I’m not a chocolatier, four of the five founders are not chocolatiers, - which should tell you something. I (we) want Chocolat-e to be more than just a brand that produces and sells chocolate this is actually what seduced many of our teammates and partners.
Of course we want to make great chocolate (this part is already covered by Frédéric), but we want to do it the right way, in every aspect.
We started building this chocolate brand backwards: defining how it was going to be made, before even thinking about our couvertures’ taste. And I am not talking in an industrial way, but from an environmental and human perspective. We aim to build, not to destroy. There is a long and winding path to our ambitious goal, and we have decided to follow it.
PHOTOGRAPHY: GÉRARD UFÉRAS
ERIC, MISTER BUSINESS
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME… (WHAT YOU ARE NOW)? Two main ingredients drive my professional life: passion and work. Passion is a prodigious energy, because it allows me to learn; to invest myself without limit in a project, and undoubtedly contributes to my personal development. This passion, associated with work, has been consolidated through my experiences and meetings through the years.
Being a part of an exciting project, and taking pleasure in your relationships with others, are the two conditions for happiness at work.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST VOCATION? I have spent 20 years working for the cosmetic industry. To search for the best ingredients, combine them in formulas, find the right galenic - all in order to obtain scientifically proven results.
It was an exciting job in which I learned rigor and meticulousness. I had the chance to meet fabulous people who passed on their knowledge and passion for cosmetics onto to me.
YOUR DEFINITION OF A GOURMET? From my point of view, Gourmet reflects the finesse, quality and careful choice of ingredients in a product, and of course the origin of the terroir.
It means discovering a product by immersing yourself in an unforgettable taste and smelling experience, without being a gastronomic expert. In my eyes, the most important thing about Gourmet is to find pleasure in a recipe or a product.
OUR FIRST MEMORIES WITH CHOCOLATE? My first love with chocolate takes me back to early childhood. I started with milk chocolate and gradually came to appreciate dark chocolate. I always looked forward to the various holidays (Christmas and Easter) at which I could taste the novelties. Being from Lyon, I ate lots of “chocolate papillotes” for Christmas.
As a child, I was what we call a "big eater" of chocolate, and I am convinced that I have helped maintain the average annual consumption of chocolate since then! My mother even tried, in vain, to curb this appetite by hiding chocolate bars in the house! We found them the following year, all bleached… and to justify myself I told my parents that chocolate was good for the memory.
Years later, I discovered that scientists had shown that chocolate contains anandamide, a chemical that influences our energy, mood and helps to regulate brain function. The presence of this substance causes natural anandamide to persist longer in our brains when we eat chocolate.
SPEAKING OF CHOCOLATE, WHAT DO YOU LIKE, WHAT DO YOU EAT FIRST, WHAT DO YOU NEVER EAT? I am passionate about chocolate, so I have no barriers, but my preferences go towards pure origin Dark Chocolate, - not out of whim, but thanks to its sublime taste. I regularly bite into a piece of dark chocolate between meals, and every day I eat chocolate with my coffee as a dessert.
Eating chocolate is, for me, a real ritual of pleasure. I look at it, I touch it, I smell its smell, I taste its taste.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE CHOCOLAT-E ADVENTURE? In August 2019, I took a few days vacation in Puerto Rico and made a jump to New York City. My passion for chocolate led me to roam the streets of NY in search of chocolatiers. I contacted Jean-Yves, whom I had known for several years, to ask him for recommendations. Not to mention his advice for some good clothing stores.
In October 2019, the first bricks of Chocolat-e were put in place, and the adventure could finally begin...
WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY CARE ABOUT CHOCOLAT-E? Chocolat-e is, above all, a human adventure. This is thanks to the talented men and women, with different professional origins, but the same entrepreneurial vision and a clear and unwavering commitment to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).
The strength of Chocolat-e is its DNA: the creation of products is carried out with environmental, social and ethical respect.
PHOTOGRAPHY: AUBRIE LEGAULT
NORM, MISTER COMMUNITY
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME… (WHAT YOU ARE NOW)? Growing up in Oregon has definitely affected who I am today. Was it being the second born amongst a family of nine siblings? Was it having to get up early and deliver The Oregonian to all my paper route customers at the age of eleven or twelve, and then going back to many of those same customers to sell them Christmas cards (per the encouragement of my Grandmother)? Or was it the eleven years spent at Mt. Angel Seminary, run by the Benedictine monks, where community and hospitality reigned supreme?. I propose that it was all of the above, in addition to a strong example from my rather quiet but hardworking father, and the incredible monks at Mt. Angel Abbey.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST VOCATION? From my early days growing up in The Dalles, OR, I was always finding ways to bring people together: whether foreign or local. I recall bringing them home with me after picking strawberries or cherries, so that they could show us how to eat and cook their food (guess I was always a sort of foodie). Building a sense of community and bringing people together makes life interesting and exciting for me - hopefully for others as well. Whether it was my past ministry service, working as a community Realtor, or simply gathering friends for international dinners, being known as a “community guy” has always been a privilege and an honor.
