The Sweet Life
Posted on Feb. 1, 2017
First things first: Chuao is a “Joy Company” that makes chocolate, not the other way around. With large wooden letters roughly five feet tall that spell “JOY” standing proudly at the entrance of the chocolatier’s sleek Carlsbad headquarters, Chuao makes no secret of how they’d like you to feel when you visit. It’s not a marketing motto with zero weight behind it. The credo courses through every aspect of the company’s operations. Even the official title of the company’s founder, Venezuelan-born Master Chocolatier and Chef Michael Antonorsi, is not CEO, but rather “Chief Joy Activator.”
Known for pushing the envelope with his creations, which always begin with a proprietary recipe of ethically-sourced, premium quality chocolate, some of Antonorsi’s most popular offerings include rosemary caramel, potato chips, and even bacon. Two new flavors just announced at San Francisco’s Fancy Food Show last month, Cheeky Cheeky Churro and Totally Tangy Mango, pay homage to Antonorsi’s Latin roots and the spirit infused within the Chuao ethos.
While some flavor combinations are unconventional, Antonorsi and his team temper their creativity with a respect for consumers’ palates. “One thing I like to say is that we’re more suggestive than literal,” he explains. “The whole idea is that when you have the experience, in the end you taste everything in a savory-sweet combination. Ours is an invitation to enjoy a subtle, gradual evolution of the tastes. Nothing is overpowering; nothing takes center stage.”
Though he’s wearing a t-shirt that reads “Joy is my superpower,” Antonorsi’s dedication to the mantra is serious business. “It’s a mind-boggling, simple equation,” he says. “If you feel good, you’re going to produce more. If you’re respected, accepted, feel the freedom to be yourself, you’re going to bring all your talents to the table.”
His commitment to Chuao as a conduit for joy extends beyond his 77 employees and into every product bearing the Chuao label. Even the labels themselves have a role in spreading what Antonorsi prefers to call the company’s intention (versus “mission”) “to share joy with the world through engaging chocolate experiences.” The Enamored Collection, a series of three organic, high percentage cacao, fruit-and-floral bars, bears inspiring messages celebrating self-worth, including “Your eyes are the color of hope,” “You are freckled with purpose,” and “Your voice sounds like grace.” A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these bars is donated to Girls, Inc., a nonprofit mentoring organization that inspires girls to be strong, smart, and bold — a beneficiary that resonates personally with Antonorsi, himself a father of three daughters.
Following a culinary education in Paris and further research in Spain, in 2002 Antonorsi chose San Diego to launch Chuao. The former Triton — he holds a bio-medical engineering degree from UC San Diego — says he always felt very connected to the area. “UCSD was one of the best times of my life. College in California — you can’t ask for more!” The company expanded to a 53,000-square-foot factory/warehouse in Carlsbad last February, where they create 25 bar varieties and 30 bon bons, seasonal flavors, drinking chocolates, and even wine and beer pairings. Chocophiles can find Chuao’s unique confections locally in their Encinitas and Del Mar boutiques, as well as at their Carlsbad HQ, which offers a bonus: visitors can witness the mouth-watering creative process inside the factory right through a window in the boutique. chuaochocolatier.com Deanna Murphy
Special offer for Ranch & Coast readers: Use code RANCHCOAST at checkout to enjoy 20% off your Chuao purchase. Offer valid 2/1/16- 3/31/17 on full priced product only, while supplies last on ChuaoChocolatier.com or at Chuao Chocolatier locations in Del Mar Highlands, Encinitas Lumberyard, and Carlsbad Joy Factory. Not valid with any other discount, offer or promotion. No rainchecks, cash value or substitutions. Not valid on alcohol or shipping charges.
Photography by Vincent Knakal