Sam Ratto didn’t know he wanted to be a bean-to-bar chocolatier. That discovery came after he and his wife, Star Sink-Ratto, moved to Raleigh, N.C. Upon their arrival, a friend arranged for them to get jobs at a local bean-to-bar chocolate factory.
It was there that Ratto became convinced that chocolate was to become his life’s work, the revelation coming after he sat down in front of a pile of cocoa beans and started sorting them. It triggered a thirst for knowledge about cacao and chocolate-making — one that eventually led him to opening up Videri Chocolate Factory with his wife and good friend, Chris Heavener.
The trio committed to making and selling “the best tasting Fair Trade, organic, bean-to-bar chocolate in the South,” opening up their facility in the winter of 2011. Housed in a 1912 railroad depot in Raleigh’s warehouse district, Videri Chocolate Factory reflects its Latin/Italian namesake.
North Carolina’s state motto, “Esse Quam Videri,” translates into “To be, rather than to seem.” And videri in Italian means “to see.” Hence, visitors to Videri Chocolate Factory can see the entire process, from sorting and roasting to winnowing and grinding, from conching and tempering to moulding and hand-packing.
“The heart of our company is our factory and retail space in downtown Raleigh,” says Ratto. “We built our lovely factory with the purpose of being transparent to all our guests. Folks who visit are free to see each step of the chocolate-making process from start to finish. The intent of our factory and retail space is to be an exciting and pleasurable place for all to enjoy.”
Sourcing beans from Central and South America, the company produces three varieties of dark chocolate bars: Classic Dark, Sea Salt and Pink Peppercorn. It also makes a 55% Dark Milk Chocolate. They also offer seasonal products, such as a Blueberry and Dark Milk Chocolate bar during the summer and a Peppermint Dark Chocolate in the winter.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
What if it was a “desserted” island, where everything was made out of a dessert! Wouldn’t have to pick just one :)
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
Anything involving babies, laughing at their parents ripping paper. It is joy in a pretty pure form.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Had a whole plan to play for Genoa in Italy, live in the village my Dad’s grandfather was born. Now my dream when I grow up is to be a great father and husband.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
My biggest pet peeve is the “blind eye” approach to goods that come from countries using child labor as a consistent practice. People who knowingly use products from countries and specific places using forced child labor should be ashamed of themselves.
What’s the last book you read?
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri.
What is your pet peeve?
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
My grandmother Irene Ratto, she passed away a few years ago now. But, I think she would flip out and have a blast making chocolate cakes and desserts, with Videri Chocolate. She was one of the first real influences of art and culture in my life.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I got from my Mom, which was “Go for it, you can do anything you feel passionate about.”
What excites you most about your job?
Learning. I have to learn something new every day to keep up with the science of chocolate. It is the best challenge I have ever encountered!