By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

Last month, the ICE Chocolate Lab launched Roots of Cacao, its first day-long symposium dedicated to all things chocolate. Through a series of talks, demonstrations, tastings and panel discussions, the program gathered more than a dozen chocolate makers, pastry chefs, industry insiders and historians to share their expertise with a packed room of nearly 100 attendees. Weeks later, I feel I am still soaking in all of the knowledge and insight shared in each intensive session, but a few thoughts still remain top of mind — ideas that I hope to address further at our next symposium.

Leading the technical side of the day’s conversation with his talk, “How Chocolate Gets Its Taste,” Clay Gordon, publisher of, broadly laid out the basic processing steps of chocolate from raw bean to finished bar, with a special focus on the complex building blocks of its flavor. Gordon proposed that over 750 individual chemical compounds contribute to chocolate’s typical flavor, reinforcing the notion that no single compound is responsible for chocolate’s complexity. It is thus the sum of many parts that gives each chocolate its character. Citing a study where researchers attempted to identify these individual components and theoretically reconstruct chocolate flavor, some surprising discoveries were made — the same compounds responsible for the aroma of peaches, cooked cabbage, cucumbers and even human sweat are all part of the mysterious stew that is chocolate. While the chocolate maker certainly brings much to the table, the development of these notes begins before the beans ever reach the factory. Genetics and post-harvest processes contribute significantly, and Gordon suggested that the microbiology responsible for fermentation may be the key driver of the terroir, or sense of place, that makes each growing origin unique. As a chocolate maker and educator, I’m inspired to better understand fermentation and its direct impact on flavor.

Our panel on sourcing and sustainability featured a wide range of perspectives, from manufacturing and supply chain to policy. Expertly moderated by Harvard lecturer Carla D. Martin, the discussion focused on the ethical, economic and environmental questions facing the industry. To put those issues in context, it is important to remember that the vast majority of cacao beans are produced by small farms typically only a few acres in size, and these farmers at the bottom of the supply chain see the smallest share in the price of a finished chocolate bar. One solution to this problem being pursued by panelist Tim McCollum, founder of Madécasse, is to significantly shorten that supply chain by working directly with farmers and building manufacturing facilities at the origin — Madagascar. Paying premiums for higher quality beans and creating a finished product of higher value at the source benefits not only the farmer but the greater local economy as well. From Mexico, the “cradle” of ancient cacao cultivation, ICE alum Jose Lopez Ganem shared his experience working on projects that seek to promote Mexican cacao by isolating the precise genetics and flavor profiles these heirloom beans offer; preserving and promoting these aspects of quality may reinvigorate farming in the region while also providing makers with unique high-quality beans. It proved extremely insightful to have World Cocoa Foundation president Rick Scobey join our discussion, as someone who navigates the world of so-called “big chocolate,” which relies heavily on cacao supplied by West Africa. Though craft chocolate makers typically ignore the “bulk” or “commodity” beans being grown, the sustainability issues on the table affect hundreds of thousands of farmers in countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana, who collectively produce nearly 75% of the world’s supply. The voice of the actual farmer is often missing from these discussions, and I’m already thinking of ways to include that perspective in next year’s symposium.

In between the demonstrations and panel discussions, guests were treated to several tastes from our chocolate maker presenters: Raaka, Dalloway, Cacao Prieto and Madécasse. Special guest Christopher Curtin, from Éclat near Philadelphia, shared his refined work, as did Marc Aumont from Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate in NYC. Most surprising was a special juice tasting from Repurposed Pod — made from fresh cacao pulp pressed in Ecuador, the juice had a bright flavor redolent of lychee, passion fruit and banana. Later, the juice was also featured in a bourbon-based cocktail. Given our lack of a regular supply of fresh pods, I’m particularly excited about the potential of this juice as a teaching tool.

ICE's Chocolate Lab

A common thread that emerged throughout many of the presentations was the unsung role of women in chocolate. Historian and author Maricel Presilla highlighted the evolution of chocolate drinks through regional variations and innovations driven by women producers across Latin America — an idea echoed by Roger Rodriguez’s story of a sartorial hot chocolate lesson in the Dominican Republic that inspired his chocolate-making approach at Cacao Prieto. The reliance on women’s labor on smallholder farms in many parts of Madagascar and other cocoa growing regions was underscored by Tim McCollum, and our sustainability panel also addressed the rise of woman-run farmer cooperatives. I was excited to include up-and-coming Brooklyn chocolate makers Sara and Kelechi from Dalloway on our “craft” chocolate panel, who shared insights on their business and process. The subject of gender-driven marketing methods in chocolate advertising that tend to target women was raised during one of many open question-and-answer sessions. For our next symposium, we’re considering how we might grow the dialog on gender and other cultural issues — from producers to makers to consumers — in the world of chocolate.

