Podcast Episode 32

How Chocolatier Katrina Markoff Created a Celebrated Luxury Chocolate Brand

Katrina Markoff | 40 Minutes | March 1, 2022

In this episode, we’re speaking with Katrina Markoff, Founder, CEO, and Chocolatier of Vosges Chocolat – a Chicago-based luxury chocolate brand.

Katrina is a world-traveler who uses her global experiences to bring culture, intuition, and joy to her customers through chocolate. With three boutiques, an ecommerce platform, and international patrons, Katrina is one of the most successful chocolatiers in the industry.

In the last twenty years Katrina has used vibrant cacao as the medium for her collections. By combining it with indigenous, energetic plants, she is able to communicate a sense of place, terroir or earth as the grounding home that connects the soul of the story to the people who it originates with. She made it part of her mission to use only superior sourced ingredients as an acknowledgement to nature’s secret and potent bounty that she has the honor and responsibility to reveal. Through chocolate she has explored: all seven continents, the Marchesa Casati, African American influences on music, ancient Egypt, aphrodisiacs, the first creative cuisine of Italy, the curiosity of Fermentation, how we taste through our sense of smell and more.

Join us today as we chat with Katrina about how she built her luxury chocolate brand, finding your state of flow, and how she uses chocolate to open minds and heart to bring people together and make the world a better place.

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Notes & Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode, we’re speaking Katrina Markoff, CEO, creator and storyteller of Vosges Chocolat, a Chicago-based luxury chocolate brand. Katrina is a world traveler who uses her global experiences to bring culture, intuition, and joy to her customers through chocolate. With three boutiques, an e-commerce platform, and international patrons, Katrina is one of the most successful chocolatiers in the industry.

Join us today as we chat with Katrina about her creative process, and how she uses chocolate to open minds, bring people together, and make the world a better place.

It’s making me smile just seeing you! Welcome, Katrina. How are you?

Katrina Markoff: Thank you, Kirk. I’m doing well. It’s so nice to be with you.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s great to see you. So you’re in Chicago right now. A little chilly?

Katrina Markoff: Very chilly. I think the low is five degrees today.

Chocolate, A Source of Peace

Kirk Bachmann: Ouch! And we were feeling bad! We got maybe a foot of snow here in Boulder, Colorado, but it’s not that cold. We’ll try to warm it up with a great conversation. I have so much to say. For our audience: we first met over 20 years ago and you were just getting started. Here you are 23 years later, so successful. It’s such a cool story, and the way you tell it makes it even better.

So before we get going – I have to pick my questions because I’ve got so many – let’s talk about, quote, “Bring peace to the world through chocolate.” Unquote. Absolutely love it. So simple, but complicated and powerful, right? What’s that mean to you?

Katrina Markoff: When I first started creating these chocolates with ingredients from all over the world – curry that I’d found from India and wasabi from Japan and paprika from Hungary – I was like, “Wow! This is bringing all the world’s cultures into one box in such a harmonious, symbiotic way. Can the storytelling bring more peace to the world through chocolate.” Because this is not about politics. This is about food. These are places that maybe don’t always get along. People judge, or whatever. Can bringing them together through the medium of chocolate be a source of peace? That was really the idea.

Kirk Bachmann: And I love that. Because where there’s food, there’s people and there’s culture, and there’s getting along. And sometimes not getting along. I love that.

I’m so excited. Over the years I’ve used you to make so many people happy when they receive your chocolates. Honestly. So thank you for that.

You started your company 1998, so almost 24 years ago. Your creations, your inspiration, are some of the most delectable, praised combinations – strange combinations! – on the planet. Works of art, as we say in the industry.

I believe you attended Vanderbilt. You studied chemistry, I believe. That leads me to the first question, and we’ll get to your time in Paris. But what exactly is chocolate alchemy? Am I saying that right, “alchemy?”

Chocolate Alchemy

Katrina Markoff: Yeah. When I think about what I do with chocolate, and what alchemy is – alchemy, just to start there, is basically the spiritual, scientific path of transformation to a higher state of being. That can be of anything. Normally, the alchemist would think of it as a personal transformation of one’s self shedding or allowing certain parts of one’s self to die so the better parts can have space to grow and seed up the next generation, the next evolution of one’s self. It’s basically an elevated state. It really can be anything.

