February 10, 2009
As a successful criminal defense lawyer for nearly 20 years, Shawn Askinosie cut his teeth on mid-level felonies, always striving “to make a difference, promote social justice and fight my heart out for the little guy.”
Not surprisingly, since deciding to make a career change from the court room to the cacao fields in 2005, Askinosie has applied the same kind of drive and passion to chocolate-making.
An avid foodie – Askinosie pursued his hobby of cooking and baking to the point of seriously considering opening up a bakery – the defense lawyer turned chocolate maker began making “chocolate from the bean…by following the principles set forth at www.chocolatealchemy.com” at home.
Upon his wife’s urging - “The kitchen at home was beginning to look like a war zone” - Askinosie shifted his chocolate operation to his office kitchen. In 2005, he decided to fully commit himself to chocolate, travelling to the Amazon near the Peruvian border to study cacao post-harvest techniques under the instruction of Jean-Luc Battini, a leading world cocoa agronomist with CIRAD, the French research institute.
Later, he also worked at a gourmet chocolate factory in Guayaquil, Ecuador, alongside a master chocolate maker, which allowed Askinosie to learn, watch and listen. Upon returning to Springfield, Askinosie, together with his wife, Caron, opened up Askinosie Chocolates in the city’s historic Commercial St. district.
As an artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer, all of Askinosie’s products are made from authentic traceable single-origin beans that are sourced from small farmers. The company’s range of products include 85-gram bars, one kilo (2.2 lbs) moulded bars and roasted cocoa nibs.
“It is not my goal to be voted the best chocolate maker in the world or that Askinosie Chocolate be loved by millions,” he says. “My hope is that Caron and I together will make good chocolate that many people will greatly enjoy.”
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a lawyer since I can remember and I did that for almost 20 years. My dad was a lawyer before he died at a young age and I spent a lot of time at the courthouse with him, at his office and asking questions about trials.
Name one or some of your favorite movies.
“It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Kite Runner.”
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
Renting a house with my family in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and soaking up the high desert sun, snacking on blue corn tortillas, and enjoying the smell of piñon.
What book are you currently reading?
The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel.
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
What’s your pet peeve?
I’d give anything to meet:
The Apostle Paul.
The best piece of advice that I’ve gotten:
Perfect love drives out fear.
What excites you most about your job?
Working with the children of our neighborhood in the Chocolate University program. The children are poor but rich at the same time.