The title, Roots of Cacao, evokes not only the rich cultural history of chocolate, but the entire chain of creation: the growers and origins responsible for supplying their precious harvests, as well as the makers and their processes. As much as chocolate reflects tradition, its evolution is also dependent upon innovation. While we ponder the complex path that chocolate has taken, we must also address the opportunities and obligations to foster a sustainable future. It has always been my goal to expand the reach of the chocolate making program in ICE’s Chocolate Lab beyond its four walls to include all of these conversations and the industry’s many facets. I’m grateful to all of our expert presenters and the diverse group of attendees for making the day a success — and I can’t wait to start organizing our next session!

Ready to study the pastry arts with Chef Michael? Click here for information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

Long before we turned on the lights — and all of the machines — in the ICE Chocolate Lab, I began formulating a mission statement of sorts. In addition to exploring the fundamentals of chocolate-making and sharing that knowledge with our students, I also wanted to create a space that fostered a sense of community beyond our four walls. Over the years, we’ve opened up the lab to chocolate and pastry professionals of all stripes, not to mention scores of guests who just love tasting our efforts. As we’ve learned to make better chocolate, we’ve also added our own voice to conversations within the industry. This February, we’re taking advantage of our unique venue to promote the exchange of ideas with our inaugural chocolate symposium, Roots of Cacao.

Test Roasting Cocoa Bean Samples

Roasting Cocoa Bean Samples

I’m excited to announce that the ICE Chocolate Lab will host a one-day series of demonstrations, tastings and panel discussions on Sunday, February 4th. The title, Roots of Cacao, evokes not only the rich cultural history of chocolate, but also the growers and origins responsible for supplying their precious harvest. We can also trace the journey from cacao bean to finished chocolate bar by exploring the many flavors hidden within and the processes that unleash them. As much as chocolate reflects tradition, its evolution is also dependent upon innovation. While we ponder the complex path that chocolate has taken, we must also address the opportunities and obligations to foster a sustainable future.

To help us navigate these varied topics, we’ve enlisted a roster of expert presenters to share their knowledge — from industry insiders and academics, to pastry chefs and passionate connoisseurs. Featured presenters include Bill Yosses, founder of Perfect Pie Company and former White House pastry chef; Maricel Presilla, restaurateur and author of “The New Taste of Chocolate;” Clay Gordon, author of “Discover Chocolate;” and Roger Rodriguez, pastry chef and partner of Cacao Prieto (also an ICE alum!). Together, we’ll discuss how post-harvest processes at the origin lay the groundwork for the flavors in a finished chocolate bar, and how a pastry chef might harness those flavors in a finished dessert. We’ll explore the emerging culture of “craft” chocolate and how the industry is addressing sustainability on a larger scale. Attendees will taste the spectrum of chocolate’s expressions, from artful modern confections to the alluring drink our ancestors enjoyed. I, for one, am looking forward to all of the information and inspiration on tap. In the coming weeks I’ll share more about the presenters with further details on their sessions.


Chef Laiskonis’ Hazelnut Chocolates

Roots of Cacao symposium is open to the general public and the sessions have been designed to be accessible to all, no matter one’s knowledge of or experience with chocolate. I would recommend it to anyone who’s curious to learn more about the roots of our favorite confection. Plus, the more we understand where chocolate comes from and how it’s made, the more we appreciate those efforts. But a word of warning: as someone who has taken the deep dive myself, I often say that the more we learn about chocolate, the more we realize what we don’t know! Hope to see you there.

Space is limited — register today for Roots of Cacao.

 Want to take a deep dive into Pastry Arts? Learn more about ICE’s career training programs.

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

If I were to ask you to describe the physical characteristics of chocolate, chances are you might think of a dark, shiny and brittle bar that slowly melts in the mouth. Perhaps you might immediately associate its rich flavor baked into a brownie or concealed within a creamy bonbon. You wouldn’t be wrong, of course, as chocolate has found its way into countless applications — a sweet shape shifter that pairs perfectly with our favorite flavors. That hasn’t always been the case. For much of its history, chocolate wasn’t something we would eat out of hand or find in a dessert recipe.

