Hosea Sanders visits with Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff who gave him a tour of her 43,000-square-foot facility in Logan Square where she creates her chocolate innovations. Vosges chocolate brand may be made in Chicago, but it is known worldwide from Dubai to Japan to England.
It's the chocolate season, Valentine's Day. At one Lincoln Park boutique, they are stocking up. But it's no ordinary shop. it's Vosges Haut-Chocolate. "Not only is there milk chocolate and dark chocolate but there are different flavors: gogee berry, toffee bars, red hot fire bars,'' said Lakeview resident Heather Ratliff.
It's all the vision of Katrina Markoff, who sees more than just chocolate in chocolate. ''In a way it's my way of telling the story of my life and the cultures and the people I meet and the ingredients come after that. The first thing is really the experience then I choose the ingredients that tell that story best,'' Markoff said.
And what a story it is. It began with her training at famed Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Paris, then with a simple idea in her Chicago apartment that led to her travels all over the world collecting experiences and flavors along the way, flavors she decided to mix with chocolate.
''We use really interesting ingredients everything from curry to olive oil, but thru a story of a personal experience that I've had with those ingredients. So it's a very deep expression of my life's journey thru chocolate,'' Markoff said.
That journey has taken her from small apartment to a huge manufacturing facility in Logan Square, along with nine boutiques in Beverly Hills, New York, Las Vegas, two stand-alone shops in Chicago and booths at O'Hare and at all Neiman Marcus stores. Today, Vosges is staple with Hollywood stars. ''People can tell probably that there's a lot of passion that goes into this product and I'm very particular about all the details and we're always innovating and doing something new and I think people like that,'' Markoff said.
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