JWM MAGAZINE 64
David Briggs says about his newest creations. “People
would have looked at me like, ‘That seems really odd.
Why would you do that with chocolate?’”
Since he started Xocolatl de David in 2010 in Portland,
Oregon, Briggs has been making some of the world’s
most unusual chocolate bars. Formerly a cook and sous
chef at high-end restaurants, he considers chocolate a
food, not just an indulgence. That has led to confections,
both sweet and savory, with flavors such as Earl Grey tea,
Parmesan cheese, sourdough and olive oil.
Recently, Briggs has moved a step further, closer to
the void. Who would want foie gras chocolate? It turns
out that I do. Maybe it was the power of suggestion
after meeting him, but I couldn’t help feeling like I had
the smoothest, most unctuous chocolate I’d ever tasted
in my mouth. Yet it also had the unmistakable umami
earthiness of goose liver.
Now Briggs is unveiling his latest project: a series of
chocolate bars made in partnership with other chefs.
The first is a collaboration with Aaron Franklin of
Texas’s famed Franklin Barbecue. “We’re trying to capture the essence of his beef brisket in a chocolate bar,”
Briggs says. “Salty, peppery and, yeah, beefy. There are
actually crispy strands of beef brisket in it. I think it’s
delicious. Aaron loves it.”
Briggs pauses. Then he adds, “But it is incredibly
odd and weird.”
RAISING THE BAR
Until recently, chocolate hadn’t really evolved for more
than a century. The vast majority of it was sweet and
simple. Sourcing was considered irrelevant and never
mentioned on a package. With very few exceptions,
chocolate companies didn’t even make chocolate.
Instead, they purchased it pre-made, melted it, maybe
added almonds or raisins or dried fruit, and poured it
These days, people talk about chocolate like they do
coffee, or even wine. Where the beans originate—
typically humid, sun-scorched, equatorial places such
as Venezuela, Tanzania and Indonesia—has become
critically important. So, too, has the bean-to-bar pro-
cess, which is now often done on a boutique scale by
the chocolatier itself.
“You had new producers open up a totally new
market,” says Jean-Pierre Willemsen of Italy’s Domori,
which has focused on resurrecting the delicate — and
genetically pure — Criollo bean. “Millennials are look-
ing for sustainability, quality, health. They’re asking
questions about what they’re eating. They want to
Companies such as Domori do as little as possible to
their harvestings. They want the quality of their beans
and the specifics of their sites to be evident in every bar.
“As soon as you add anything,” says Willemsen, “you
Yet at the same time, chocolatiers such as Briggs have
been empowered by the market to let their imagina-
tions run wild. “We want to deliver purity, simplicity