Hot Chocolate

Aztec woman pouring chocolate

An Aztec Woman Pouring Chocolate

The modern chocolate bar didn’t emerge until the mid-1800s, when technology and inventiveness converged. When Casparus van Houten developed the cocoa butter press in the 1820s, he was originally after the pressed solids — the cocoa butter (the fat that makes up over 50 percent of a cocoa bean) was merely a by-product. It would be many years before a chocolate maker (most likely the Fry family in England) would come up with the idea to add some of that extra cocoa butter back into ground cocoa beans and sugar. At this point, chocolate began to resemble what we think of today, and its texture and flavor would evolve further as the industrial revolution continued in the decades to follow. Before that breakthrough? When one mentioned chocolate, they were really referring to a beverage.

We can trace the history of chocolate back thousands of years to the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec cultures of present-day Mexico and Central America. These early chocolate makers cultivated the cacao tree, ultimately rendering the seeds of its fruit (the bean) into a drink. What these cultures enjoyed, however, bore little resemblance to a package of Swiss Miss. For starters, it wasn’t served hot, and most likely unsweetened, rather made with water and flavored with spices and flowers, then made frothy by repeatedly pouring from one vessel into another. The beans themselves were of great value and a significant staple crop, though most historians suggest that it was only enjoyed by a few, and not necessarily a part of the average person’s diet, rather used primarily for medicinal and ceremonial uses. Most culinary applications — even savory mole — appeared much later.

After the Spanish conquered the birthplace of chocolate in the 1500s, it would undergo further changes as it made its way to European drinkers. The first to adapt the Aztec beverage were likely the missionaries tasked with “converting” the indigenous people. By the time chocolate took hold back in Spain, it would evolve into something recognizable today — served warm, sweetened and whipped to a froth using a wooden molinillo. It remained, however, a treat for nobility, as it slowly spread throughout Europe. This growing taste for chocolate, which would become a beverage on par with tea or coffee, also led to its cultivation in European colonies in tropical zones throughout the world. For two centuries, its popularity surged but remained something not to eat, but to drink.

Huylers Bean-to-Cup Chocolate Trade Card

Huylers Bean-to-Cup Chocolate Trade Card

When van Houten sought to remove cocoa butter from the preparation, his goal was to make a lighter beverage, with much of its fat removed — what many at the time referred to as digestible cocoa. Soon after, digestible cocoa became increasingly accessible to a wider audience, taken in the morning or in the afternoon as a pick-me-up. Chocolate would also be touted for various health benefits and considered a gentler alternative to its cousin, coffee. As chocolate culture progressed, it did of course find its way into bar form (and then confections and baked goods) in the mid-1800s. By the turn of the 20th century, cocoa and chocolate were firmly embedded into our daily regimen. My own research into chocolate history has led to some interesting discoveries: colorful Victorian-era cocoa tins decorated with imagery of cacao pods, and even references to “bean-to-cup,” foreshadowing the “bean-to-bar” term we now use more than a hundred years later.

All of this research of chocolate’s history has renewed my own interest in its drinkable form. I’ve been studying both ancient recipes and its more familiar adaptations. As the weather turns, I can’t think of a better way to warm up than with a frothy cup of hot chocolate, while quietly considering the complex journey this magical bean has made over the centuries. Below, my favorite modern recipe, inspired by Mexican-style chocolate prepared today, is deep in chocolate flavor with subtle accents of unrefined sugar, warm spices and a touch of heat from dried smoked chile.


Hot Chocolate
Yield: 8 servings


1 quart (950 grams) whole milk
¼ cup (60 grams) heavy cream
1 cup (200 grams) grated panela, piloncillo, or light brown sugar
½ teaspoon (2 grams) salt
2 sticks whole cinnamon
2 pieces whole star anise
½ teaspoon (2 grams) powdered chipotle morita (or to taste)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
7 ounces (200 grams) dark chocolate, roughly chopped


  • Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, spices, and the vanilla bean in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and hold at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
  • Whisk in the chopped chocolate and continue to simmer an additional five minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and the whole spices. Blend well with an immersion blender to create a froth and serve immediately.

Want to get in the chocolate lab with Chef Michael? Learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

Michael Laiskonis—Creative Director

In ICE’s Chocolate Lab, students get to take part in the bean-to-bar chocolate process, giving them a firsthand education on the importance of ingredient sourcing, refining and selection. Below, I’ve compiled some surprising facts about the different stages of the chocolate making process. These observations may be old hat to professional chocolate makers, but they are rarely — if ever — considered by chefs and consumers.

