Hailed by Forbes as “The Real-Life Willy Wonka” and having been given the honor of being one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things,” chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix has created the best tasting chocolate I have ever tasted, and I am a known chocaholic.
Phillip spent his childhood in Memphis in his grandmother’s kitchen learning the secrets of great southern cooking; however, being a chef wasn’t his first love. He went to college and became a corporate marketing and sales executive for major corporations. In 2007, he decided that he wanted to open his own business and left the corporate world for milk and dark chocolate. After tasting his Perfect Turtle, I am so glad he did.
I spoke with Phillip and asked him how he developed a palate for fine chocolate. He told me that when he and his brother were 10 and 5 years old, their mother would take them to the mall and if they were good boys, she would give them a treat of Godiva chocolates. So, at an early age his taste buds were set for finer things.
Fast forward many years later and Phillip told me how the idea came to him in 2007 to make chocolate.
“I just one day woke up, later in life in my 20s, I woke up at three in the morning. I was like, ‘You know what? I want to make chocolate for the rest of my life.’ And at that time, I was in my corporate career and had been out of school and all of that other stuff. And I just had this pull, or this draw to want to make chocolate, and I became obsessed with learning everything about it. And so, I taught myself over the course of a few years, and here we are.”
After making the decision, Phillip spent the next three years reading and learning all about chocolate. How it was made, where it was made, how people tasted it, what ingredients worked together or didn’t.
He then started the process of making it.
“So, I spent a lot of time testing, putting two spices together or putting this fruit with that and just testing viscosity and texture and all these other things and how people taste. So, I’d be like, ‘Here, Bonnie, taste this,’ and see what reaction you would have, and the zones of the palate. So, I went into this thing thinking, ‘how cool would it be to say I’m a chocolatier?’ How many people can say they know a chocolatier, let alone a Black chocolatier?”
Then Phillip’s imagination went wild. He brought the Willy Wonka Factory idea to life. He started thinking chocolate has no limits. He stepped away from the industry traditional perspective of what chocolate should be and created flavors that I couldn’t imagine being paired with chocolate. Flavors like barbecue, key lime pie, bleu cheese, collard green chocolate, mac and cheese, and fried chicken chocolate, just to name a few. I can see you shaking your head as you read this but trust me, I was skeptical until I tasted them, and I am a true believer.
Phillip explained, “We have things with whiskey and bourbon and all of that. And so, I really wanted to just be this encyclopedia of flavor and understand food, understand beverage, understand ingredients, spices, herbs, oils, you name it. From how it’s grown, where it’s grown, what’s the regional impact and all of that. I want to be able to tell stories with chocolate.
I want to be able to work with brands and say, “Well, what does Cadillac taste like? We can create chocolates that are specific and custom to this luxury auto maker. Or I can create things based on or inspired by music or by a show. We did a whole collection for and inspired by Insecure and Issa Rae. So just being able to tell these stories in different ways or perspectives using chocolate as the medium and how we communicate is really what I was wanting to do. I didn’t want to just understand how to cook per se, but I wanted to understand how to communicate with food.”
I asked him about the number of Black chocolatiers, and he explained that there aren’t many in the world; however, Phillip is excited to see more since he began his leap into all things chocolate.
Now, Phillip Ashley Chocolates are not your average chocolate, and it is not your average price. Phillip wants you to understand that the chocolates are an experience. They put a lot of time, effort and quality ingredients into it, because he wants you to enjoy what you’re experiencing and feel like the money you spent is well worth it.
You can find Phillip Ashley Chocolates at www.phillipashleychocolates.com.
I feel a chocolate break coming on.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!