Art Pollard and Clark Goble are business partners in Lextek, an Orem software company. Pollard, who also has a degree in archaeology, met Goble while the two were involved in the Physics Department at Brigham Young University in 1990.
The two say they and their wives have always had an interest in culinary arts but never dreamed their previous work experience would turn a hobby into a new company, Amano Artisan Chocolate.
"We wanted to diversify, and chocolate-making seemed like a good direction," Goble said. "It definitely diversified our current occupations."
Last year, Pollard studied chocolate manufacturing in Europe. He traveled to Germany and northern Italy and worked with chocolate makers in France. He said he used a laptop to continue running his search engines while traveling.
"Only about 12 companies nationwide make their chocolate from cocoa beans," Pollard said. "These companies then sell their chocolate to more well-known companies."
Pollard used his experience in physics engineering to learn more about chocolate machines while he was in Europe. For the past year, he and Goble have been importing from Europe equipment that is no longer made anywhere in the world. They say the equipment has been hard to find and get to Orem, but their physics background has helped them design and build machinery they can't find.
Pollard has built his own sorting table for the cocoa beans, as well as a refiner that sorts the beans by size and removes the papery husk from the bean after the roasting process. The company's roaster is a 1962 model imported from Portugal.
The melangeur-boyer (French for mixer-grinder) was difficult to find, Pollard said, but is essential in producing gourmet chocolate from cocoa beans. The mixer came from Germany and was built in 1930. Pollard said the mixers have not been made since that era.
The men also have a machine used for long periods of stirring to make the chocolate as smooth as possible. The machine is called a conch and was designed by Rudolph Lindt of Lindt Chocolates in Switzerland.
"Currently our plans are to sell 2-ounce bars and baking blocks through online orders. ... We hope to sell to gourmet chefs and bakers worldwide," Pollard said.
According to Pollard, chocolate in the United States is often made using a significant amount of sugar and milk powder rather than real cocoa beans.
The reason, Pollard said, is that Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey Chocolates, realized chocolate was considered "food for the rich." Hershey turned the fancy food into a staple that the public could afford by using cheaper ingredients like refined sugar and milk.
That also made chocolate easier to mass produce. Pollard said European chocolate makers use age-old methods and recipes that keep chocolate as gourmet as it has been for centuries.
Amano Artisan Chocolate imports cocoa beans from Venezuela and Madagascar to its warehouse in Orem.
Pollard also said the company prides itself in using the finest Tahitian vanilla. Amano Artisan Chocolate has been featured at several culinary shows, including the Utah Chocolate Show. For more information, go to www.amanochocolate.com.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company