Chocolate bar from the Institute of Culinary Education's bean-to-bar chocolate lab

ICE + Cacao Cucina

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Education

Partnering to Present the Nation's First Teaching Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Lab

cacao%20cucina_375x375.jpgWhen ICE was designing the nation’s first education-focused bean-to-bar chocolate lab, we knew that we wanted to consult with some of the world’s foremost experts in the field of confectionery research and development. After searching across the globe, we partnered with Cacao Cucina.

Born of engineer John Vessa and candy consultant Kim Vessa’s more than 70 years of combined confectionery experience, Cacao Cucina is the only American company that specializes in the production of small-batch artisanal chocolate equipment. Across the country—and the world—Cacao Cucina outfits the research and development labs for leading candy and flavor companies. Among these giants of confectionery, ICE’s artisanal chocolate studio is the only public-facing site where students of all skill levels can experience the full bean-to-bar process.

John and Kim first met in the early eighties, working for Sunmark (now owned by Nestle USA)—the home of SweetTarts, Spree, Nerds and other famous candies. As their careers progressed, Kim would consult with John on various projects, seeking engineering solutions for her wildest candy making ideas—including the invention of Airheads. In 2006, John was asked to create a small batch winnower for Original Hawaiian Chocolate—300 pounds per hour, when most small production equipment processed 1,000-2,000 pounds per hour. Word caught on, John’s orders continued to grow, and the rest is history.

For research, partnership and event opportunties at ICE's Chocolate Lab, please contact Chef Michael Laiskonis at For more information about Cacao Cucina, please contact Addam Vessa at or 727-548-6484.

Exceptional Equipment

Raw cacao beans for chocolate.

In 2010, John and Kim moved into their current Florida facility. Their sons, Addam and Cody have joined the family business as the Director of Marketing and the Technical Services Manager, respectively. Moreover, mobilizing their broad network of confectionery professionals, the Vessas have hired the industry’s foremost experts in every aspect of chocolate equipment manufacturing. In just over four years, this incredible investment of time, research and passion has resulted in the development and distribution of a full turnkey line of equipment—including a roaster, winnower, coast grinder, refiner, sieve screen and tempering unit—to 50 clients in 22 countries.

Chocolate in the lab being filtered.

For professional chefs, it is not just the high quality of the equipment’s output, but also the reliability of its production that will impress. Every piece of equipment is custom built to order, conforming to industrial grade regulations for safety. Additionally, unlike the high volume equipment used by mainstream chocolate manufacturers, every piece of Cacao Cucina equipment can be efficiently dismantled and sanitized to prevent contamination and resulting loss of product.

Chocolate being piped into molds.

For both entry-level pastry students and seasoned industry innovators, the unprecedented educational access provided by ICE’s partnership with Cacao Cucina promises to expand opportunities for inspiration, research and creativity.