Jade Chocolates creates a sophisticated and luxurious tasting experience by blending teas and spices from Asia and the Pacific Islands into our line of chocolates.
My cultural background is mixed. Not just because my father’s family is from China, and my mother is from the Phlippines, but because the culture in which I grew up in is non-homogeneous. I am a native San Franciscan, still living here and probably always will. I live in the center of a melting pot of different cultures and have been exposed to different foods and people, just by simply stepping outside my front door. The culinary delights of the city have made me appreciate the world, its people and their food.
I was originally destined to work in the architectural field. I graduated from UCDavis with a degree in Environmental Design. Prior to creating Jade Chocolates, I was an architectural designer. I’ve worked in both the public and private sectors, working on tiny 300 square foot studios apartments to multi-million dollar single-family homes. They were great jobs with great pay (well at least the one government job I had), but I didn’t feel passionate enough about my work. I felt I could do so much more. When I decided to raise a family, I knew that that was the beginning of my new life. I’d start a business, just like my grandfather, and be the best at what I create. From my daughter, I acquired my passion for artisan dark chocolate, and from my grandfather I inherited his drive and motivation.
Since I began this venture, I have taken several courses: an online course through Ecole Chocolat, a bean to bar course at UCDavis, and a truffle making class with Andrew Shotts of Garrison Confections. I haven't applied all that I have learned from the bean to bar and the truffle class, but I do plan to expand my existing product line.
The leap from architectural designer to chocolatier isn't that big. In fact, there are many similarities. Both are art forms. It all depends on how you translate yourself and how well your art is accepted by others. One aspect of arhitecture is that the designer should create habitable spaces that flow well. The transition between a living room, the adjacent kitchen and dining room has a great impact for it's users. A great flow between spaces means that you have a well thought out floor plan. And a great recipe for chocolate means that there is an ease of flow between flavors.
The Baby Connection
The joy of being pregnant gave me an insatiable appetite for only the freshest whole foods—fruits, nuts, vegetable and premium grade chocolate. I was always a fan of the milk variety until I got a craving for bittersweet, high quality chocolate during my pregnancy. I couldn’t get enough! My newfound love of dark chocolate opened up a whole new array of chocolate pleasure. I began to wonder, was there really something out there better than my childhood favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? I had a fascinating time exploring the differences in high end premium chocolate bars; the fruitiness of one chocolate bar over the smokiness of another. I love the different harmonies that chocolate can play in your mouth. One chocolate bar crescendos with a burst of flavor in the middle of the tasting experience, while another may have a more relaxed, subtle flavor profile. It’s just like wine, I thought, a far cry from the chocolate bar selection I was used to when I was a kid. My newly found love for chocolate was so profound that I had to have it in my life. This is how Jade Chocolates was born.
The Grandfather Connection
Why not be an entrepreneur? My grandfather did it. He owned two restaurants and three liquor stores during his lifetime. He didn’t just own these establishments, he ran them all as well. He was the cook serving up Chinese and American dishes and he was the clerk at his liquor stores.
Those stats are pretty impressive considering his meager beginnings. Grandpa was born in Canton, China back in 1902. He decided to leave his family to come to California at the age of 16 knowing that he would never return to see his family again. He didn't speak a word of English, had $20 dollars in his pocket, and knew no one in this country. Just writing about this, I can only imagine the courage he had in him, as well as the desperation.
I remember one day when I was a little girl, we drove up to a Victorian house somewhere in Napa, California. He told me that he used to work in this house, as a house boy. “A house boy?”, I thought. “How peculiar!”. He must have had numerous odd jobs before he was able to become an entrepreneur. So, what’s this story doing in my company's website? It’s a simple answer. For me, it all starts with my grandfather. If he could immigrate here and become a successful businessman, I can become successful in anything I do. He had more obstacles stacked against him. He came here with no money, no family support, he had to learn a new language, and he was of Chinese descent. Despite all of these obstacles, it didn’t change the content of his character. I remember him as a man of integrity and pride. He spoke ill of no one and always called younger people he met as ‘young man’ or ‘young woman’ regardless of who they were or where they came from. He respected everyone and everyone respected him.
The traits of my grandfather is a reflection in how I operate Jade Chocolates. Creating Jade Chocolates won’t be easy, but it can’t be that hard. My grandfather showed me that.
(Above is a photo of my grandparents in a traditional tai chi pose. They practiced tai chi every single morning in the backyard for as long as I can remember.)