When we do chocolate, we don’t do it just because it should taste good. We do it for a true experience. The packaging, the energetics of each food that’s selected that’s going into the chocolate. We run the chocolates through a vibrational frequency tunnel of 528 Hertz, which is a love frequency, while it’s doing the crystallization from liquid to sold. We do a lot of clearing of energy and blessings in the space where we do the work. That energy, though it is invisible, is somewhat tangible in the feelings and the senses. That’s really an elevated state of chocolate, the idea, the goal, of what I try to make. That which can get you into the sense, and when you can get into the senses because you’re paused, because it is a little bit different looking, a little bit different ingredients, not what you would expect, a deeper story. I believe through that process, when you’re present in that process through the senses, you get to that place that I call the sixth sense or that divine essence, that voice that’s very wise that we all have within ourselves.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh my gosh. I just love it. There’s so much thought and passion that’s going into the product that many people might not know, but certainly appreciate. We try to encourage employees, for example, to be more concerned with having relationships with each other and with students that they serve rather than just being transactional. That’s what this sounds like to me. This is well beyond just creating a product. This is creating an experience for the consumer.

Katrina Markoff: I really do feel like I’ve found chocolate as my medium. I love touching and holding ingredients and transforming them into other states. But ultimately, I think I’m an experience maker, a storyteller, and an energizer. That’s really what I’m trying to do, only to reflect that into somebody else. If they are interested in seeing it, I think they’ll see it. If they just want to taste the chocolate, that’s great, too, and they can just keep it at that level.

But the intention is a bit deeper.

An Unconventional Path

Kirk Bachmann: I absolutely love that. So Vanderbilt, and then you went to Paris and you went to culinary school. I’m just really curious: you go to culinary school in France, one of the best places to go to culinary school. Was the goal to become a chef, a pastry chef, anything specific, and is that where you fell in love with chocolate?

Katrina Markoff: I never loved chocolate as a kid. I didn’t have good chocolate as a kid. When I was at Vanderbilt, I wasn’t a great student. I think I probably had dyslexia and ADHD, but was just creative enough to get my way into being accepted to that school. When I was there, thought, I realized, “I’m never going to get a job. I’ll never be able to interview” in these ways that my friends were easily able to do and wear their suits. I thought, What am I going to do with my life?

And I kept being called to communicate through food, because I had a little cake business when I was in high school, and ran our little garage sale when I was really little. In college, I was always trying to have dinner parties, and that was my way of connecting with people. I thought then I should be a chef. That’s what I was thinking. So I thought, I’m going to go to culinary school.

I got to culinary school in Paris and realized that I wasn’t a super linear person. I didn’t necessarily like always having to do B after A. I wanted to mix it up. They didn’t really like that unless you were the head chef. There’s quite a route in Europe to become the head chef. I would never call myself a chef. When I came back from my travels, I thought, I’m not a chef. I’m just a cook. A chef is a chef. I’m just a cook.

I had an almost-failure in the kitchen, if you will, because it wasn’t really my process of creating. I wanted to have something really unique. I wanted to do something really unique, but it didn’t start and stop at the plate. The whole thing was important to me. The space. “How am I going to do that? I guess I’m just not going to be a chef, so now what am I going to do?”

When I was at El Bulli it was really the first time I started to play with chocolate. I remember, we had to make these really dexterously challenging. You take the plastic wrap and make little cylinders and put the chocolate and then tape it, then make these little cylinders and fill them with coconut milk and all. I just started thinking, “This is really kind of cool.” You don’t think this liquid of coconut milk coming out on the plate like that.

And also, being at El Bulli in general was such a radical departure from my time in France. Again, this idea of experiential food, for than the molecular gastronomy there, it was the whole experience of both the food and the place where the back of the house chefs work, which was absolutely gorgeous and unconventional. There was no gas in the restaurant because it was on a mountain. You couldn’t drill for the gas pipes. It was all electric. They had a carved bull’s head and a bird on a branch of wood. All the refrigerators were glass door. I remember thinking, “Wow!” This is what I now know as culture was really honoring the chefs in a way that I had not seen working in the back of the house in some of the restaurants in Paris. I really liked that idea of full vertical of pride: the ingredients that are selected to the way you are surrounding your chefs, to how it’s plated and experienced in a very unusual way. That became the disruptor for me. “There’s something different here.”

