About me

Maybe it was the
gianduias that I gobbled up as a greedy three-year-old in Rome. Maybe it was the pralines that my Basque grandmother put on the dessert dish in her dining room in Bordeaux at Christmas. Whatever the case, somehow I was destined to fall head over heels in love with chocolate. It happened in the nicest possible way, when I was working for Barry Callebaut on the World Chocolate Masters competition at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris in November 2011.

Paris, WCM Finals 2011. 19-21 october 2011. Salon du Chocolat. Ivo Rovira & Ana Ponce/46020studio

But let’s begin at the beginning. If I have a sunny character — and people say I do — it’s because I was born in Italy. If I have taste for fine food and elegant clothes, it’s (probably) because my mother is French. And if I am down-to-earth and practical, it’s (maybe) thanks to my English father. All qualities that fit me for my journey to the sources of some of the world’s finest chocolate in the cocoa plantations of Peru.

Launch of innocent drinks in Paris Quality has been a leitmotif in my professional life so far. One of my first jobs (as a summer volunteer), was to work for Taylor’s, one of the top producers of port, in their lodge in Vilanova de Gaia, across the Douro river from Oporto in northern Portugal. After graduating from King’s College, London with a degree in Latin American studies, I did time as a market research consultant before joining one of Britain’s leading video games producers. From there I moved to innocent drinks, makers of some of the world’s finest bottled smoothies, which I helped to launch on the French market. Later, I helped to promote some of the world’s best whiskies, as a member of the marketing department of Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker and other leading brands.

But chocolate is where my heart is, as I discovered one fine day in the early autumn of 2011. During yet another meeting with marketing executives at Barry Callebaut, purveyor of fine chocolate to the world’s leading chocolatiers, to discuss promotional objectives for the 2012 edition of the World Chocolate Masters championship, I suddenly found myself dreaming that I was face-to-face with Patrick Roger in his luxurious Magnum chocolate suite at the five-star Hotel Bristol.

1304349998-karl-lagerfeld-et-patrick-roger-la-suite-chocolat-magnum--300x204

What does one say when confronted with a legend of French gastronomy in a room entirely made of chocolate?

Instead of asking him for a job (I did that later when I met him in person after having been captivated by his idiosyncratic approach to chocolate creativity), in my reverie I muttered something about the tastefulness of the furnishings. Patrick Roger and Chocolate Suite

There and then, however, I realised that the rich world of chocolate, uniting people and traditions across continents, was where I wanted to pursue my future. And so, after completing my assignment with Barry Callebaut,  I went to Peru and Ecuador to learn about chocolate in the countries which is where cacao first originated from.

me in Peru

This blog tells the story of all the amazing things I experienced in Peru and subsequently Ecuador. From my very first encounter with a cocoa pod, to my experiences living with local farming communities and understanding the ins and outs of a somewhat complex cocoa supply chain.

San Martin PeruFrom then on, thanks to this incredible experience, my career interests and ambitions have taken a different angle. Following my experience, I realise that there is still a lot of work to be done; mainly to support cocoa farmers and protect special cocoa varieties from extinction.

 As a result, today my interests lie in cocoa sustainability.  As wine connoisseurs rightly point out “the quality of the wine begins in the vineyard”, so does cocoa, and as the  countries who export, manufacture and consume the chocolate, it is our responsibility to ensure the the cocoa supply chain is as sustainable as possible for the farmers and the environment.

Liquor tasting with the cocoa farmers

12 replies

  1. Ya estoy en tu pagina webb y espero seguir tu periplo peruano . Ha sido un placer conocerte y pasar un día tan bonito con tu familia . Besarka da bat aundia : Juan Pablo

  2. What an exciting project! I recently visited the ChocoMuseo in Cusco, Peru, and had a chance to (very briefly) learn about Peruvian chocolate and the harvesting process. Perhaps more importantly, we then got to make some and eat it! 🙂

    All the best to you!

  3. I have not read all of your posts, but I have enjoyed your writing so far. Travel and chocolate, fantastic! Like most humans I love chocolate and it is one of my weaknesses.
    I’m a runner and I’ve been delighted to hear that chocolate milk is a great post race/workout beverage. Sometimes life is fair!

  4. Thanks to Freshly pressed, I’ve chanced upon your blog!! It’s an absolute dream!!! I tell kids the Aztec story of Chocolate…… I now have so much more info to share with them. Thank you. Your being followed. ; )

  5. What it must be like to work so intimately with the birth of chocolate. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. It will be exciting to follow your blog and your journey. The world of chocolate is indeed a delicious one that I, too, have found myself immersed in over the past three years.

  7. Wow this is such a unique and interesting project! Who would have thought you could learn so much about chocolate?! I have only read a small amount so far, but it has made me want to go and watch ‘Chocolat’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ now! Thanks for sharing this amazing experience with everyone 🙂

  8. Thank you for your blog. I have just found it and have enjoyed it very much. I am starting to research chocolate making in the 1800s in France as I have just found out a relative of mine was a chocolate maker somewhere in France. His name is Joseph Pierre Rochaix Born Aug 18, 1822 Ri gieu li desert married to Adelaide Continille. Have you by any chance come across this name. Thanks again for your blog…I will continue to follow. Isobel Rochaix

  9. Hi Juliet! I am writing a historical novel and the ancestors of my main character ran to Bayonne because of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. She travels back to Bayonne in search of her missing son. I am Brazilian but I will be in Mexico with my husband until the end of this year. If come to Mexico (a rich chocolate history and many initiatives in cocoa sustainability ), we will gladly receive you in our apartment. Mi casa es su casa! Congratulations and good luck!
    Katia

  10. juliet, your Peru project and Chocolates is so inspiring that i am invoked or for that matter provoked to try doing one myself. Its great and chocolates do drive me for lot of research.

  11. I am a writer and a chocoholic. Your articles, journey and stories are exceptional, I enjoy reading them. Keep up the excellent work.

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  1. When the cocoa trail becomes the chocolate trail | onthecocoatrail

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