Making (sweet) things work
For Brian Pelletier, getting into chocolate was quite a journey.
As a student in college he studied engineering, only to turn to business marketing after he graduated. He worked in that field for 20 years — and then chocolate found him.
Pelletier knew what his perfect job looked like. He wanted to run his own business, work with his hands, and do something food-related. So, when he found out about some chocolate making equipment up for sale, he knew exactly what he needed to do.
Thus, in 2008 Pelletier quit his job and started learning the ins and outs of chocolate. A friend showed him the basics of making the chocolate, but he also spent a lot of time reading.
As he notes, a lot of what happens to chocolate happens at a molecular level, and understanding chocolate meant understanding these processes — something his math and science background helped him do.
Kakao Chocolate’s first retail store opened in 2009 in St. Louis, with a second one opening in Maplewood, Mo., in February of last year. Kakao Chocolate is also sold in Whole Foods and Straub’s locally.
Pelletier is still eager to learn — chocolate is more complex and interesting than he knew before he got into the business — and he hopes to spread that knowledge. Too many people only know “gas-station chocolate,” as he calls it, the same branded chocolate that can be found everywhere.
Pelletier wants people to learn to enjoy chocolate as he has come to enjoy it — as something special.
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
As a little kid I wanted to be an astronaut, of course! When I got older I wanted to be an engineer, and studied that in college. I didn’t know how useful that would be in the chocolate and confections business.
Name one of your favorite movies.
I love Rocky because of the way it portrays someone who works incredibly hard to make his dream come true.
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
Touring Paris and the rest of France, visiting every chocolate shop, patisserie, and hilltop village I can find.
What book are you currently reading?
Best Practices are Stupid by Stephen Shapiro. I love the idea of never setting on something as “the best,” because there’s always something better that you haven’t found yet.
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
I’m sure that Willy Wonka would be great fun, and would be able to find creative ways for us to not only survive, but live quite comfortably!
What is your pet peeve?
People who don’t understand the difference they can make by shopping small, local, artisan shops instead of big box retailers.
I’d give anything to meet:
I’d love to meet Peter Greweling, author of Chocolates and Confections, which is our go-to book at Kakao for not only recipes, but also the why’s and how’s of making all kinds of confections.
The best piece of advice I’ve received:
The biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.
What excites you most about your job?
We get to have fun and be creative and work hard and give people great experiences with chocolate that make them incredibly happy. What could be better than that?.