Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs: John Scharffenberger

Every year, ICE’s Culinary Management program hosts a one-of-a-kind series of lectures called Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs, during which a wide range of successful culinary business leaders and luminaries share their expertise with students and guests. Yesterday, John Scharffenberger of Scharffen Berger returned to ICE for the second day in a row to discuss his experience creating the first “bean-to-bar” chocolate manufacturer in the United States in the past 50 years with the Culinary Management students.

What sets Scharffen Berger apart is Scharffenberger's attention to detail at every step of the chocolate-making process from working with farmers, to selecting the finest, rarest beans to blend.

In 2006, Scharffenberger chronicled his love of chocolate and with Robert Steinberg, published Essence of Chocolate, a book that won a James Beard Award in 2007 for Single Topic Book. During his discussion with students, Scharffenberger discussed how his experience in the wine industry shaped how he started his chocolate company. He said, “As a professional taster I was able to make very subtle distinctions.

I just took the protocols I had been using in the wine world and used them for tasting chocolate.” He emphasized that when you are buying chocolate, you should think about flavor first. Now, Scharffenberger has started pursuing and spearheading artisanal projects with foods other than chocolate and recently became the CEO of Hodo Soy Beanery, a producer of premium, artisanal tofu. According to Scharffenberger, his approach is to find easy solutions to problems to facilitate growth. And above all, “do something you love.”

For the next Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs, including Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread and Jennifer Baum of Bullfrog & Baum, check out our class listings.

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