Sweet secrets – This Valentine’s, one man supplies romantics with his life’s work | TheUnion.com

Sweet secrets – This Valentine’s, one man supplies romantics with his life’s work

If chocolate is indeed the elixir for love, then chocolatier Ken Kossoudji may be the cocoa bean’s leading alchemist in western Nevada County.

Kossoudji makes his chocolate confections by hand with the best ingredients he can find, and his handiwork is on display – and for sale – Tuesday through Saturday at Dorado Chocolates in Grass Valley.

The hand rolled truffles are made from a blend of trinitario and criollo cocoa beans, not the forastero beans favored by the likes of Hershey and Mars.

Only Tahitian vanilla – not vanilla extract, thank you – is used in his popular Tahitian caramel.

None of this comes cheap, but Kossoudji was convinced western Nevada County was ready for premier chocolates when he opened Dorado a year ago – just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The day honoring the patron saint of lovers is actually No. 4 (after Halloween, Easter and Christmas) when it comes to candy sales, according to the National Confectioners Association.

But chocolate is linked to love – Casanova supposedly used it in his conquests – and the trade association expects more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate to be sold by the end of Monday.

Kossoudji is confident he will sell his share.

“There’s a real strong pull for gourmet-level chocolate,” he said. “People are becoming more conscious of what they’re eating. … They may not eat a lot of chocolate, but they want to eat the best.”

That’s not the sort of talk you expect to hear from a man with an electrical engineering degree and an MBA who handled sales and marketing for a $135 million division of a semiconductor equipment manufacturer two years ago.

But Kossoudji grew up in the chocolate candy business. His father made it for 40 years, and he sold his own custom chocolate via mail order when he wasn’t peddling chip-making equipment.

“I always enjoyed it,” he said. “I worked on my own recipes for years.” He finally decided to “get out of the rat race … and do something enjoyable.”

Several of his colleagues in Silicon Valley hailed from Nevada County, and their stories encouraged him to visit the area when he decided to leave the Bay Area.

He bought the building at 104 E. Main St. that houses his business and found a house he liked. “I took that as a signal that this was the place for me,” Kossoudji said.

Dorado carries two lines of chocolate confections:

• The American classic line, which uses family recipes developed over several decades;

• His signature line, “D,” which utilizes old-world candy making techniques from France and the best ingredients he can find.

Kossoudji makes periodic trips to France, where he said he works with master craftsmen to learn their techniques and refine his own. While he admires Belgian chocolate, he is convinced the French are the best at turning the cocoa bean into confections that few can resist.

He used converture-grade chocolate, the best France has to offer, in his signature line. No preservatives are used in the hand-made chocolates.

Because chocolate confections have a shelf life of two to four weeks, he can work fairly conventional hours. Nevertheless, his work day can last 10 to 12 hours as Kossoudji and his two assistants work to meet the growing market for his confections.

Kossoudji said he is drawing customers from Roseville, Sacramento and other areas outside the county, and eventually wants to open stores in the state capital and the Bay Area.

He sells some of his creations wholesale to specialty stores and is getting ready to sell candy online. He can also handle special orders that feature a company’s logo.

Kossoudji is willing to put up with the stress of working long days to build his business. “I really like to creative aspect of the work,” he said. “I can do what I want to do.”

Despite the fact he works with chocolate all day, he’s actually lost 12 pounds since he opened the business. Kossoudji attributes that accomplishment to what he calls the Dorado diet.

He eats one piece about 11 a.m., before lunch, and then has a little more later in the day.

“Like your mother said, chocolate will kill your appetite,” he said. “The key is to eat it in moderation.”

Dorado Chocolates can be reached at 272-6715.

The lore of love and chocolate

The original St. Valentine was martyred about 12 centuries before chocolate was introduced to Europe, but the patron saint of lovers has been linked to the sweet confection for a long time.

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to taste chocolate about 1520 A.D. in present day Mexico. Aztec emperor Moctezuma drank a mixture of cocoa mixed with spices, vanilla and a small amount of honey because he believed it improved his virility.

The first cocoa beans were shipped to Spain in 1585, where preparation of the drink remained a Spanish secret until it was introduced into Italy in 1606, and then France. That’s when it started to develop a reputation as an aid to lovers.

Casanova, the legendary Italian paramour, was said to use chocolate in the seduction of his 122 conquests. Madame du Barry, the mistress of King Louis XV, reportedly employed chocolate in her amorous adventures.

While scientists have debunked the notion that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, the National Confectioners Association estimates that more than 64 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day.

– George Boardman

Source: National Confectioners Association, http://www.athenapub.com

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