Robyn Rice-Foster’s description of making chocolate will make most blush.
The Paris-trained chocolatier compares the art of making the sweet velvety substance to being in a relationship. The process, she said, can be erotic, temperamental and bittersweet, all rolled into one.
“When I make my chocolate ganache, I like for it to set for a day so the creams, butters, vanillas or the fruits, the spices, the herbs or whatever I’m making at the time … can have sex – so they can marry and blend together,” Rice-Foster said. “I don’t like to rush it. You want the flavors to blend.”
The former Austin resident’s passion for making chocolate led to winning the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s annual World of Chocolate event three years ago. Rice-Foster submitted her Milk Chocolate Sweet Potato Pie Truffles to the foundation’s Chocolate Bliss Recipe Challenge.
She entered in order to support HIV/AIDS awareness. She has several friends who have died from the disease. But she never thought she would win even though she had a slight leg up on her competitors by taking extra care in how she presented her chocolate dessert.
“I glazed them in an edible gold luster dust. I had a label on them and they were presented in a candy box,” Rice-Foster said, noting that some of the other entrees arrived on paper plates. “I said, ‘If they don’t like it, at least, they would say the presentation was good.'”
Her truffles did more than win over the event’s celebrity chef judges. It also opened doors for her. Soon after, Rice-Foster launched her online business, La Parisianne du Chocolat (www.laparisianneduchocolat.com) and orders have been pouring in for her handmade gourmet chocolate truffles.
She has been commissioned to create chocolate treats for a growing celebrity clientele as well, including music producer Quincy Jones. Last year, her business was named the 2011 best chocolate shop in Chicago by the U.S. Commerce Association. And this summer, Rice-Foster, who is fluent in French, will create a signature piece for the Paris Opera Ballet’s opening in June. She also plans to open several pop-up chocolate boutique-style stores in Lake View. She previously had her headquarters in Austin on Lake Street near Menard.
In an industry with few black chocolatiers, Rice-Foster sets herself apart by being creative with her fine chocolates. She has created wearable chocolate art such as edible necklaces and rings. She also is known for marrying fruit, liqueur and chocolate.
“People have tried to duplicate my truffles, but they don’t have the love and passion,” said Rice-Foster, who recently moved her corporate office from Austin to Hyde Park. “This is my love and passion, and it comes through in my product.”
Music also inspires some of Rice-Foster’s signature pieces. Her top-selling truffle is the Jack Daniels-infused Whiskey Pecan, which was inspired by trumpeter Corey Wilkes. Adele’s hit song, “Rolling in the Deep,” inspired another signature truffle made from honey and red bell pepper.
Rice-Foster is no stranger to the culinary arts world. For six years she operated Bread Box by Robyn, an artisan bread company where she made bread from fruit, vegetables and, of course, chocolate.
The low-carb diet craze dried up most of her business. So she turned to catering and doing private events. Through tenacity and luck, Rice-Foster landed clients like Oprah Winfrey. She was also commissioned to make a dessert for Vera Wang, based on her perfume.
Rice-Foster’s journey to become a chocolatier began accidentally on a 2005 trip to Paris, France to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Strolling through the streets of Paris, she marveled at the different chocolate shops’ table displays, which she called a “work of art.”
“The chocolate shops there were unbelievable,” she said, noting that one can taste the “love and passion” each chocolatier put into their desserts. “The passion of love that came through from each chocolatier I ran into while visiting various shops started me on a different journey to become a professionally trained chocolatier.”
In 2007, Rice-Foster graduated from E’Cole du Chocolat/L’Arts du Chocolat with honors. Now she is working on her sommelier license to better blend different liqueurs with chocolate. Her goal is to open a Parisian-style chocolate shop and have her truffles retail in upscale shops.
The Enterprize Zone is a regular business feature in Austin Weekly News.