How Chocolate Has Molded My Life


Before I start to share my chocolate bar experiences I thought that it would be best to share some of the memories I had growing up and some of the defining chocolate moments in my life. When defining moments occur for us we never really know what their impact will be as we go on to live life. We think we know but some of them really could be the jumping off point that defines our calling to a craft. 

One of my most memorable experiences around candy is a memorable collage of moments around M&Ms with my dad. Yes, I say candy because they’re technically more candy consisting of sugar than chocolate. Another topic maybe for another day. I found myself reflecting on all of the times that my family and I would watch tv, the Yankee game or movies in our living room in The Bronx. My mom had a distinct candy candy jar on the side table next to where my dad always used to sit. When we were young this jar was always filled with M&Ms. They would sometimes alternate to the pastel ones for Easter time because that was my mom’s jam. I can’t remember if things changed up for Halloween time or any other time during the year but I’m pretty sure they were switched up from time to time. 

When my dad would eat them, he would take a few and sort of twist his hand around and drop them into his mouth. It was a distinct movement that was silly and fun for me as a child and kept with me. We would always eat them like that when we would spend time on the couch watching tv through the years until I moved out and my parents moved and we no longer lived in The Bronx. 

I didn’t realize just how vital those memories were until not too long ago when it reoccurred and we had a great laugh remembering those moments. It was a connection that I hold dear. 

Another fond memory with chocolate during my childhood was having dessert with my family which would sometimes include ice cream in the summer months or an Entenmann’s cake or donuts because we were having company. It always varied which was the exciting part of dessert as a child. Most times these treats were always accompanied with chocolate milk. My dad would take on making chocolate milk with either Hershey’s syrup or Ubet. I remember at times he’d let me squeeze the chocolate it. I used to like to squeeze a lot in there to make my chocolate milk darker and more chocolatey. I remember that it used to be so refreshing. 

Sometimes though when we had seltzer my dad would make an egg cream. It would be glorious. Who knew as a child the addition of seltzer would make you even happier. I would remember snippets of times when I would be drinking the egg cream, obviously with a straw because as a child that was your jam, that I would start blowing air through the straw to make bubbles. I would then go on to blow so many bubbles that it would fill up the remaining space in my glass to the brim and borderline overflowing my glass with air bubbles. I would get a little pushback from my mom to stop. Most likely a way to say stop playing with your food. Mostly all these times would be filled with laughter and being on a sugar rush. Ah, all good times when life was much easier. 

The next two memories revolved around winning chocolate. Yes, that is correct. It could just be me creating meaning that these moments were just chocolate calling out to me to say hello and get on my radar. Silly, maybe. But that’s our human nature to add meaning to figure out why it happened. It could have been just me being lucky but the first meaning I gave it sounds more fun.

My first memory winning chocolate was back in grammar school at Holy Rosary School in The Bronx. It had to be early 90s so maybe in second or third grade. I can’t remember but I will look into our family photos to find the picture of me with the chocolate because I am pretty sure my mom captured the moment at home. Once I find that picture, I will post it on our Instagram for sure!  

From time to time Holy Rosary would have raffles and for $1 each entry you could win whatever prize. A way to raise money most likely. For this particular raffle it was for a huge Hershey Bar. Not like a 1 pound bar this was like a 10 pound massive chocolate bar. I hope I am getting that correct. The picture will confirm this. Either way, I vaguely remember that I didn’t pay attention to the raffle. My mom used to volunteer at school and must have put my name in prior to the deadline of which I didn’t recall. When they announced the winner on whatever day it was, they called my name and I was super surprised and super excited by this monumental feat. Hell yeah I just won a huge chocolate bar! I was  most likely the coolest kid in school that day. I don’t remember much of the aftermath and how long it took us to devour that chocolate but it was a calling from my earliest years that it would send ripples of chocolate through to almost 2 decades later.

From reading through my high level about section of my chocolate journey I had noted how I was making bonbons in my apartment in Hoboken after I was inspired by Food Network to make my own truffles. BAM! Thanks Emeril Lagasse. I digress. So after I took the chocolate making class online at Ecole Chocolat I decided to join the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and attend their June 2015 NYC meeting. At that meeting when I was meeting people in the industry starting out and those in it and making their way to furthering their education and network, I found myself putting in my business card from my Glennmade Confections “business” into the raffle for 100 pounds of chocolate from Casa Luker, a chocolate company from Colombia. They make couverture and single origin couverture and we’re giving away 100 pounds! I didn’t expect to win and didn’t even remember my glorious win in grammar school but when they announced the winner, I was super excited and had no idea how and what to do with it!  