Raw Chocolate Sorting Beans Chocolate Lab Bean to Bar

Raw Beans
Straight out of the bag, fermented and dried beans present a serious microbiological risk, including E. coli and salmonella. Outbreaks linked to chocolate are rare, but the risk necessitates proper handling and storage. Simply put, I treat raw beans as if they were raw meat. Also, raw beans must be carefully sorted and cleaned of the various debris found in each bag (flat and moldy beans, stones, leaves, sticks, etc.). If that’s not enough, it isn’t uncommon for tropical moth eggs to hitch a ride on the surface of a cocoa bean! All of the beans that arrive at ICE’s lab are immediately bagged, sealed and chilled until roasting — before any of those tiny wings get an opportunity to hatch.

In addition to providing the only bacteria and moth “kill step” that renders the beans safe to consume, roasting allows for critical flavor development of the cocoa bean, further developing the precursors created during fermentation. Roasting also reduces the moisture content of the dried bean (chocolatiers always seek to minimize the amount of water in finished chocolate), which upon delivery is around 6-8%. Roasting parameters vary by bean type, origin, quantity and the desired flavor profiles—but typically roasters aim for 30-60 minutes or more at temperatures in the range of 300-350°F. Determining “doneness” is mostly subjective and instinctive. Chocolatiers primarily go by smell and taste, but also closely monitor the temperature of the bean mass throughout the process.

After roasting, the beans must be cracked and winnowed, separating the nibs from the shell. The shell alone can account for almost 15% of the roasted bean by weight and adversely affects the flavor and texture of finished chocolate. What’s more, the shell contains elevated levels of toxic heavy metals. Unsurprisingly, the acceptable industry standard for shell content in processed nibs is less than 1%.

Roasting Winnowing Chocolate Production Bean to Bar

Roasting beans and winnowed cocoa nibs

In most cocoa processing systems a “pre-grinding” of the nibs is necessary, to reduce both overall processing time and the eventual wear on refining machines. After grinding, the nibs are reduced to a thick paste referred to as “chocolate liquor,” with a mean particle size around 100 microns. (And yes, the term “liquor” is confusing to many, as there is no actual alcohol involved!)

Pressing Cocoa Butter
A portion of the liquor can be pressed to produce cocoa butter, which makes up roughly 50% of the beans’ weight. In the lab, this process takes one to two hours and nearly 65 tons of force. The remaining byproduct — known as “press cake” — can be further processed into cocoa powder.

Unlike the deodorized cocoa butter most chefs are familiar with, freshly pressed butter reflects the flavor compounds from the original beans. As most fine chocolate has a total fat content of 35-40% by weight, this additional cocoa butter can be added to boost the final percentage. For some single origin enthusiasts, this added butter makes or breaks a product’s bean-to-bar status, depending on whether or not the extra butter and original liquor are extracted from the same batch of beans.

Refining reduces the particle size of the liquor to an average of 20 microns. The human tongue can begin to detect grittiness at particle sizes larger than 35 microns, but reducing particle size below 20 microns increases the surface area of the cocoa butter, resulting in an unpleasantly thick consistency.

Refining is also the point in the bean-to-bar process at which other ingredients are introduced — sugar, additional cocoa butter, whole milk powder, etc. This process is achieved by an array of different machines, from stone melangeurs to roller refiners. Some systems, like our ball mill, work as a “universal,” allowing for “conching” to occur simultaneously with refining, due to the addition of temperature and airflow control.

Cocoa Butter Sifting Chocolate Refining Bean to Bar

Freshly pressed cocoa butter and sifting chocolate liquor

Conching — which involves heat, airflow and agitation — is critical for flavor development (removing unwanted volatile compounds), texture (coating the solid particles with cocoa butter) and further moisture reduction. This process can last for hours or days, depending on the desired results. However, conching time alone is not necessarily a measure of quality.

The final “recipe” for a batch of chocolate is determined by the addition of other ingredients, and will vary depending on such factors as bean type, desired flavor profile and application. The percentage you see on the label of finished chocolate refers to the total amount of cocoa solids by weight — meaning the nibs or liquor plus any added cocoa butter. This number alone is quantitative, not qualitative — a 70% chocolate may be 70% nibs or any equivalent combination of nibs and cocoa butter. Therefore, these percentages may not offer much insight into flavor, but they can tell us how much sugar was added. The percentage of sugar simply equals 100 minus the cocoa percentage (accounting for less than 1% additional vanilla or stabilizers like lecithin, etc.).

Before tempering, it is beneficial to sift or strain the finished chocolate through vibrating screens to remove any large particles that are difficult to refine — notably the “radicle” (or germ stem) that is a part of each bean. This hard stem is very bitter and can produce a gritty texture if left in the chocolate. Integrating a pass by powerful magnets into the sifting process can also eliminate the worry of any remaining hard metals in the chocolate.

