Chocolate grind particles being measured with instruments in the ICE Chocolate Lab

Roots of Cacao

A New York City Chocolate Symposium

Roots of Cacao is a one-day conference hosted by the Institute of Culinary Education's Chocolate Lab and ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis.

cacao-pods_375x375.jpgThrough a series of talks, demonstrations, tastings and panel discussions, the program will gather chocolate makers, pastry chefs, industry insiders and historians to share their expertise on the ‘roots’ of our favorite product – chocolate.

Chocolate is a complex product with a deep history that can be traced over millennia to its wild origin in the rainforests of South America. As its popularity spread and use evolved from simple beverage to artful confection, chocolate has woven itself into the culture of our daily lives. Chocolate is also a formidable global business whose foundation ultimately lies upon the efforts of smallholder farms throughout the world’s tropical zones. The exponential growth of ‘craft’ chocolate in recent years has created a whole new market for connoisseurs in pursuit of nuanced flavor. This symposium will explore an array of these topics, from historical and social aspects to contemporary applications of chocolate, the science behind the manufacturing process and its alluring flavors. As we look back to where cacao came from, we will also contemplate its future.

Admission is open to professionals, students, and the general public. 

Our first Roots of Cacao Chocolate Symposium was held at ICE on February 4, 2018 — many thanks to our speakers and all who attended. For more information, email Michael Laiskonis or call (212) 847-0770.


Our 2018 featured presenters included:

Bill Yosses – Perfect Pie Company, former White House Pastry Chef

Maricel Presilla – restaurateur, author of The New Taste of Chocolate, co-founder of International Chocolate Awards

Clay Gordon – author of Discover Chocolate, founder of The Chocolate Life

Roger Rodriguez – pastry chef, partner Cacao Prieto and ICE alum

Megan Giller – journalist, author of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution

Tim McCollum – founder, Madecasse

Daniel Domingo – Atlantic Cocoa Company

Carla Martin – founder and executive director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, anthropologist and lecturer at Harvard University

Rick Scobey – president of World Cocoa Foundation

Marc Aumont – pastry chef and chocolatier of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolates and Gabriel Kreuther

Nick Cardoni – chocolate buyer of The Meadow

Alexandra Leaf – chocolate expert, historian, Manhattan Chocolate Society

Michael Laiskonis – creative director of the Institute of Culinary Education

Guests who attended our one-day symposium were treated to the following events:

• 10:00am
Opening Remarks
Michael Laiskonis

• 10:15am
Theobroma Cacao: The Value Chain
Bill Yosses

• 10:30am
Crossroads of Cacao: From Amazonian Origin and Mesoamerican Traditions to the Age of Discovery
Maricel Presilla, PhD

• 11:00am
How Chocolate Gets Its Taste
Clay Gordon

Chocolate Break

• 11:45am
From Farm to Bar: Sourcing and Sustainability
Tim McCollum,
Joes Lopez Ganem
Richard Scobey
Carla D. Martin, PhD

• 1:00pm
(Attendees are invited to explore the many dining options in and around Brookfield Place)

• 2:15pm
Craft Chocolate: The Makers and the Mind-Blowing Flavors
Bryan Graham, William Mullan, Nick Cardoni, Megan Giller, Alexandra Leaf

• 3:00pm
Seeds of Creativity: Flavors of Dominican Republic Cacao
Roger Rodriguez

Chocolate Break

• 3:45pm
Chocolate as a Medium for Storytelling
Marc Aumont

• 4:15pm
Cacao Quality: Past and Present
Carla D. Martin, PhD

• 5:00pm
Closing Remarks
Michael Laiskonis

• 5:15pm
Reception and Tasting

More information

Tools used to temper chocolate in the ICE Chocolate Lab

About ICE's Chocolate Lab

The Chocolate Lab was created in 2015 to expand the educational opportunities with respect to chocolate with a full bean-to-bar manufacturing perspective. At its helm is ICE's Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, James Beard Award winner and former executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin. Its programs are accessible to professionals, ICE career students and recreational enthusiasts alike. A core objective from its founding has been to serve as a hub for discussion and the exchange of ideas within the diverse chocolate community.