At that time in my chocolate life I had already been using Valrhona chocolate to make my bonbons and I was now bing inspired by chocolate makers in the industry (shout out to Nat from Madre Chocolate who was one of the first makers who I reached out to and to push me to start my chocolate making adventure). I couldn’t pull myself to making bonbons with someone else’s chocolate if I was learning about and approaching my adventure of making bean to bar chocolate. Either way, I had make a few chocolate treats here and there with some of it and wound up giving a bunch of it away to friends and family. 

With  my traveling the past year, I had given my parents a bunch of the couverture drops and so my dad enjoys sitting on the couch watching tv with my mom and snacks on them. This would happen often because my parents have their tv shows that they have to watch. When I stayed with them during my transition back from the west coast they would say oh we enjoy snacking on the chocolate when we watch tv. It was so awesome of a feeling. I even spent a few nights watching tv with them and grabbing a few handfuls to enjoy with them. Another way of sharing moments around the living room in front of a tv that had to deal with chocolate. Better chocolate than M&Ms which is a great feeling as I opened them up to and exposed them to bean to bar chocolate through my journey and it’s given them moments of enjoyment.

Before I share my first defining bean to Bar moment in my life, I do want to share more recent moments that occurred when I was staying with my parents earlier this year. Once I was back on the east coast I decided to enroll in the chocolate tasting online course with Ecole Chocolat led by Rich Tango-Lowy (Master Chocolatier and owner of Dancing Lion Chocolate in New Hampshire). I consider him a chocolate renaissance man for his artistic work with chococolate. Definitely check out his company if you haven’t as he makes amazing confections that are beautiful and flavorful. He ships nationwide so get on that. I digress further.  

During the course there’s a lot of tasting of bars and bonbons and particularly around tasting bonbons I had ordered a few boxes from a few of my favorite chocolatiers in the USA (Jacques Torres, Norman Love Confections, Christopher Elbow Chocolates, Stick with me Sweets and Dancing Lion Chocolate). After watching a clip of Rich breaking down how he mindfully tastes bonbons I was blown away and wanted to create my own experiences. I found myself tasting a few bonbons every couple of nights and would cut each bonbon in half and taste that half in two pieces. I would then take the other half and cut it in half and share those pieces with my parents as they sit and catch up on their shows.  They’d be amazed at how flavorful each one was. I would sometimes tell them, taste this and let me know what you taste and your thoughts and it would be a cool way to share experiences of the joys of chocolate. Once again, in our living room as a family sharing these moments. Now, holding them closer to me than ever because I am allowing each moment to inspire the next one.

Okay, if you’ve been reading to this moment thus far, thank you. There’s more. Here is the single most defining moment in my chocolate journey that blew my mind and opened my world to craft chocolate. 

As I mentioned earlier, Nat from Madre Chocolate had inspired me through our conversations to start making chocolate. I don’t recall exactly when in 2015 but I bought some bars from him and one of them was the Domician Republic dark chocolate bar. Given that I was so new to tasting chocolate and pretty sure I wasn’t mindfully tasting either but when I tasted my first piece, I tasted a malty flavor note that immediately took me back to my childhood.

 

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My Uncle Joey used to live with us in our house in The Bronx until he had passed away in 1993 when I was only 8 years old. Outside of my dad he was one of my role models when I was young. He always bought little things for my brother and I and he was always fun to play with and he was always there for us. I strive to be the type of uncle he was to my nieces and nephew. There’s so many memories that I can dive into but this is not the place to share that. However, there is a grouping of fond memories that we had together and that was around drinking Ovaltine. For those who are not familiar, Ovaltine is a malt chocolate drink mix that would would add to milk to make a chocolatey milk drink. My uncle loved it and would always make it for us. 

When I tasted that Dominican Republic chocolate bar and tasted that malty note it brought me right back to those moments and that nostalgic feeling of spending time with my uncle. It gave me the goosebumps and was a defining moment where I realized that chocolate could bring you back to memories in life. That connection was far more valuable that I thought it was at that time. It opened my mind to a world of possibilities and all of thousands of bars that would be created and made by hundreds of chocolate makers across the world that I would now have exposure too. It helped me realize that I was on the right path to make my mark on the industry in my own way. 

I hope that this was an inspiring post for you to take a few moments to look back on your life and see how chocolate has seeped into your life. 

What are your earliest chocolate memories in life? What were some defining chocolate moments for you? Please share in the comments here on the blog post or comment on our Facebook or Instagram posts. We look forward to celebrating these moments of joy and happiness and the power of how chocolate has made our lives a little sweeter!

Glenn


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