Hey, you, nibbling on your Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar.
Paul Joachim, a chocolate and cake sculptor also known as The Chocolate Genius, would like to introduce you to one of the rarest, most exclusive chocolates in the world — a wild foraged milk chocolate made from cacao beans found in the lowland rainforests of Bolivia.
“The chocolate manufacturer I work with has created a relationship with Indigenous Indians,” Joachim said from home in Florida. “They go in by boat and foot into the islands with long sticks and take cacao pods off the trees. They transport them 683 miles from Bolivia to Chile to Switzerland to be processed.”
The rare wild cacao is then combined with pure Swiss mountain milk from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Entlebuch in Switzerland, and put through a 60-hour conching, a process of mixing, agitating and aerating heated liquid chocolate.
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“It’s the smoothest chocolate people will ever have had,” Joachim said. “Intense caramel. Cream. A forest honey. It unfolds into an ending of vanilla.”
If you attend Kidpower’s annual Chocoholic Frolic on June 10 at Ent Center for the Arts, you’ll get a chance to savor this exotic sweet treat that’ll make you rethink your 3 Musketeers.
For almost three decades the nonprofit has offered safety education programs to young people. Kids learn what Kidpower calls “people safety,” which refers to being emotionally and physically safe with themselves and others. The organization partners with more than 200 agencies, organizations and schools in the community.
“Kidpower is about self-empowerment,” Joachim said. “It’s empowering kids to have the skillset to identify issues, like emotional or physical, any negative behavior, and set boundaries.”
During the event, Joachim will create a mystery chocolate sculpture on stage, then introduce attendees to cacao pods before guiding them through a chocolate tasting.
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“The chocolate you go to the store and buy has one note,” he said. “It might be sweet or bitter. That’s not the chocolate I use. Depending on the fermenting process it develops different flavor profiles. In Belize you might get something more fruity. In Peru it might be more nutty. In the Philippines it’s more floral.”
He’ll also discuss the importance of sustainability when it comes to the cacao industry and how important it is to empower and support cacao farmers around the world.
“When we empower farmers they have resources to reinvest back in their farm in terms of sustainable practices,” Joachim said.
“In the cacao industry right now that’s not possible. The average revenue coming in for some cacao farmers can be less than a dollar a day. When you’re making that little money there’s no way to reinvest in a farm in a sustainable way. They’re in survival mode.”
Joachim is well-known for his fantastical cake and chocolate sculptures. He’s done mostly dark chocolate recreations of many famous folks, including Robin Williams, Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe, and an almost 10-feet tall, 250-pound LeBron James cake. He also does commissions of noncelebrity folks and can sculpt a chocolate elephant like nobody’s business. His largest piece was a life-sized silverback gorilla and its baby.
“Milk and white chocolate have more sugar and that sugar content isn’t great for what I do,” Joachim said.
“It’s all about timing and speed. I’m known for my speed. I’ve sculpted as fast as 20 minutes. If you give me one and a half to two hours you’d have a nice chocolate bust of yourself.”
A lifelong artist, Joachim earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Florida State University, while simultaneously spending hours in his dorm teaching himself to cook. Post-college, he leaned into food as his creative practice, throwing parties so he could polish and develop his culinary skills.
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It was his mom’s 60th cruise ship-themed birthday party in 2006 that shaped his career, when he made a sculpted cruise ship carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that produced more than 100 servings.
“The lightbulb went off — someday I want to do an actual sculpture out of cake,” Joachim said.
Five years later, he won Food Network’s “Extreme Alien Cake Challenge” with his 5 feet, 6 inch cake. At the time he owned a web development company, but he dropped it six years ago to do all chocolate, all the time.
“Chocolate connects people,” he said.
“Everyone has a visceral response to chocolate. Even if you don’t like it — 1 out of 100 don’t like it. But you still have a relationship with it even if you don’t like it. It’s a great way to break down barriers and divisiveness and genders.”
Contact the writer: 636-0270.
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