Today is the innaugural meeting of the Coastal Virginia Chocolate Society (still working on a hashtag). This has been on my to do list for a few years. Why did it take so long? What was I waiting for? I don’t know, industry authority, respect, feeling like I had the knowledge base to share, like I was good enough?
Here’s the thing: I know chocolate. I have worked with it, lived with it, researched it, read about it for 14 years and I have loved it even longer. Part of my unease is that I am so absorbed in what I am doing with chocolate, that I may not be verbalizing what I know. I am alone 80% of the time. My dogs certainly don’t care about chocolate and my boys are over it! I field so many questions about chocolate and I love to chat with people who are passionate and curious. I know people want to know more and I am happy to facilitate that.
As with any industry, competition is inherent. I don’t do competiton. I believe there is enough business for everyone. I want to collaborate, I want a community. I find there to be little boxes put around people in the chocolate industry; you are either a bean to bar maker, a chocolatier or a pastry chef. There also seems to be a hierarchy which puts the bean to bar makers as the purest, highest form of chocolate. The chocolatier seems to be the lowest on the chocolate totem pole. We don’t make our own chocolate, we are “just melters” using other people’s products as an ingredient. Pastry chefs are of course well versed in many, many ingredients, techniques and have a vast knowledge base. There are also chocolate educators, bloggers and “sommeliers.” (in quotes because there is no actual certification or designation for a chocolate sommelier, though I do not doubt their knowldge base.) I am really hopeful that change is coming with the number of women in the chocolate industry.
Regardless of my fear to start this project, start I will. I feel that educating my population about fine chocolate is as important, actually maybe even more important, than the products I make. I also know that I have to meet them where they are at. My philosophy and personal feelings about chocolate may not align with everyone that participates, yet. My plan is for this to be a member driven organization, I really just want to facilitate it and be a resource. When production ramps up it will be a challenge to keep up with , maybe one of the members will step up? Regardless, meeting one will be a meet and greet, plan for the future and eating chocolate. Step one, favorite grocery store chocolate bars and we’ll see where it goes!