As chefs, we can often romanticize about the way something is prepared or the techniques that make something special we can put our sense of pride in the products we make and the ingredients we buy, but it's not every day that we can take the time away from the kitchen to visit the farm or our vendors. For us, chocolate was something we became passionate about the moment we got our hands on it. It can be used to create beautiful showpieces and can equally be admired for its technical elements and mindset needed to develop recipes and formulas. One of the first books we picked up on the matter was Ramon Morato's book, Chocolate, and it totally changed us and the way we saw chocolate. There were many ideas and visions planted in our heads after reading it, and one of them came true for us this year, a trip to Ecuador.
When we arrived in the country, we landed in one of the country's larger port cities just south of the equator, Guayaquil. As we stepped off the plane, the thought of what we were about to embark on still felt very unreal, until we met the first of many chefs that would be joining on the adventure, Ben Van Leeuwen of VanLeeuwen Ice Cream, Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell of UCLA, and Bernhard of Christy's Gourmet Gifts. Republica del Cacao (RDC) had arranged a trip for 12 other chefs and ourselves to visit, not just their cacao plantations, but to visit their sugar cane fields, dairy farms, and manufacturing facilities, making for an all-encompassing experience on how chocolate is made.