Finished Chocolate Bean to Bar Aging

While the aging process is not well understood or widely researched, both large manufacturers and small-batch artisans agree that several weeks of aging finished chocolate allows for better, rounder flavor. Large companies inherently allow for this process in their distribution network, while artisan producers will hold chocolate batches in reserve for two months or more before tempering, molding and packaging.

Can’t wait to check out ICE’s Chocolate Lab? Learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program. 

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

While it’s back-to-school season for most, class is always in session at ICE. More to the point, cooks are perpetual students for whom the learning never ends, no matter our level of skill or experience. Ideas and inspiration that fill our social media feeds are at our fingertips 24 hours a day, but I still rely on — and often prefer — books and magazines. The autumn publishing season also means a shelf-load of new releases. Below are a few of those just-published books I am looking forward to, as well as one or two that I’m finally catching up on.

Image courtesy of Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream

Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop
By Dane Cree

Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean ice cream season is. Dana Cree’s book is a revelation on two fronts — in addition to creative frozen dessert recipes, it was one of the first books of its kind to make accessible the technical approach to ice cream that professionals employ. A well-traveled pastry chef, Dana presents the material much in the same way she approaches high-end plated desserts: serious, but with a playful ease.


BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
By Stella Parks

When I first started reading Stella’s BraveTart blog several years ago, I knew it would lead to a book. She approaches sweet traditions and preparations not just through the eyes of a cook, but rather an investigative journalist, always digging deeper to tell a story or to better understand the complex chemistry of the pastry kitchen. If baking perfection is built simply on the sum of many well-executed steps, the attention to detail in Stella’s book gives cooks of all skill levels essential building blocks for classic American desserts and beyond. Be sure to check out her work as contributor to Serious Eats.

Megan Giller

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution: The Origins, the Makers, and the Mind-Blowing Flavors
By Megan Giller

As a cook, I often think about how the discovery of a new ingredient or technique is able to radically redirect one’s career path. Certainly, I never set out to make chocolate, but since we created the Chocolate Lab two years ago, I think about chocolate for most of my waking moments. For Megan Giller, a sartorial moment with a fruity, complex bar made from Madagascar cocoa beans created an obsession that led to a blog, and then this book. While covering the basics of chocolate from origin to processing to tasting, she also takes on the task of documenting the dynamic “craft” chocolate scene in real time. I liked the idea so much, that when asked, I wrote the foreword. I will also join Megan for a discussion and tasting here in NYC next month. Also of interest is a new release from our friends at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco, Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more.

Bread Wine Chocolate

Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
By Simran Sethi

Just as important as acquiring recipes and technique, a deeper understanding of the complex culture of our foodways is also valuable to cooks. Released last year, Simran’s book explores our relationship with nature through the lens of products we might take for granted. Her perspective on chocolate has also led to my favorite podcast of the year, the Slow Melt, which tackles issues big and small, in addition to insightful interviews with the most influential of today’s “craft” chocolate-makers.

Fou de Patisserie

Fou de Patisserie

This time last summer, I had just returned, inspired and energized, from a quick three-day tour of the Paris haute patisserie scene. Few resources capture the trends of the moment better than the French magazine, Fou de Patisserie. Each issue (virtually ad-free) is jam-packed with recipes and ideas from pastry legends and rising stars alike, including Philippe Conticini, Christophe Felder, Cedric Grolet and Cyril Lignac. In addition to publishing, the magazine also runs a shop in Paris — part pop-up, part fancy pastry exhibit — featuring the work of a rotating line-up of pastry chefs. On the topic of pastry magazines, one can’t forget what may be the most exciting resource, So Good, the hefty haute patisserie magazine of international scope.

Modernist Bread

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science
By Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco Migoya

After the release of the mammoth multi-volume set of Modernist Cuisine several years ago, the question on everyone’s mind was: “What will Nathan Myhrvold do next?” To the surprise of many, The Cooking Lab, which is home to Modernist Cuisine, immediately took on the subject of bread – its traditions and pathways toward innovation. Talented pastry chef Francisco Migoya led the effort, which resulted in a new set of books that actually rivals the first in size (and weight). Ahead of its October release, Francisco visited ICE last month to offer a sneak preview of the book, over three years in the making. From what I’ve seen thus far, all I can say is that the project will become a defining resource for bread bakers for years to come.

What are you reading this fall? Let us know in the comments! 

Take your pastry practice to the next level — learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

Ever wonder what it takes to make one bar of chocolate? ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, our resident chocolate expert, takes us through the entire process — from sourcing and roasting, to refining and conching, to finally molding and tasting — in less than a minute. But don’t be fooled by the video: though it may seem like a piece of (chocolate) cake, careful thought and calculation goes into each stage. According to Chef Michael, “Every step of the chocolate-making process, from fruit to bean to bar, presents an opportunity to influence the flavor and texture of the finished chocolate.”

