In the past year I’ve met with so many people in the Canadian chocolate community. Literally from near and far (It’s a big country). It seems we all have this really great common goal, a shared feeling that we can improve the understanding of chocolate and where it comes from. It makes me proud to be from this wintery part of the world. I’ve had conversations recently about bean-to-bar and introduction to craft chocolate. I used to feel like the nuances of single origin chocolate were the end all be all. This year I’ve had time to think about how I can spread the word, particularly in Calgary about craft chocolate and why customers should pay for it. My mission with craft chocolate making has always been about ethical sourcing cacao beans, not one part of this mission has anything to do with a flight of greater than seventy percent dark chocolate bars. I live in a really niche cowboy-centric, red meat and potatoes vibe place. A flight of single origin dark chocolate bars just isn’t going to make the cut here. This year I released the 67% coconut milk and candied cacao nibs, 60% Rosso Espresso, 44% Caramel Milk Chocolate bars. All of which have been hitting it off. Does this make Kin+Pod any less of chocolate company? I don’t know, and I don’t think it matters. If setting aside my own ego to reach a broader audience and introduce them to craft chocolate and ethical practices is what it takes, then so be it.
The wonderful thing about craft chocolate still being so new and fresh is that the rules are still being written. Chocolate makers need to have a clear, loud voice. I can’t move mountains by myself, but it feels like the Canadian chocolate community is working together.
The legend of the space dragon is not a well-known one. Historians believe that the first and last sighting of the space dragon dated back to 1507, the very same year that the Aztecs had their very last new fire ceremony to stave off the end of the world. It is believed that the Aztecs were worshipping a god by the name of Quetzalcoatl, a winged feathered serpent, also known as the space dragon. Legend of the space dragon travelled around the world and was depicted in art and folklore. For a very long-time worshippers believed that the space dragon was the only of its kind, that was until April 12th, 2019, when a small batch craft chocolate maker discovered a well-preserved nest of space dragon eggs. White, pink, purple, green, and yellow hues, with shimmering gold scales. They are things of beauty, highly valuable to its keeper. Unfortunately, these space dragon eggs were so old and became petrified from age, that the chocolate maker decided to sell them. It’s said that chocolate is also a plant from outer space, the Aztecs referred to it as Theobroma cacaoor “food of the gods”. The chocolate maker has made an astute discovery that the petrified space dragon eggs have actually turned into chocolate. This propelled the widely believed theory that space dragons sometimes ate their unhatched babies (they were vicious things after all). Who knows when the next space dragon will be sighted, we can only stare up at the sky, or delve deep into the sea and hope that one is meandering about, flapping its wings and crying out.
If you follow Kin+Pod’s social media closely, you may have noticed that I reference children’s novels and series often. I’m sure that you wouldn’t expect anything more form a millennial-run chocolate company/ grown-up’s version of a lemonade stand. Which is okay, the company will continue being run in it’s quirky fashion.
I have dreamed of owning a chocolate company ever since I was a child, and so it makes sense that I try to infuse it with a child-like sensibility. The entire process always brings me back to Frodo, Harry, or Charlie ( Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The idea of fighting through dark forests of rejection, or overwhelmed by the infectious poison of the price haters, distracted by all of the easy ways out. Trying to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal, with the intention of bringing awareness to social responsibility and ethical trading practises. Chocolate makers walk the line between enthusiasm for a wonderous journey and a scientific approach for the creations.
As we all grow up and grow older, we tend to move further away from our inner child, overwhelmed with the responsibilities and burdens that life often hands us. I’ve always believed that chocolate is a treasured break from our day, and a teleportation back to the creative, the imagination, the child. Although at Kin+Pod I craft sophisticated chocolate bars, I see it as a sort of bridge between the adult and nostalgia.
I’ve always idolized the authors of these books and their ability to bring light in the darkest of times. I think we all need a reminder that we can always take pause, there’s always time for a good laugh, we can always call a friend, or just eat a bit of chocolate.
