Hippocrates tells us “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” though when it comes to chocolate, we don’t exactly need convincing that the sweet indulgence has therapeutic qualities.
Paul Dincer of Koko Monk Chocolates, however, has taken that concept to a whole other dimension.
“When you look at the origin of cacao in Mesoamerica, there was no medicine without cacao in them,” says Dincer. “Authentically, cacao has nothing to do with candy, and we follow that direction. We see chocolate as one of the healthiest superfoods.”
Sourcing its cocoa beans from Central and South America, Koko Monk works exclusively with raw, single-origin heirloom cacao, processed as little as possible. “We don’t roast, we don’t Dutch process, and we don’t even use white sugar in our chocolate bars,” says Dincer. “The result of this preservation on the palate is unbeatable, and nothing comes close to describing it.”
Tasting a Koko Monk bonbon means dispensing with any preconceived notion of what to expect from a chocolate. “We make post-modern style couture chocolate, meaning you trespass the borders of sweet and savoury, of intellect and taste buds,” says Dincer. Wood smoke, miso, parsnip, and taro root are just a few of the unlikely ingredients to find their way into his creations. Two personal favourites are a dark, smoky applewood chocolate made with 12-year-old single malt scotch; and the Blue Moon, infused with blue cheese and pear.
“Imagine your flavour experience like a vocabulary,” Dincer says. “Guaranteed that this flavour does not exist in your vocabulary yet.”
A self-proclaimed “patisserie monster” since childhood, Dincer trained as a pastry chef in Australia while also publishing two books as a professional film critic and writer. In fact, it was a passion for film, philosophy, and art that led him to the world of chocolate.
“I approached recipe creation as a thematic, artistic work, like writing a poem or a short story — because that was what I did all my life,” says Dincer. “Soon I was creating flavour fusions heavily built on avant-garde art theories, and on my personal analysis of some of my favourite works.” Literature and chocolate may seem to have little to do with one another, but to Dincer, it’s a natural transition.
“Flavours are pretty much like words,” he says, giving the example of a blue-and-white-glazed, watermelon-and-sea-salt bonbon that he sees as an edible interpretation of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” playing on the themes of seawater and man’s impossible quest against nature. “Most of the time, new flavours show up themselves in a variety of unexpected ways. It can be in the form of a story, film, an emotional state.”
Dincer believes that drastic shifts in the global food supply will inevitably impact chocolate. “The future of chocolate will be dramatically different than the past,” he says. “It will return to its default origin of sacred, medicinal food.” But today, he keeps on amazing his customers.
“The happy shock on their face is what makes it all worth it. They leave our shop happier than before they walked in, with a totally new perspective.”