Sweet tooth piqued? Discover how you can become a pastry pro with ICE’s award-winning career training programs by clicking here

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we launched ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab (the first education-focused one of its kind!). We decided to check in with ICE’s Creative Director Michael Laiskonis to find out what he’s been up to. As it turns out: a lot.

Having produced over 120 batches of chocolate with beans sourced from more than 20 countries, the Chocolate Lab has given Chef Michael the chance to tinker with each step of the chocolate-making process and bring out the best qualities in each bean. What’s more, Chef Michael has been meticulously tracking these changes and differences in process and flavor, which he then shares with interested students and colleagues in a number of hands-on classes at ICE.

Our Pastry & Baking Arts students have also had the opportunity to swap textbooks for hands-on experience with Chef Michael inside the Chocolate Lab, benefitting from a full understanding of the bean-to-bar process.. Watch below our two-year check in with Chef Michael.

Want to study in the ICE Chocolate Lab with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Michael Laiskonis ­– Creative Director

As we look back at the latter half of the 19th century, continuing the results of historical research I’ve posted here and here, we arrive upon what might be considered the “golden age” of chocolate manufacturing in Manhattan. We see what began as a localized industry concentrated in lower Manhattan shift from small-scale “independent” makers to the greater reach of regional and nationally known brands, whose sizable factories often took up the length of a city block, moving uptown as the city continued to grow in size and influence.

Henry McCobb chocolate advertisement

With the industrial revolution of the 1800s, chocolate and cocoa made an interesting transition from the beverage served at coffeehouses and pharmacies into the realm of confections. The innovation of pressing ground cocoa beans into its cocoa butter and powdered components (a process perfected by Dutchman Casparus Van Houten Sr. in the 1820s) allowed for a number of new applications and refinements. We first see this shift in early advertisements extolling the virtues of “digestible” cocoa — lower in fat and thus lighter and easier to prepare. Extra cocoa butter from this pressing would soon be added to bars of “eating” chocolate, leading to the smooth refined textures of the bars we consume today. Of course, the range of traditionally sugar-based confections expanded with the introduction of sweet chocolate products. While I tried to limit my own research to manufacturers who produced chocolate from the cocoa bean itself, those lines between chocolate-maker and confectioner began to intersect even 150 years ago — a distinction that continues to confuse most consumers today. Indeed, many of the most prominent chocolate companies in New York City branched out into chocolate candies in addition to manufacturing plain bars and cocoa powders.

I’ve come to think of the latter half of the 19th century as New York’s “golden age” of chocolate, in part because of the growth in number of chocolate makers in the city, from a handful in the early 1800s to a dozen or more before the turn of the 20th century. Much of what we know of chocolate culture during this period is preserved in the form of ornate tins and whimsical advertisements of the day. One might also imagine the role these chocolate makers played in the daily life of the street, tempting passersby with colorful displays, and perhaps a view of the chocolate-making process itself. One contemporary account describes the shop run by Felix Effray at 64 East 9th Street, whose stone melangeur was prominently positioned in the store’s window:

December 10, 1849

On the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street is a store kept by Felix Effray, and I love to stand at the window and watch the wheel go ‘round. It has three white stone rollers and they grind chocolate into paste all day long… (Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York, by Catherine E. Havens)

Effray was among a group of small, independent chocolate businesses in the city; we first see him at Broadway and Grand in the early 1840s, then at his shop near Astor Place, which he operated until at least 1880. Eugene Mendes, whose chocolate career spanned the same period, began on William Street and later moved to Fulton Street in lower Manhattan, then to Leonard Street in Tribeca, and finally to Broadway near Bleecker Street — one of the few chocolate-related buildings of its time that still stands, at least in part, to this day. New York poet Walt Whitman was known to have frequented an adjacent bar during the time of Mendes’ chocolate operation. Maine-born Henry McCobb’s Owl Brand chocolate was short-lived and the site of his 1880s shop on East 22nd Street near Gramercy Park is now a modern apartment building. McCobb was among the first to use photography in his advertising. Claude Crave made chocolate at the same location in the years after McCobb, and with him we see not only the transfer of existing chocolate companies, but also an example of shifting partnerships in New York’s chocolate “community.” Crave started making chocolate in SoHo at 16 Grand Street in the 1870s and at 176 Chambers Street in the 1880s. Though the relationship between Crave and McCobb is unknown, Crave partnered over the years with Philander Griffing and Alfred Martin, who at various points were independent themselves. Martin was also a partner of Mendes years prior. Other similar professional relationships I’ve uncovered suggest a tight-knit community and exchange of ideas and skills that mirror the craft chocolate industry today.

