WM: What is your chocolate background?
FK: I grew up on a cocoa farm in Africa. My grandfather owned a cocoa plantation, and, when I went away to college, I would return to the plantation to work and make money for school. Back then, my grandfather said to me, ‘One day, cocoa will pay your way.’ I moved to California and worked at Spago for 14 years as a chef, and I have always been passionate about chocolate. I joined my business partner, Steve Wallace, at The Omanhene Chocolate Company to bring chocolate from Ghana. The Chocolate Lab opened in May 2012. My grandfather was right.
WM: What are some of the common mistakes chocolatiers make?
FK: They mix many types of beans from different regions for a taste profile. Or they conch for too long, and it loses flavor. Or they add more fat and butter, and it loses the chocolate flavor.
WM: What is the difference between the beans you use versus those used by other chocolatiers?
CF: We use Forastero, a more acidic, robust bean grown in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. We really try to preserve the authentic chocolate flavor, which should be bitter on the first bite, then sweet later.
WM: The Chocolate Lab is credited with inventing a new category of milk chocolate—dark milk chocolate. What is that?
CF: Milk chocolate is just cocoa, milk, and sugar. The ‘finish’ is cocoa butter or fat. With dark milk chocolate, we use a cocoa mass of 48 percent, so the ‘finish’ is chocolate.