I had tried for some time to find a job in bean-to-bar in Canada, but in 2012 there wasn’t anything accessible, or anyone that was hiring. There were maybe 5 companies that existed, and all of them were small, and didn’t have room for a student. Online courses weren’t a thing yet, and Chocolate Alchemy was still very new and fresh. I decided to pursue becoming a chocolatier and pastry chef, because those had been brought to Canada from Europe a long time ago and there were great spaces to stage in. A few months before graduating culinary school I had set up a stage with a place in New York called Momofuku Milk Bar, they were very accessible, and a more low key than all of the French pastry departments going on in New York at the time. I had zero experience, and had never been to New York, so I agreed to stage for the first people who would take me. Obviously Milk Bar is now an empire, and I was incredibly lucky to have been there for the briefest of moments to get to see what is now viewed as a pastry Mecca.
From there I worked as a pastry chef and staged as a chocolatier for some really great places ( Stubbe, Thomas Haas), but nothing really changed my view of chocolate or the growing feeling that I had made a career mistake, until my brother and I took a trip to Portland and walked into a store called At The Meadow. They carried four things; flowers, salt, bitters, and chocolate. I bought 300$ of chocolate that day, and took it back to our hostel to eat in one sitting. After eating too much chocolate, I decided that this one called Omnom was my favourite, and then sent them an e-mail about it.
Here is the actual e-mail:
“My name is Geordan, and I’m a pastry chef from Calgary, alberta.
I came across your company recently while on a trip to Portland with my brother, and was blown away by your company. The only thing I bought on my trip was about 300 $ worth of bean to bar chocolates from all over the world, my favourite by far was yours.
The first Omnom bar that I tried was the lakkris and sea salt bar, and I was hooked. I’ve been looking to do a stage at a bean to bar company for a few years now and hadn’t really come across anything that was incredibly different and unique. I had gone to New York and staged for Momofuku a few years ago and debated staging with Mast Brothers while I was in the big city, but their chocolate just didn’t reel me in like yours does.
I would really like to come and stage for your company, I’ve attached a copy of my resume, in which you’ll find that I’ve worked for a few chocolate companies. I’d be so honoured if you considered letting me in your kitchen. I work very hard, and am eager to learn, and more importantly I would really like to learn from what in my opinion is the best.
So I went to Iceland, and it was incredible.
After that, things get muddled and I plow through pastry positions, and save and count my pennies to buy chocolate machinery on a pastry chefs salary. I get help from friends and people who see the opportunity and my passion for chocolate and ethical sourcing. I start working for a local Direct Trade coffee company called Rosso Coffee Roasters, and still work with them today.
Last year we received three gold awards from the ICA for our 70% Tumaco Columbia Bar. This year I participated in the first ever Winter Chocolate Festival in Canada. The future is bright, and full of chocolate.
I think my little story is an important one to tell, because the road to where you want to be is not evenly paved, and there’s no real correct way of getting there. Most importantly I think it needs to be stated that my driving force behind all of this was the need for sustainable and ethical cacao farming. One small documentary changed the entire course of this past 7 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vfbv6hNeng
Power to the people.
Welcome to Stories,
A page about my findings as a Chocolate Maker, Pastry Chef, and Entrepreneur. Stories is a public place to put my thoughts, ramblings and random questions about chocolate, food and business. Today I wanted to work through what a B Corporation is, and why it’s relevant to chocolate and to all business’. “Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.” This was pulled from the B Corporation website.
Kin+Pod buys beans through a company called Uncommon Cacao, which is a certified B Corporation. Buying cacao beans can range from dirt cheap to very expensive, and I like to keep in mind that whenever my company makes a purchase, that purchase is an opportunity to vote for what I, and the company believes in and stands for. In my case that means ethical sourcing, free of slave labour, human trafficking, and child labour. Sound good eh?
I try and lead my company with the mentality that making ethical choices, and sharing that with consumers can create better self esteem amongst customers, and myself. Doing good, feels good.
From a business perspective this can at times, be challenging. Weighing profit vs social responsibility. It’s a short life and we all are trying to live it to it’s fullest, and for some that means making enough money to do all of the things that we want to do, and having al of the things that we want to have. Something I’ve found fascinating though, is that most people would never take something knowing that it would cause the suffering of another person, animal or being. In that is the true beauty of B Corporation. Profiting enough, without causing harm to other’s. All business’ are capable of this. I feel optimistic that the future of business lies in the ideals of B Corporations, and that it is hopeful, optimistic, and profitable.