Profile: Christopher Elbow
An icon in Kansas City’s foodie community, Christopher Elbow Chocolates creates artisanal, gourmet chocolates that are both delicious and visually stunning. Founded in 2003 by owner Christopher Elbow, the company serves up chocolates that range from a bean-to-bar line to hand-painted bonbons with creative flavors like Bananas Foster, Hazelnut Praline, and the classic Fleur de Sel Caramel.
How did you get started in the culinary world?
I began cooking at a restaurant in college and my intention was to attend culinary school upon graduation. I ended up just learning in restaurants along the way and eventually landed a job in a pastry kitchen, which is where my love affair with chocolate began.
What was your first experience making chocolate?
I was working in a restaurant in Las Vegas where the pastry chef would make chocolates. That was the first time I had seen someone make bonbons from scratch.
When did you decide you wanted to start your own business?
When I was the pastry chef at The American restaurant here in Kansas City, we would make chocolates to send out at the end of the meal. This quickly became my favorite part of my job and it was when customers began asking if they could purchase them that prompted me to open my own business.
What’s the process for creating the beautiful painted chocolate bonbons?
It is a multi-day process that begins with airbrushing or decorating the molds with colored cocoa butter. After that we create the shell by pouring tempered chocolate in the mold. Once it is set we can fill it with the filling and then it will get a bottom layer of chocolate to seal up the bonbon.
Do you still eat chocolate for fun?
I do but not as much as people think. If I am eating chocolate outside of work, it is typically a really good single origin dark chocolate.
Do you have a favorite chocolate?
I have a weak spot for our Salted Pecan Caramels!
How do you develop these new flavors?
We are always working on new flavors but we typically like to release new seasonal flavors every year. The holidays provide great inspiration for us to try new flavor combinations.
What do you think are the most quintessential flavors of Christmas?
For me it is always about spices. Think of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and other warming spices that you might smell when baking for your family celebrations.
You released bean-to-bar chocolates this year. What was the development of that product like? Why do you think bean-to-bar chocolates are gaining so much traction right now?
The development of this line of chocolates was several years in the making. It required traveling to Central and South America to cacao farms to really understand the product at its roots. Cacao is such an amazing agricultural crop and so many people have very little understanding of where it comes from and how it becomes chocolate. I think you are seeing this across a lot of different foods…..wanting to have a better understanding of where our food comes from and the impact that our choices have on the rest of the world.
You’ve worked with other beloved Kansas City companies like Boulevard Brewing, Messenger Coffee, PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. What do you enjoy about the collaborative process?
It is great to work with like-minded businesses that share as equally a strong passion as I do in their respective fields. The collaborative process creates an environment where we can elevate two ingredients to a higher level.
How does being based in Kansas City impact the work that you do?
Kansas City has been a great place to start and operate a business. Being geographically centered in the US allows us to be very efficient at shipping across the country. This has been a major factor in the rapid growth of our ecommerce business.
You recently moved headquarters to a much larger space than you were in before. What prompted this move? What are you looking forward to about the new space?
Primarily, we had just outgrown our previous infrastructure. We had been operating out of 3 buildings so getting everything under one roof will increase our efficiency and allow us to continue to grow.
The thing I am most excited about in the new space is my test kitchen. It will be a space used to develop new flavors and products, but also to conduct classes and demos. I idea was to create a learning environment for myself and my staff.