645 Broadway, Mendes chocolate factory

645 Broadway, site of the Mendes chocolate factory

In contrast to the small independent makers, likely limited to serving the local or regional consumer, larger companies with broader reach emerged, with large factories that no doubt employed the latest in chocolate-making machinery. Henry Maillard emigrated to New York in the 1840s and built an empire that culminated in a massive factory along Sixth Avenue, as well as a flagship retail store that stood nearby at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue across from Madison Square Park (the current site of Eataly). Herman Runkel began making chocolate at Maiden Lane and Broadway downtown in the 1870s and eventually operated out of a block-long facility on West 30th Street near today’s Penn Station. Huyler’s was another well-known brand that continued into the early 1900s, with a modest factory at Irving Place and 18th Street that opened in the 1880s. John Hawley and Herman Hoops, two independent confectioners, would join forces to create the Hawley & Hoops brand that would later be acquired by Mars; their factory on Lafayette Street just below Houston Street now houses fashionable condos. Of note is the fact that many of these companies used chocolate making equipment manufactured by Jabez Burns (a pioneer in both coffee and cocoa roasting) at his factory at 43rd Street and 11th Avenue.

Henry Maillard Chelsea factory

Henry Maillard’s Chelsea factory


Advertisement for Hawley & Hoops

Other companies, both domestic and foreign, would at various times set up shop in New York for retail and for limited manufacturing. The Massachusetts-based Walter Baker Co. was perhaps the most prominent brand of its day, with offices in lower Manhattan, and at a later date, ownership of the East 22nd Street factory previously occupied by McCobb and Crave. English import Cadbury ran its New York operation out of 78 Reade Street in Tribeca, and Emile Menier opened an outpost of his French company nearby at Greenwich and Murray Streets. One surprising discovery was the brief existence of a Hershey factory at 21st Street and 6th Avenue around 1920; it is a bit ironic that I began this project looking for chocolate near the current downtown location of ICE, when it existed just a block away from our former facility!

After the turn of the 20th century, virtually all of the chocolate-makers in New York faded or were simply absorbed by larger companies that eventually moved either to the outer boroughs or out of the city altogether as density (and property value) increased. As these final remnants of chocolate manufacturing disappeared, there remained a decades-long void, bridging little gap between iconic brands of their day and the current crop of craft chocolate makers in the city. Once again, we find the number of New York-based chocolate makers fairly small (and admittedly, located primarily in Brooklyn). Walking into the ICE Chocolate Lab each day, I feel honored to play a small role in the city’s rich chocolate history and as I wander the neighborhoods from the Financial District to SoHo to Chelsea to the East Village, I’m now constantly reminded of the names and places of chocolate-makers past.

Want to study with Chef Michael? Click here to learn about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

Introduction by Caitlin Gunther
Interview by Carly Evans

Chocolate: where most people see a tasty treat for immediate consumption, Chef Ebow Dadzie sees a world of possibilities for his next creation. A chef instructor at Monroe College and pastry chef for the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, Chef Ebow has earned a host of praise for his chocolate artistry — named as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional magazine in 2015; awarded the honor of Most Influential Pastry Chef by the Black Culinary Alliance in 2012; named pastry chef of the year by Paris Gourmet in 2007; and more. Chef Ebow even earned the Guinness World Record for building the tallest sugar skyscraper in 2006 — talk about setting your sights high.

ICE is excited to host Chef Ebow for his upcoming hands-on course, Chocolate Showpiece with Ebow Dadzie, where students will learn to create their own sweet masterpieces. We spoke with the award-winning pastry chef to ask him about his signature style and his advice for rising pastry students.

Pastry Chef Ebow Dadzie

If you had to choose, what would you say is your “signature” item?

It’s very hard to choose a signature item, but if I had to, it would incorporate hazelnut and dark chocolate. I’ve had success with these flavors within the classroom, work and in competition for many years.

Your family is from Trinidad and Tobago. Do you ever integrate ingredients or recipes from these roots into your work?

Absolutely — I’d be crazy not to! When I introduce flavors from Trinidad, I am able to bring something different to the table. These are not necessarily new flavors, but they’re flavors that people don’t see often so they add intrigue. The response to this has always been positive. I also like to take risks with my creations. By introducing Caribbean flavors like tamarind, soursop (a creamy, sweet and sour fruit) and sorrel, I’m adding my personal touch but also challenging myself to create something special that represents where I come from.

