There are certain culinary creations inextricably linked to their city of origin, like the cronut to New York City and the beignet to New Orleans. In seemingly a short amount of time, Compartés Chocolatier became the dessert darling of Los Angeles—beloved for its creative, mouth-watering flavor combinations, artistic packaging, and all-around exquisite branding. The craftsmanship of the chocolate alone deserves its own award. What most people don't know however, is that Compartés isn't a new venture, but in fact a heritage brand that's thrived in Los Angeles since 1950. With the direction of chocolatier Jonathan Grahm, the company quickly evolved beyond an old-fashioned nostalgia-based legacy into a millennial fan favorite and one of the hippest local exports to Instagram in/out of L.A.
Wanting to get a look at the process behind the cult product, we stopped by the Compartés headquarters in Brentwood for an experience worthy of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It truly is a wonderland of colorful chocolate art, with Jonathan (and his two adorable Pomeranians that live upstairs) at the helm. Here's a peek inside.
The Bar Method: "All of our chocolate is hand-made. Most chocolate companies use conveyor belts and machinery that pipes the chocolate in through a chocolate waterfall. We don't do any of that. We use old fashioned tempering kettles where we literally throw in the ingredients and we can hand scoop them into the bar molds. Every bar is hand scooped. There's no uniform sizing. And then we actually have pieces of things. So like for the Donuts & Coffee bar, there's a bowl of literal donuts we have crushed, that go into the bars. For our Apple Pie bar, we have pieces of cinnamon streusel and pie crust that go into them. Then the bars are hand-sealed. We have 12 employees and every single thing is made from scratch. "
The Whole Package: "We design all of the packaging ourselves. It's super fun for people to feel so passionate about each bar because they have a theme. There is a purpose behind the design. Our number one best-seller is the salted pretzel California Love bar. It's a palm tree bar with a pink sunset, and people buy it because they get to take home a little piece of California. The fact that we are not a corporate company means we can do whatever we want. If you look closely at the packaging on the Biscuits & Honey bar, you'll see there's some nudity. I also love that my dogs, Samson and Rocko, are on the packaging of the S'mores bar. Our designs are very L.A. centric: they're loud, whimsical, fun, sometimes risqué, and crazy. And that's like L.A. I am a native Angelino so I try to make the brand reflect iconic L.A."
Having fun with it: "We do a lot of custom chocolate. We can put any logo or design on the chocolate, so we've done chocolate for Oprah, Breaking Bad. That one was cool because they asked me to do something related to the blue crystal meth from the show. So we took white chocolate, and dyed it blue, and put sugar crystals in the middle, so when you opened that piece of chocolate, it was like blue crystal meth on the inside. For Oprah, it was her crystal anniversary, so the chocolate was all hand-studded with edible sugar crystals. I love doing this when big companies give me license to do cool things, because that's what our brand is all about."
Custom Made: "Our chocolate is 100 percent proprietary. Our signature chocolate, the 73 percent dark which is the base of everything we do, is unique to Compartés. I tasted hundreds and hundreds of types of chocolate before I decided on this and because our business has (thank god) gotten so big, I can afford to make custom chocolate."
Pie Reimagined: "Our Apple Pie bar is brand new and such a great festive flavor for the holidays. It doesn't even taste like chocolate. It tastes like you're literally eating fresh pie. We cooked apples, caramelized them, then sprinkled them in cinnamon and sugar."
Edible Art: "What makes Compartés so unique and what I try to do with it is all about chocolate as art. It's art, and fashion, style, design. It's not just chocolate. It's kind of like a lifestyle brand at this point."
P.S. - my personal favorite bar is the Coney Island.