Former resident turns her chocolate-making passion into a home-based business
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Former Sioux Lookout resident Danielle Desmarais-Clace has a passion for making food from scratch. That passion has evolved into a homemade food business called Village Chocolate Co., where she creates hand-crafted bean-to-bar artisan chocolate.
Desmarais-Clace, who is originally from Vermillion Bay, moved to Sioux Lookout when she was 12 years old. After completing high school she pursued culinary training at Sault College, and she’s been experimenting and making different foods from scratch ever since.
“Right after high school I went into a year of culinary training at Sault College. I also took two years of business after that, but pretty much since then I’ve always experimented with food and make as much from scratch as I can. I thought chocolate would be fun to make from scratch, so that’s where it started. I got the equipment to start working on that, and it went from there,” she said.
Desmarais-Clace has now called Saskatchewan home for eight years, where she resides in the town of Grand Coulee. She owns Village Chocolate Co. where, as a chocolate maker, she has been creating and selling artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate for about a year.
In order to make bean-to-bar chocolate, Desmarais-Clace roasts, shells, and grinds raw cocoa beans to break them down into a liquid chocolate. She’s able to add other ingredients to create different flavours.
“Bean-to-bar is where I’m actually taking the raw cocoa beans, so after they’ve been fermented on the farm, I take them, I roast them, and I break them down to a liquid chocolate so that it can be made into bars,” she said.
“Depending on where the beans are grown, it can affect the flavour of the bean. I’ve played with the different ingredients to mix like making a coffee one, black liquorish flavours, things like that.
“The necessary equipment to actually break down the cocoa beans into a liquid chocolate, it’s a large motorized mortar and pestle. You’d have to actually buy the equipment to do it, otherwise you’re going to have a gritty and very grainy chocolate,” she added.
According to villagechocolateco.ca, “We test each bean ourselves to ensure that the best flavours are exhibited once it makes it to a bar. Our beans are ethically sourced from Peru, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea and Mexico; some from a single farm, while others are a co-operative formed by farmers in that region. Our flavour enhanced bars are made without the use of artificial flavours. All our bars are preservative free, dairy free and use only ingredients with names you can pronounce. We also do our best to use Canadian ingredients where we can.”
Desmarais-Clace makes the chocolate out of her own home, where it is then sold online and in stores across Saskatchewan. Due to nation-wide regulations, Village Chocolate Co. is only available within her home province of Saskatchewan both online and in physical locations.
“My food falls under Saskatchewan legislation for home-based businesses and low-risk food. When you want to go outside of Saskatchewan, or outside your home province, you have to adhere to Canadian regulations, so there are a lot of regulations around commercial kitchens and labelling,” she said.
Desmarais-Clace said her dark chocolate has turned heads with sweeter, more enjoyable flavours, while still packing all the benefits dark chocolate provides.
“I think most people know dark chocolate is better for you. It’s pretty common knowledge, but it’s also something that most people don’t enjoy. A lot of people associate dark chocolate with bitterness and not pleasant flavours, so I’ve worked really hard to produce roasts with the beans that give sweeter flavours. I’ve given samples to people who say they don’t like dark chocolate due to the bitterness, and they’re actually really surprised how these (bars) don’t come across that way. They come across as really pleasantly flavoured and sweet, but they carry all the benefits of dark chocolate,” she explained.
Desmarais-Clace said she returns to Sioux Lookout approximately twice a year to visit family and friends. She said the name, Village Chocolate Co., is a nod to her roots of growing up in small Ontario towns like Sioux Lookout, Oxdrift and Vermilion Bay.
For more information, visit www.villagechocolateco.ca or their Facebook page @villagechocolateco.