As a teacher in Monroe College’s hospitality program, do you have any thoughts on the future of traditional food education?

I’ve noticed that the drive and energy that we used to have back in the day just isn’t in some students entering the industry today. If the students aren’t passionate about what they are doing, then the educational program isn’t going to be successful either. I believe, as educators, it’s our responsibility to energize and fuel the excitement in our students. We have to promote our industry and prepare these students to work hard and challenge themselves. We also have to lead by example, by being passionate, working hard ourselves and becoming mentors to the next generation of great chefs.

Sky’s the limit: where would you go on your next trip and why?

I have a few places on my list for the near future. Egypt has always been on my radar. Ever since I was young, I wanted to see the pyramids and experience the culture, so Egypt might be next for me.

What is one piece of general advice you would give students of pastry and confections?

As a student in my very first baking class, I received a C grade and I questioned if pastry was the industry for me. But I didn’t allow that grade to discourage me. I continued to push myself because I wanted better for myself. I practice something that I learned in high school, which I now pass on to my students: The 4 Ds. You must have the Desire to want to achieve something. Be Determined to do the necessary things in order to achieve what you desire, because it won’t be handed to you. Continue to stay Dedicated to your goal. And while you continue to achieve all these great things, stay Disciplined and remember to stay humble in your success. Great words from one of my favorite reggae artists, Buju Banton, that I like to remind my students: “It’s not an easy road.”

Ready to get creative with chocolate? Click here to register for Chocolate Showpiece with Chef Ebow.

By Caitlin Gunther

Calling all foodies: Beginning October 13, the New York City Food & Wine Festival will be taking New York by storm. Held in the culinary capital of the world, the four-day festival has an amazing lineup that includes tastings, demonstrations, dinners and hands-on classes led by culinary experts. Over a dozen ICE alumni are participating in this year’s events, including Matt Hyland of Emily Pizza and Emmy Squared, Anne Redding of Uncle Boons and Mr. Donahue’s, Sohui Kim of the Good Fork and Insa, Miguel Trinidad of Jeepney and MaharlikaMarc Murphy of Landmarc and Ditch Plains, Julian Plyter of Melt Bakery, Amy Scherber of Amy’s BreadScott Levine of Underwest Donuts, and Eden Grinshpan, who will be hosting a Kosher Dinner at the brand new restaurant Bison & Bourbon in Brooklyn, where innovative chefs — including Amitzur Mor of Barbounia NYC — will share fresh takes on Israeli and Middle Eastern culinary traditions.

For its part, the Institute of Culinary Education will once again be hosting all of the festival’s Master Classes, including Bread Making with Bien Cuit’s Zachary Golper, a Roasting Master Class with prolific food writer Melissa Clark of The New York Times, Cake Decorating with the internationally celebrated Sylvia Weinstock and a Chocolate Master Class taught by ICE’s Creative Director and acclaimed Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis. In anticipation of Chef Michael’s sold-out course—being held in our educational bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab—we asked him a few questions about his chocolate preferences and what students will learn in his exciting course.

What can attendees of the Chocolate Master Class expect to walk away with?

Regrettably, we can’t make chocolate entirely from start to finish in such a short time, but attendees will get a crash course in the many steps and innumerable variables in play throughout the chocolate making process, touching and tasting each step from raw bean to finished bar.

Will they be able to recreate any of the in-class recipes at home?

Without chocolate making equipment at home, the process is difficult to replicate. However, I think the insight offered will radically change one’s perspective of chocolate as an ingredient. If anything, attendees can transform chocolate from our lab as they see fit in their own kitchen!



Which do you prefer (for personal consumption): dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

Dark chocolate—typically anything reaching beyond 60% cocoa solids—will always provide the most intense and complex tasting experience. But most of us were raised on milk chocolate, which has become somewhat underrated and when done well can be spectacular. One of my favorite styles of chocolate to make (and consume) is what we might call “dark milk”—a higher cocoa percentage than average, but with just enough milky creaminess to satisfy nostalgic cravings.

Any other classes or events you are looking forward to at NYCWFF?

I’m seriously considering sneaking into Sylvia Weinstock’s cake decorating class; she’s a legend in the world of cake. I’m envious of all who are enrolled in Zachary Golper’s bread workshop; his bakery Bien Cuit is one of the best in NYC. And I’ve long respected Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern; it’s exciting just to have him in the building.


To make amazing chocolate, ICE’s Chocolate Lab is equipped with high quality products including Tomric chocolate moulds and equipment

Didn’t score a spot at Chef Michael’s NYCWFF course? Click here to check out classes with Chef Michael at ICE. 

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