YOUR DEFINITION OF A GOURMET? Bringing together the common elements of a dish in either usual combinations, or to heighten those already there to create an unforgettable adventure of the palette.
OUR FIRST MEMORIES WITH CHOCOLATE? Both of my grandmothers made the best chocolate chip cookies. My dad’s mother made the best, in my mind - always mixing in more chips to make them a bit drippy with chocolate. And at Christmas, my father would also always buy the family a humongous box of mixed chocolates.
SPEAKING OF CHOCOLATE, WHAT DO YOU LIKE, WHAT DO YOU EAT FIRST, WHAT DO YOU NEVER EAT? Do you recall the story of the Apostle Paul getting knocked off of his horse on the way to Damascus, and his subsequent conversion to Christianity? Having been raised on average American chocolate- mainly milk chocolate -and then being invited to let a piece of dark Valrhona chocolate melt on my tongue,I felt like I was being led into a new world. It was a conversion that can never be undone.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE CHOCOLAT-E ADVENTURE? All it took was an invitation - and I was fully in!!
WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY CARE ABOUT CHOCOLAT-E? I want to build on our vision of bringing people together in a complete chocolate universe; a space where good chocolate is not only produced and sold, but consumers and our professional team alike can focus on creating a sustainable, ethical and value-based chocolate world. Together, we can make a life changing impact on those around us - both as those who enjoy good chocolate, and those involved in its process.
MICHEL, MISTER INVESTOR
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME… (AN INVESTOR)? I was born in 1959. After a successful career in real estate, I now devote myself to choosing my investments with instinct and pleasure - when I'm not traveling to the ends of the earth with my wife.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST VOCATION? I wanted to be a policeman, a movie cop who would hunt down drug dealers! A friend of my father's was a police chief in Marseille. His stories fascinated my childish eyes. I quickly understood that the reality of the police job was less exciting and more constraining. I wanted a diversified job, in contact with projects, and to be my own boss. After studying law and a little accounting, I started by managing real estate, and subsequently setting up housing projects. I could not have been a simple real estate agent or notary - I wanted to embrace all the professions of the estate.
YOUR DEFINITION OF A GOURMET? A gourmet is what I would like to be. It is the one who, without throwing himself on the dishes, appreciates the dish at their true value and the work behind it.
I am a gourmand and a gourmet. I would have liked to take oenology classes, but that's just another project - like speaking English better!
My mother, who is 90 years old, was a wonderful cook. We ate well, and too much! I am one of four sons, all “strong forks”. I love to shop and cook. I love to entertain and I love to discover restaurants and new wines. There was a time when I could go away for a week with my wife, and only have lunch and dinner in a Michelin star restaurant!
Every Monday, I have lunch with the same friends. We have roborative meals, we go to restaurants where the chefs love what they do. I have immense respect for them. Their job is difficult and demanding. They contribute to incredible restaurants all over France.
OUR FIRST MEMORIES WITH CHOCOLATE? The chocolate eggs that the Easter bells were supposed to have sown in the garden! I love this ritual, and I make sure that my grandchildren also have a real egg hunt of their own. We have to educate their taste, as they prefer industrial confectionery.
SPEAKING OF CHOCOLATE, WHAT DO YOU LIKE, WHAT DO YOU EAT FIRST, WHAT DO YOU NEVER EAT? Dark chocolate, much more than milk. I don't eat bad chocolate - it's like wine - if it is mediocre, I prefer to do without it. I like strong or subtle, depending on the moment (if it is with coffee or in my desserts). But once I start, I have to restrain myself...
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE CHOCOLAT-E ADVENTURE? I am often asked to discover projects, and I always take time to look at what is proposed to me! I met Eric through a mutual friend; we had a long video chat and decided to meet in Madrid. I was seduced by his character and the project, as I was soon by Jeanyves (at a distance). I no longer have a staff or structure, I make intuitive, free choices.
WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY CARE ABOUT CHOCOLAT-E? The quality of our product - which is good - must meet the taste of Americans. I challenge, I question the price, the selling methods. I'm interested in logistics and marketing. I discover a company as a whole, I like to have a complete debriefing. I can't wait to go to Valrhona and to discover the chocolate/wine pairing. But I'm not here to earn my weight in chocolate, I want the brand to succeed. It's a human adventure that I like, with people I didn't know, and who also deserve to succeed.