Blog post Big beautiful World / Chocolate Lab Expedition - Original Beans

Written by Milena Solot

 

Chris Dodd's Big Beautiful World

A CHOCOLATE LAB EXPEDITION

Remember when we go somewhere we've never been before and freely explore? Remember the feeling of being a little bit lost but knowing it would be okay in the end? And as time seems to stretch so does our feeling of uncertainty...It's hard not to think of the present as if it were happening already in the future: remember that summer, when we were in lockdown, and we made that fantastic chocolate mousse? 

No one knows whats going to happen and yet we know that out there the big beautiful world is still here, and we feel like exploring it.

And so we take you onto a trip with Chris Dodd, that took him to the land of Cusco, Peru without knowing what to expect, indulging the great mystery that it provoked in him.

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Beneath the heights of Machu Picchu, the astonishing citadel built by the ancient Incas, grow the heirloom Chuncho cacaos that have survived the passing of times in the Urubamba Valley.

He travelled with the Original Beans team, French and Italian chocolate makers, wholesale partners and pastry chefs such as himself in one of the Original Beans Chocolate Lab Expedition Trips, right before the outbreak. It wasn’t only passion for chocolate that brought this group together but a shared sense of responsibility in changing chocolate’s main mental connection, namely that it's a sugary snack. No. Chocolate has so much flavour in it, it’s so versatile, it’s luxurious when it's made with the best available beans. Chris already knows this and has his own set of favourites to work with. He was first introduced to Original Beans in 2013 when he worked at Hotel Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London. Later on, when he was hired by the Rothschild family to set up a chocolate shop and café under their name, R Chocolate, he decided to use Original Beans chocolate as his supplier.

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Today, at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London, where he's Head Pastry Chef and, depending on the season, or on the dessert he is making, Chris' favourite beans are Zoque from Mexico, Piura from Peru; and the Beni Wild from Bolivia. He also uses them at home, when every afternoon he snaps a piece. Snap. Snap. The chocolate bar goes.

Chris never had an option. When the time came to choose a career path, he didn't have to think that much. He would cook. He would become a chef. He wanted to find the secret to create mini miracles with food; that hidden path that only the greatest of cooks can find; that which holds a promise: the promise of restoring the original flavours to the ingredients. A chocolate-lover from childhood, and growing up in South England, in a very small community of about 15 homes, he used to cook by himself or with his mother. They would bake cakes. Although it was pretty clear even then that what he liked to do was pastry, the realization didn't come until much, much later, when he was already studying in Westminster Kingsway College, London - where he was  awarded the Professional Chef Diploma - and one morning found himself elbow deep in an large squid. All of a sudden, the raw bitter smell of fish made him think: "Life has to be better than this" and then he decided to be a pastry chef because, well, what's more extravagant than working with sweet, melting and delicious ingredients? 

Growing up in the countryside also defined the sort of chef he would one day become: not only one that respects food and its natural sources, but one that respects the place it comes from. He became conscious of this at a very young age and managed to carry it on as he grew older and became the chef he is today. 

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In Peru he observed wild cacao growing in its natural environment for the first time; he helped Ernestina harvest the fruit, since she had a lot of work to do and her husband was away in the city; he ate all sorts of different types of fresh cacao, was basically running on sugar, and best of all, got to see the Andean Condor, 2 meters long, fly overheadsuch an extravagant animal when its in flight, such beauty and power, that he felt its wind in his hair as it flew over him. He also learned what makes one of his favourite top three beans from Original Beans so special; it's not only the slow (4 to 6 days) fermentation process but the precise handpicked process, the shipping and storing measures and, of course, the smells and tastes from the environment in which the fruit grows.

He had never been in Latin America before and the trip helped him break free of the paradigm he held of the region. He felt safe all the time, he enjoyed the high air, he tried all sorts of local and delicious food that made him wonder...and then, of course, there was chocolate.

"My parents told me don't play with your food but that's really what I do for a job".

Chris Dodd

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The local families are exceptionally proud of their Chuncho cacao heritage and many families carefully harvest beans from their oldest trees to make their own chocolate. They will be even prouder to see the first family of condors released in the wild again as a result of Original Beans’ Cusco Chuncho chocolate. (Since 2013, Original Beans supports a small, family-run Condor conservation project , the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary)

Chocolate. It has that character about it. Doesn't it? Nothing beats chocolate; its texture, its flavour, its multiple possibilities. He likes the fact that chocolate used to be something only the upper class could eat but that is now accessible to everybody. He has passion for chocolate and likes to share it with others.

Like Original Beans, he too seeks to spread knowledge of chocolate, its sources and, particularly,  its flavour. No, not sugary, not made in factories somewhere; chocolate as a healthy snack, chocolate as versatile ingredient that can be used in almost anything, even to moisturize your skin. Chocolate butter, chocolate mousse and chocolate in the afternoon tea, because he too believes chocolate should be part of this ritual, always. 

For him, it's all about the taste; he really likes the stronger taste of the cacao. He likes to study its flavour, find its quality. He likes making chocolate mousse because it's his technique that makes the difference -- the skill he puts into it.  And, frankly, with wild cacao beans, what could possibly go wrong? 

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Cusco 100%

Your purchase of the mighty Cusco 100% helps preserve an ancient cacao miracle and keeps the mighty condor in flight, because we plant or protect a tree for every single chocolate bar you buy.

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