Chocolate is embedded in the holiday narrative. It’s what Santa enjoys in his cookies and what we like to heat up and sip by a Winter’s fire–chocolate may be the reason for the season! Well, at least Jonathan Grahm of Compartés seems to think so: chocolate is what makes the world go round. Jonathan and his Brentwood based chocolate brand have been sky rocketing in 2012 and are set to have an explosive 2013. Before that, they have to tend to the very busy holiday chocolate rush which is seeing them working and working and working until the big 25. We spoke with Jonathan via email about what the holidays at Compartés is like and how LA influences his luxury sweets. They have a lot of goodies that you are going to want to taste…
The holiday season is a very special time. In addition to gift giving and mild indulgence, Los Angeles begins to slow down at the year’s end and a crisper, “Wintery” air sets in. What is the holiday season in Los Angeles for Compartés? Are there any particular things that are emblematic of this time of year?
Absolutely! I love the holiday season in LA and find it especially fun to create my holiday collections of special chocolate truffles. I love creating fun and interesting patterns and prints that get to incorporate a lot of holiday themes like bears, deer, antlers and wintertime imagery on my chocolate. I also love creating new flavors for the holidays: this year we have apple pie, gingerbread, pecan pie, cinnamon latte, blackberry sage and more that are some of my most popular. I have also created some great new flavors to add to that including smores, olive oil rosemary, cranberry, toasted pine nut, chestnut and honey rum. I love that Winter allows me to incorporate great herbs like sage and rosemary into my chocolate and these kind of nostalgic and delicious flavors everyone loves like eggnog, pumpkin pie, etc. Winter might be one of my favorite seasons if not my favorite to create my Jonathan’s Signature Truffles, it’s like this one month of December I get to go crazy with holiday centric stuff and I definitely put my own spin on it, an LA and Jonathan spin. This year I even have a print I created thats based off an ugly sweater but it’s really not ugly, I think it’s pretty dope, I wish it was an actual sweater that I can wear, I would rock it no doubt! We are also launching our brand new collection of 24 chocolate bars that I have worked on for almost 2 years now, 24 brand new designs and flavors that are truly LA so it’s a very exciting time.
Obviously being in Southern California has an effect on how you work and what you are making. How do you see the influence of the city, landscape, people, and more in your work?
I definitely think the new line of chocolate bars reflects Southern California in a big way. Every bar purposefully says “Handmade in LA” and has my own graphic that features the California Bear surrounded by Palm Trees. It’s like my own Compartés mascot so to speak. I took this imagery everyone is used to, the California bear and put an “only in LA” spin on it by adding the Palm Trees and it appears on all of my new line of bars which goes to show how proud I am that my chocolates are all handmade here in my hometown of LA. The colors and designs and patterns of the bars are also all very fun and funky and unique. Theres references to Compartés old Hollywood history in there, nostalgic Americana, psychadelic colorful patterns and prints and then theres all of this great line of “World Series” chocolate bars that is based on traveling the world through chocolate. LA is melting pot of cultures, global flavors and cuisine, theres ethnic markets all over the city representing different countries and parts of the world. This line of World Series chocolate bars goes even further than that with different flavors based on different countries, we have an Egyptian bar, African, Himalayan, Thai, Morrocan, etc. Growing up in LA and getting to travel extensively, all of this has definitely influenced my new line. I love spicy foods and finding interesting and exotic ingredients I haven’t tried or heard about before and my favorite thing to do with them is to incorporate them into my chocolates! Theres a bar with ginger and lemongrass, mango and grains of paradise, olives and rosemary, etc.: they are all very cool and very much a product of LA being such a global mecca for a fusion of culture and people.
You guys are rolling out loads of new products for the holidays. Are there any surprises we should be on the lookout for? Are there any products that are totally new for you guys?
Yeah absolutely, we do a lot of micro batch flavors in the case all the time, so people will say some of the best ones to get when you walk into the Brentwood boutique are the ones without labels. I don’t necessarily agree with that, I think they are all amazing and delicious of course, but we sometimes do one off flavors or I test things out to see people’s reactions or people bring me ingredients or an idea and I create it and then never do it again until someone reminds me like oh yeah that truffle you made that one time was great. We also have these gorgeous new truffle tower sets that have beautiful imagery that is inspired by my love of nature. The set comes with our 5 most popular flavors: Mexican Hot Chocolate, Smoked Salt Ganache, Salted Pistachio, Honey Peanut Butter Sea Salt, and Salted Caramels. It’s also done in a beautiful color scheme and the graphics are awesome, they have a vintage feel to them and definitely otherworldly. The Mexican Hot Chocolate has an ancient Aztec scene on it, Honey Peanut Butter takes you inside a bee hive, Salted Pistachio has beautiful green ferns and a waterfall, Salted Caramel has outer space graphics with a spinning galaxy and my personal favorite, Smoked Sea Salt has this pink neon volcano exploding all over the box. They are stunning and very much different than any other chocolate company or food packaging out there period. I think being 28 and having been making chocolate since I was 14, I really wanted to differentiate Compartés from every other chocolatier in the country, make the packaging as amazing as the chocolates, make it appealing, make it interesting, unique, visual and one of a kind, just like my chocolates and I think with our new lines of truffles, bars, and towers, I definitely achieved that goal.
Out of all of the holiday offerings, what are you most excited to share? Are there any chocolates you think will be particularly special for Angelenos?
I think that the “Jonathan’s Signature Truffles,” no matter what time of year, it is are the best for Angelenos: Angelenos just get it. Nowhere else in the world would you find a chocolate box featuring interesting and exotic flavors like mango saffron, peach rosemary, raspberry pink pepper, passionfruit, cucumber honeydew, mango chipotle mixed with updated takes on nostalgic classics like peanut butter honey sea salt, toffee crunch, browned butter, salted caramel, etc. all coupled with cool patterns and prints to make them even more interesting. You open a box of Compartes truffles and you see plaid, palm trees, skulls, aztec prints, mosaics, geometrics, chevrons, animals, birds, diamonds, gingham, houndstooth and every box is designed in a rainbow color scheme so they are just as stunning to look at as they are to eat. These chocolates are truly LA–again: nowhere else, no other chocolatier, would have a box like this.
With all of these products and chocolates to share, what will you be gifting this holiday season? Moreover, are there any goodies you are hoping to get this holiday season?
All I want after Christmas is a trip to Hawaii. My favorite place on Earth (so far) is Kauai and I’m thinking a week or so there and I’ll be good and ready to come back and start gearing up for Valentine’s Day–and, trust me, you don’t want to miss what I am dropping for Valentines this year. It’s going to continue to be epic. The chocolate revolution has only just begun :)
After reading that, we need a sweet fix ASAP. Guess we’ll have to head to their Brentwood store to get our hands on some of their luscious new goods!! If you haven’t yet, please check out Compartés’ website and peruse their holiday offerings. We also recommend you follow them on Twitter and Instagram to hear about their newest flavors, designs, and inspirations, too. Everything Jonathan and his team makes is super, super good and absolutely beautiful to behold. We recommend gifting their Holiday Truffles for a loved one, yourself, or to share at a family gathering. Happy chocolidays!
All photos courtesy of Jonathan Grahm and Compartés.