While I have never been one to choose chocolate cake over vanilla, or over a crème brulee or a soufflé… or chocolate over most things really, the rich treat nonetheless always has a sort of magical hold over me. I am a sucker for a good chocolate truffle or a dark chocolate-dipped banana – I mean, who isn’t? Fortunately for me, nay, fortunately for St. Louis, a man by the name of Brian Pelletier felt this pull as well.
The Founder and Chief Chocolatier of Kakao Chocolate, Pelletier, a Minnesota native, has established both himself and his business as fixtures in the St. Louis community. In the eight short years since the company’s nascence, he has opened three locations across the city in Maplewood, on Jefferson Avenue, and, his most recent venture, in Clayton. In addition to Kakao Chocolate, Pelletier is a co-founder and co-owner of Larder & Cupboard, a specialty foods store also in Maplewood. What can I say; clearly this man has a gift.
Kakao Chocolate is a bright, magical, and happy store full of chocolate and candy galore. Pelletier and his team create and offer everything from seasonal pumpkin truffles to fruit pates, from grill rubs to homemade marshmallows. According to Pelletier, the must-have items on the menu are the dark chocolate sea salt caramels, the treasure boxes, and any of their seasonal truffles. Naturally, when I went to the store I had to get all three, and true to his word, they were all absolutely amazing.
But Kakao Chocolate is so much more than just high-quality and unique treats. Pelletier also wants to educate his customers about his products, which is why he offers chocolate tasting parties. During one of these parties, Pelletier teaches you about where chocolate comes from, how to make it, its health benefits (yes, chocolate actually can be good for you), and so much more. You bring the wine and he’ll supply everything else. Think about doing something like this for your next birthday party or girl’s night out.
When I asked Pelletier what the most rewarding part of opening and owning his own business has been, he told me, “The creativity in the kitchen and seeing my customer’s faces after trying my chocolate are the reasons why I love what I do so much.” He attributes both his success and his happiness to them. Pelletier loves that through his passion for food, which he realized at an early age, he has managed to create products that change the way people look at candy and chocolate. “Seeing how satisfied the customer is eating my dark chocolate dipped sea salt caramels or going through one of my chocolate tasting parties, it just simply makes me feel happy,” he says. I can only hope that I will be fortunate enough to feel this way about my career someday. Of course, someone will have to hire me first.
A trip to any of the three Kakao Chocolate locations is more akin to visiting a friend’s home than anything else. It is clear to everyone who walks into one of Pelletier’s stores that he is passionate about what he does, is damn good at it, and that he cares about his patrons. After all, even after becoming a successful business-owner, Pelletier admits, “My favorite things about my business are still interacting with my customers and dipping the caramels.”