On February 14, 2017, Cocoa V Chocolat re-opened its doors at 174 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea; Cocoa V is an artisanal vegan chocolate store. In 2013, owner Pamela Elizabeth of Urban Vegan Kitchen, Blossom, and Blossom du Jour, was forced to close Cocoa V after her original chocolatier left; Elizabeth was unable to find another chocolatier. Elizabeth's mission is to raise awareness about animal advocacy through people's palates and plates. She's a 20 year restauranteur performing advocacy through food. However, after coming across Damion Badalamenti, Elizabeth was able to re-open Cocoa V last month.
I was given the privilege to talk to Badalamenti and ask him about his experience as a chocolatier and how he plans to show his passion for chocolate through his creations at Cocoa V.
Badalamenti is a 21-year-industry-trained chocolatier, who has experience in both restaurant kitchens and the hospitality industry. Though Badalamenti himself is not vegan, his kitchen at Cocoa V is 100% vegan, which goes to show that vegan food is most definitely for everyone. As of right now, Badalamenti is making every piece of chocolate and pastry sold at Cocoa V by himself and he aims to "create movement in the mouth with something that is just eight grams." Badalamenti most definitely achieves his goal by using inventive and edgy flavors in his chocolates. Some of the current Cocoa V bon bon flavors include: Lavender Vanilla, Raspberry Ginger, PB&J, and Pistachio Apple.
As much as Badalamenti enjoys creating something that is "so small, so complete" in just one bite, he hopes to use Cocoa V as a catalyst to change the world of American chocolate. Even though there are a few outliers, American chocolatiers as a whole are not as renowned as European or even Japanese chocolatiers; Badalamenti aspires to bring a feeling of nostalgia into every single piece of chocolate he crafts, as he admires the Old European way of chocolate crafting and finds it more romantic. His love for European chocolate was so strong that he even spent time as an apprentice there, working on perfecting his palate and technique.
As for the chocolate itself, Badalamenti says it is quite the process. While ideas for a new piece chocolate or pastry sometimes originate from random inspiration, Badalamenti noted that he most typically draws new flavor ideas by doing lots of eating; “I like eating. I will just start eating things” Badalamenti admitted. Despite the flavor creating process seeming super awesome from an outsider, Badalamenti shed light upon the fact that is most definitely not as easy as it seems. Badalamenti recalled on times when he crafted chocolates that he loved, but did not resonate with others: “Things that were amazing to me, nobody bought.” However, these instances have helped Badalamenti consider his clientele more carefully. In the end, Badalamenti said, ‘"I'm in the business of making people happy" and he continues to do so; this time, with Pamela Elizabeth by his side
Badalamenti and Elizabeth “feel good about the product together.” While Cocoa V is currently focusing on chocolate and some baked goods—cookies, cake, and cupcakes included—the summer will bring vegan ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, and even Belgian waffles. Cocoa V’s products are the best of both worlds: inclusive to all dietary restrictions and more importantly, delicious. There is no doubt that Elizabeth's team will forever transform the way New Yorkers look at chocolate.