Bakers Journal

The savoury and sweet life

March 4, 2011
By Laura Aiken

After a two-year hiatus, one of Toronto’s top chocolatiers is back on the scene and pushing the contemporary envelope.

After a two-year hiatus, one of Toronto’s top chocolatiers is back on the scene and pushing the contemporary envelope.

Where savoury meets sweet.

Jenn Stone’s creative laurels now reside at XOCOCAVA (pronounced
cho-co-cava), where she was hired in July 2010 after taking a couple
years off work to spend with her two young children. The chocolate shop
is sister to its neighbouring restaurant CAVA, a venue for enjoying
Spanish tapas. XOCOCAVA also bears a Spanish and Latin American
influence with such chocolate flavours as chorizo and black olive. Both
food spots are the brainchild of chef Chris McDonald.

The chocolatier at work in her new digs: XOCOCAVA.


Stone is a creative coup for McDonald. She spent 15 years rising up
through the ranks of Toronto’s food community, first as a pastry chef
in a number of top restaurants, before opening JS Bonbons in 2001. She
owned two retail shops and the JS Bonbons Chocolate School before
closing the doors in 2008 to make time for her family. She also spent
four years stretching her chocolate capabilities in collaboration with
the folks at the Cadbury Chocolate Couture Collection Fashion Show that
featured wearable, edible chocolate. November 2008 was the last show.

“It was one of my favourite projects to work on,” says Stone, her face
lighting up at the memory. “It was really inspiring to work with those
designers and push yourself a little bit further. It was really quite a

It took a lot of monkeying around with different temperatures and fat
and sugar levels to produce chocolate that could make it through a
runway show, with its hot lights, body heat and flashing cameras.

“Getting a very specific edible, wearable chocolate is very different –
that was very much fantasy and very different than something like this
[XOCOCAVA]. Those techniques are not necessarily applicable in a shop

For Stone, XOCOCAVA holds other opportunities to expand her craft.
Making the store’s ice cream and sorbets, which are all produced in
house and change seasonally, is a new experience for her.

“Everything’s made from local fruits and processed by hand so our
flavours are really bright. It’s been a good fit and it really covers
all of the seasons. They may not feel like sitting down to a box of
chocolates in July but a bowl of ice cream for sure.”

The position at XOCOCAVA also affords room for experimentation with
savoury elements. The aromatic chocolate collection is popular she
says, with jasmine, coriander and lime and ginger cardamom selling
well. The shop recently introduced a couple of new collections, one of
which is designed to be paired with cheese. Stone finds herself among a
food-savvy clientele offering insights into the particularities of the
future demand for chocolate.

“People are far more aware of where their chocolate is coming from and
where it’s being produced right down to the plantation,” says Stone.
“And not only the supplier or producer but in terms of growth region in
the world as well.”

Chocolate, like wine or coffee beans, takes on its terroir, as it’s
referred to in winemaking. Stone says the difference in the flavour
profiles of regional is quite remarkable and the products are easier to
source than they use to be.

Stone sees the current trend of awareness continuing and enveloping
fair-trade and organic further into its fold. Chocolate is big on the
radar of the food savvy, who keep growing in numbers through the
extensive access to information found in the labyrinth of food media.

“People are a little more food savvy and they also make intelligent
picks in terms of chocolate. Now they take it that step further than
they might have in the past in thinking of ‘what’s a great wine or beer
to pair with this’ or ‘what is the right chocolate to match that up
with the dessert I’m serving.’ I find people are very focused on the
meal as a whole and pairing up that way.”

While Stone has climbed right out of the box when it comes to some of
her endeavours with chocolate, she offers very linear advice for the
up-and-coming chocolatier. As with most endeavours, having a proper
grasp of the fundamentals is essential before you can break the rules,
whether with wearable food or unusual flavours. With chocolate,
tempering is the number one rule to master first, says Stone. Tempering
is the process of heating and cooling the chocolate to achieve a
uniform crystal structure that makes the smooth, glossy appearance and
doesn’t go sticky at room temperature.

“Chocolate is one of those things that are really quite clear cut. It
is very scientific in many ways. Sure, being a chocolatier is a very
creative job and there are creative aspects to it, but it’s very much
science based. As long as you follow the rules of the chocolate and
have a solid foundation, then you are able to start experimenting and
get creative that way in terms of flavours and textures.”

Tempering and timing are the most difficult thing to master and working
quickly is important, she says. You can mix and match your methods of
tempering, but remember there is no need to temper if you are adding
ingredients like cream for a ganache. But temper, for sure, if you are
working with just solid chocolate.

There are 25 chocolates in the collection at XOCOCAVA that are
available every day, but seasonal items and treats of Stone’s impromptu
whimsy find themselves on the shelves as well. XOCOCAVA is located at
1560 Yonge St. and is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10
p.m. A visit to the shop to see what Stone is up to today may be just
the trick to tickle your own creative genius with some fresh ideas.


  • Jump on industry opportunities to expand your skills, even if they are not applicable in your current job or role.
  • Master your temper.
  • Working quickly is key to working with chocolate.
  • More people are looking for regional and pairing information with their chocolates these days. Be prepared.

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