Join The Chocolate Squad’s Ecuador Trip
I recently had the pleasure of getting to know three very interesting women of chocolate at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association meeting in San Francisco. I was strolling through the “Gallery Showcase” in a hotel ballroom, and I came across a table for Conexión Chocolate. I ended up in a conversation with the founder, Jenny Samaniego, who is a native Ecuadorian.
Jenny first came to the US in 2005 for a cultural exchange program. She moved to New York City in 2008 where she worked for well-known chocolate companies. In 2013 she decided to put her chocolate talents to work in her home country, making chocolate from Ecuador’s famed Arriba Nacional cacao and helping indigenous cacao farmers. I was incredibly impressed with Jenny as a person. Not only is she a talented business person, she’s a mensch, and she’s focused on improving the lives of cacao farmers in her country by strengthening their contributions to sustainable agriculture. I’m looking forward to spending more time with her in the future.
Helping Jenny at her table in the hotel ballroom were two women I’ve corresponded with and know by reputation but had never met, Gail Ambrosius and Jody Hayden. Gail and Jody are accomplished chocolatiers who use Conexión Chocolate as the couverture chocolate for their bars and confections. Gail lives in Madison,WI and owns Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier. Jody lives in Empire Michigan and owns Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate.
Jenny, Gail and Jody call themselves “The Chocolate Squad”, and they are leading a trip to Ecuador in April. They asked me if Chocolopolis would like to share the trip with our customers and I agreed. While I have not been on the trip myself, I was so impressed with these three, talented women that I was happy to share the trip details. I am biding my time until I can travel with them in the future.
Jody has been leading the trip annually since 2009. She teamed up with Jenny on the ground in Ecuador in 2013, and Gail joined them this year. While writing this post, I heard from Jody that the trip has added another chocolate expert. This is such new information that it is not on the brochure yet. Chef Stephen Durfee, Professor of Chocolate and Pastry at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, has joined the trip. He will be the primary chocolate educator on the trip with Jenny, Jody and Gail co-teaching.
The agenda is a chocolate-heavy one that includes sightseeing in Quito, visiting cacao farms in Puerto Quito and Esmeraldas and participating in a hands-on chocolate workshop for two days. If you’ve wanted to visit a cacao-growing country this is a fantastic way to go. You’ll have a local experience with local guides, you’ll spend quality time with cacao farmers and you’ll make confections with talented chocolatiers. In my book, it doesn’t get much better than that!