Following your dreams and making your passion your profession. It’s something we strive for throughout our lives. For some people, following their passion comes effortlessly and early on. Others may not realize what their passion even is until later in life, and then they work for it tirelessly.
For Kristen Hard, the founder of and artisan behind Cacao, she knew early on her passion was in the confectionery arts – specifically chocolate. But, following her passion came as no easy task.
Kristen learned to cook early on, as a little girl, her mom allowed her to get very creative and almost everything she made involved sugar. Because Kristen’s mom didn’t allow sweets in the house – there were eight children total – she had to make her own.
Her dream was always to open a cafe, but as she honed her skills and refined her passion, her dream of becoming a chocolatier blossomed. Kristen quickly learned there was much more to the world of crafting fine chocolates than pouring molten cocoa into molds. There was a whole world of cacao plant genetics and technology to learn about, and she knew if she wanted to become one of the world’s finest chocolatiers, she had to know her raw product inside and out.
To create the world’s best chocolates, Kristen knew you had to have the best possible quality cacao bean, which comes from the perfect plant, grown in an ideal setting over time. Because cacao is considered a high-end, luxury commodity, sourcing the best product can be extremely difficult – Kristen likens it to diamonds. And, based on her somewhat scary and extreme, off-the-grid travel challenges she’s faced sourcing and now growing the ideal cacao plant, we have no room to argue. Kristen navigates the globe working with scientists, geneticists and farmers who all share her goal of creating the finest chocolate possible.
For Kristen, her chocolate is her art and she believes in working with the best possible medium to create a successful end product. And she’s creating quite a name for herself – she’s the first female chocolatier in the US to work from the cacao bean to produce her goods. And she’s proud of her grass-roots beginnings, she’s a self-taught strong female, who’s also a single mother to a four year old daughter. And Kristen says she’s never going to stop perusing her passion and working tirelessly to shape and improve the industry she’s chosen to work in.
Kristen’s hands on approach to the art of chocolate has garnered her many accolades thus far and she’s looking at greater success in the near future. Cacao currently boasts four brick and mortar boutique locations in the Atlanta area, as well as international sales that are showing exponential growth, especially in Japan where Kristen says the people have a true appreciation for her purpose – they understand perfection and want only the best.
In addition, Kristen will be publishing a cookbook this spring, which will be the first book that follows chocolate from it’s original, cacao seed form to finished product and showing home chefs that creating the highest quality chocolate is possible, right under their own roofs.
Kristen has created a triptych of chocolate levels under the Cacao umbrella – these include Twigg & Co., probably the closest to what we know of fine chocolate, Cacao Platinum and then Black Label, the finest quality chocolate Kristen can create. By offering chocolate in this way, Kristen feels she can best showcase the journey of fine chocolates and work to redefine what we think of as quality chocolate – her line is a prototype of what she believes the cacao industry should offer… Systematized, verified, certified, while being in control of the technology and science behind growing a top quality raw product.
Thank you to our new friend Kristen, and artisan chocolatier, for inviting us to her cafe in Atlanta’s Highland neighborhood and for sharing her passion – and even a few chocolates! – with us. She’s a truly inspiring artist and we believe there are a few key takeaways here for any of us who are ever evolving and working to follow our passion:
- It’s never to late (or early) to pursue your passion!
- Educate yourself and learn your chosen industry/medium from the ground up, inside and out.
- Experiment and make mistakes… Kristen holds vanilla tastings, dessert trials, and more with her staff (you could put your friends and family to the test if you don’t yet have your own professional crew) to ensure they’re using the best possible ingredients and crafting her chocolates and other sweet offerings to the best of their ability. They even dye their own sprinkles, which comes with plenty of trial and error!
- Never stop. Kristen’s fighting personality and passion for bettering her industry as a whole is what most stood out to us during our visit. Become your own industry champion and support will follow.
If you’re local here to the Atlanta area, find a Cacao location and stop by – you’ll be in heaven if you appreciate any type of sweet. And if you’re not local, check out Kristen’s online Cacao offerings. We can’t wait to hear what you think.
And remember to always follow your passion!!