Out of all the negatives resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there was one positive for two young chefs living and working in the Grenadines.
Ariele Young, 24, and Kareem Smith, 29, both share a love for chocolates and had a dream to change the way people see the sweet treat. And, the “downtime” during COVID-19 gave them the opportunity to move from an idea to a business which sells handcrafted chocolate treats.
The two friends met at the Bequia Beach Hotel on the northern most Grenadine island where they are both employed, Ariele as a pastry chef, and Kareem as head chef. They united over their love for chocolate and a desire to give customers a unique chocolate-tasting experience.
After five years of toying around with the idea, Kareem told SEARCHLIGHT that Cacao1714 officially came to life in the month of love- specifically, February 6, 2022.
“I’ve been collecting ideas and information for about the past five years…ever since that, it has been going pretty good,” he said.
“ It is a passion for me, dealing with chocolate and making them, placing them and working with them. All of this is really new to both of us. It’s one thing to be working for someone else but it is another thing to be working on your own and during COVID is what gave us the actual push.”
Kareem, a Grenadian by birth, said he worked at the Grenada Chocolate Festival where he was able to gain valuable knowledge, in addition to working at hotels in Barbados, the USA and Europe; while Ariele was one of the first set of interns who worked at the St. Lucia Sandals Resort under the Ministry of Tourism programme.
Now, a little over a year since Cacao1714 started, the two are on a chocolate-high and have curated a special range of products which includes bonbons, chocolate bars, bites, pops as well as cocoa nibs. Some of them, Kareem told SEARCHLIGHT, are his own special recipe and techniques which has undergone a strenuous trial and error process.
“Some of them are, but some of them I gathered from previous jobs I worked with other chefs. It’s just a matter of tweaking it to our preference, to what we like.”
Arielle added, “It’s a lot easier than before when we first started because we were basically teaching ourselves, watching videos and researching, so now we are a lot better than a year ago.”
But the year has not always been silky smooth, as the preparation process is one which requires the perfect conditions for the best result.
“The first time we did it, it was challenging because there are a lot of things that go into it- the temperature of the room, the cacao beans- and it took us a while actually figure out what. One, we are in the Caribbean that is a lot warmer than compared to the US and Europe…it is a matter of getting the right balance.”
Ariele explained that if the bar for perfection which the team has set for themselves is not met, the product is not retailed to the customer, but rather, used as samples.
Ariele and Kareem believe they have found a niche for their products, despite not being the only company in St.Vincent and the Grenadines which makes chocolate products.
“We focus more on the fine chocolates…I wouldn’t say it is a competition because everyone has their preference. We are at a point where we offer something [other] companies are not offering. It was hard in the beginning to get people to understand what is. Most people when they think of chocolate, they think of going to the supermarket and picking up a bar, but when we started doing our products with the sweet, salty and earthy flavours, people were like ‘wow this is something different’.”
With one year of successful business management in the bag, the two chocolatiers revealed they will be looking to expand the business to have a physical location on mainland St. Vincent, a plan which they have dubbed ‘Phase Three’.