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John & Kira’s- The Chocolate Life

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

If that’s the case, Angela Sticco the woman behind making those boxes of chocolate has life all figured out. She’s the head chocolatier at the Philadelphia- based chocolate company, John and Kira’s. She’s crazy smart and savvy, and she’s dishing with us at maker lifestyle on living a life in chocolate.

Except for taste- testing, what’s your favorite part of making chocolate? A lot of the skills we use on a daily basis in the kitchen allow us to use both a delicate and forceful hand, which I find is quite fun. Sometimes we have to use a softer touch (like when we are piping stems onto our cherries), but other times we get to bang things around and make loud noises (when we are molding or knocking candies out of molds). Getting to do both of those things in the same job keeps things interesting and fun around here.

What’s your favorite product to make? I love making our every flavor box, which consists of 10 different flavors of ganache squares enrobed in 62% Valrhona chocolate.  There’re a lot of steps that go into the process and the end result is a box with beautifully balanced flavors that is sure to excite any true chocoholic. The flavors are mint, honey, lavender, coffee, strawberry, raspberry, pistachio, ginger, lemongrass, bergamot tea and star anise.  The entire process takes a lot of finesse to pull off correctly, but there’s a great deal of satisfaction in the end!

Dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate- go! Milk chocolate is a great pairing with a lot of the more bold and delicate ingredients we use at John and Kira’s. We make a honey lavender ganache that simply wouldn’t work with a darker chocolate because it would just wash out the delicateness of the honey and lavender together. When we pair those ingredients with a 40% milk chocolate it balances out all of the flavors so that no one thing is competing against the other. As far as I’m concerned there is no real debate, both dark and milk have their places. It really depends on what flavors you are trying to play off of them.

What makes your chocolate different from the other guys? I believe our chocolates are different from others because of the fun, whimsical nature behind them and also because of our attention to detail. Our ladybugs and bees never hesitate to impress people with the way that they look on the outside, and you also get the added bonus that our flavors are very well balanced. We take a lot of time to craft the right flavors for each box.

What drink would you pair with your chocolates? I am a firm believer that champagne and chocolate are the perfect accompaniments to any good meal.  If you can’t find pleasure in some fine chocolates and a sparkling wine, I truly feel bad for you! I also find that intense fruity wines pair very well with chocolate. Fortified wines like Marsala and Maderia pair very nicely, but if those are too sweet for your palate I recommend trying a Syrah or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

What is it about chocolate that gets you up in the morning? The excitement of the fact that I have a job that I actually love to do. I love to work with my hands and create edible art and I also love that what we do makes people happy. I never get tired of seeing someone smile when they eat some of our chocolate, or the compliments we receive from customers. It’s very hard work, but it’s also rewarding and fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

What’s your most popular product? The caramel bees are always a crowd pleaser. They are filled with a liquid salted honey caramel that pairs beautifully with their dark chocolate shell.

How did you get started in the chocolate world? I sort of fell into the chocolate industry, it wasn’t something that I expected to happen. I went to culinary school in Philadelphia, did a pastry apprenticeship in France and discovered that I loved chocolate and confectionery work. After that I worked a few years in Philly for a small confectionery company, followed by a life changing experience living and working in Sicily for 2 years. After all of my travels one thing was clear- I love making candy. Happily, I ended up at John and Kira’s in the late summer of 2010.

Are there any secrets in the chocolate business you can share? This isn’t a secret about the chocolate business, but about the food business in general: It is not for the faint of heart! For the most part I like the amount of food contests that have infiltrated television over the last few years, but I assure you it’s not an easy career path. It takes a ton of discipline, focus and tenacity. It is not as glamorous as it seems on TV- we actually wash our own dishes and clean our own kitchen!

Find these awesome chocolates on www.johnandkiras.com or by calling 1-800-747-4808.

By Michael Nunes

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