Palate Exploration: MoKAYA Chocolate and Beer

On Thursday, February 2nd our education team is partnering up with MoKAYA chocolates for the second time to explore how chocolate and beer pair together. Our Curriculum Coordinator, Michael Steil, headed down to the shop to pick the brain of owner/chef Charles Golczynski and to get a bit more background into where his seemingly endless fount of inspiration comes from. After enjoying a KBS truffle (that’s right, made with KBS) and cereal milk ice cream, they got right into it.

Michael– When did you decide to move from your catering business to opening your storefront?

Charles– We started doing chocolates at my catering company around 1995 and that’s when the idea started to blossom. At the time, I was executive chef and owner and I had a staff who could really handle the day-to-day themselves. This allowed me to play around with things like chocolates and other confections and to work with a lot of amazing people while I learned the ropes.

Michael– Were chocolates something you decided to do on a simple level in order to expand your offerings through your catering business or did you jump into the high end stuff right off the bat?

Charles– Actually, a customer came to us from New York and she asked us to do this big event out at Frederick Meijer Gardens and she wanted it to look like a jewelry store, but with truffles. At that point this idea of coloring truffles like I do now, you know so intensely, was really just starting out. Not a lot of people were doing it. One of the people who was doing it was a friend of mine in the culinary program at Baker College, Luis Amado, who is himself a world-renowned pastry chef and a teacher there and he taught chocolate. So I went to him and learned from him how to do it, and from there I just kept going. I got well schooled by a number of people like Michael Recchiuti out in San Francisco, the Guittard Chocolate company also in San Francisco, and also Jacques Torres in New York. So, with all of that combined knowledge that I was gaining I kind of created my own thing. I was really interested in the way we design chocolates now. This airbrush gun and the splatter effect and everything we can do for the eyes to see it and just kind of wow yourself with, and then dive into the flavors. It kind of a twofold thing, not only designing the truffles visually, but the flavors of course. You have to balance that, both have to be equally as tasteful in order to produce a quality product.

Michael– Some of your truffles that I have tried utilize flavors that I wouldn’t have expected, for example sun-dried tomato and chocolate. Does your ability to reach for uncommon ingredients and use them successfully stem from the fact that you are a chef turned chocolatier?

Charles– Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with it. We don’t really use any flavorings, like when I started we were using “flavorings” like peppermint oil, etc, whereas now we’re going back to kinda ground zero where we’re using actual mint to do our flavoring, the actual herb. We use things like fresh lavender and fresh peppercorns and Thai basil and to me the flavor is far superior and at times much more intense. I’ve tried a lot of combinations that have turned out amazing but, I gotta tell you, I’ve had some monster booboos too, I mean some real monster booboos. You need those though to learn from. Without learning what doesn’t work It’s hard to learn what does work. Now we’re working with a lot of beer and alcohol in our truffles and that has been really interesting. I mean who would have thought that something like beer would work so amazingly well, which is why we’re here talking now right?

Michael– It absolutely is! What is the first pairing you can remember loving?

Charles– Since I’ve been a little kid, and my daughter is the same way, I’ve always done what I call the combo bite. A lot of people like to separate their food, you know keep the meat away from the potatoes and away from the vegetables and all that. For us it has to be a combo bite or forget it. It has to be some of this and that and that over there all on one fork. From a very early age I was playing around with different flavors and ingredients and how they worked together, which is I guess what led me to where I am now!

If you’d like a chance to talk to Charles and try his incredible chocolates while we pair each of them with one of our beers, join us on February 2nd at 6pm in The Embassy. Tickets are available here.

Want chocolate immediately? Stop in at his store to try his truffles or his insanely delicious hot chocolates, or stop at our Company Store to try his Founders beer flight truffle sets. And, for the love of all that is delicious and beautiful in the world, try the cereal milk ice cream. You won’t be sorry.

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