I didn’t know I was going to do chocolate until much, much later. I just noticed while I was traveling around the world after that stage in El Bulli that there wasn’t a lot of innovation on the sweet side and the pastry side. Most of what I was seeing was on the cuisine side where it would be a little more innovated. Still not as radical as El Bulli, but in general I felt like there was something missing in pastry. Again, this was 25 years ago. A long time!

Kirk Bachmann: We should say, though, your so humble. Ferran Adrià in Spain, El Bulli will go down in history as a temple of cuisine, or a laboratory of cuisine. So for you to be able to experience what was going on there long before anybody knew what was going on there is pretty spectacular.

Listening to Intuition and Intrigue

Kirk Bachmann:  You said – and I love this for our students – you said, “The start and stop at the plate.” That’s so intuitive. That’s brilliant. You knew yourself at the time.

Katrina Markoff: I think because I wasn’t a conventional learner that I had to develop other systems for making decisions in my life. I found my intuition at a very young age. I believe that everything around me was a sign, a directional sign. I would interpret that for myself as I would go in my own way. It led me down my path throughout most of my life, although I did take a little time off from following it and I got into trouble.

Kirk Bachmann: We all do.

Katrina Markoff: I guess I was trying to make sense of everything that was happening around me. I remember, usually, when there was a little bit of fear or tension in a decision. I remember when my friend said, “Let’s go work at this really crazy place in Spain.” And she started telling me what they were doing, and it was so opposite of being in Paris. I thought, “I don’t know. That seems like a step back or to the left too far.”

Later I learned, especially in my own work, that kind of tension is really good. It’s intriguing. That intrigue makes you feel like you’re going into this new land. When you look at the work I do with chocolate, it’s very much about opposites and tension. Bacon and chocolate for the first time. Curry and chocolate for the first time. Olive oil and chocolate for the first time. Back in the day, that sounded disgusted. It sounded weird. But because it was set on this beautiful box, it was like, “It can’t be that bad.”

That tension piece usually is an indication that something really cool is going to happen here.

Kirk Bachmann: Keeps you on your toes a little bit. Keeps you awake.

Katrina Markoff: Yeah. You’re not sure! You’re in that I-don’t-know-for-sure phase. But it feels like it should be good, but it’s counter to what is going on in the culture, or what seems like is okay or right. That’s where you have to have such a strong inner compass, because when you have that you can reassure yourself. “I know this is right. It doesn’t seem quite right and it’s totally different, and people think it sounds weird. But if you think it’s right, it’s right. So keep going.”

Kirk Bachmann: It’s a great message for students, too. I tell students a lot, “It’s okay to take a little bit of a risk. Calculated risk. Be dangerous.” I grew up the son of a pastry chef, and it was pretty regimented. This is it! This is the recipe, don’t venture from it. Probably the reason I stepped to the other side of the stove and got into the more creative side of cuisine.

I’ve read that you were inspired by, “Lead with Your Heart, The Rest Will Follow.” Did I get that right?

Katrina Markoff: Yeah. I think it was “Follow Your Heart and Success Will Follow.” Something like that.

Kirk Bachmann: Beautiful title.

Katrina Markoff: Honestly, I think it was self-published by a woman that I had known when I was in late high school and college. I was expressing to her that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. “I feel like I’m a failure because I have this degree from this college and I want to go to culinary school.” At that time, that was a vocational thing to do. You didn’t really go to culinary school after you went to college. That was the first tension point. This doesn’t seem right from the optics outside.

She said, “You don’t need to look at the optics outside. You need to look at the optics inside.” In the book, there were these exercises you would do where you would go out into nature and you’d have pen and paper, and you write down just free-flow connection the things that you loved. Start with that. I really focused on horseback riding and cooking. I kept coming back to cooking being the right path, though it was unconventional. It was really where my heart was. I thought, “I don’t know why I want to do this exactly. I don’t know where I’m going to go with this, but I feel like this is my next step.” That’s when I convinced my mom that I needed to go to cooking school.

The First Truffle – Paying Tribute to the Nagaland

Kirk Bachmann: Let’s talk about the chocolate piece. Is this where the inspiration came from? You came back to the States and started experimenting?

Katrina Markoff: I was going to do a cookbook with my friend who I was traveling with on our trip around the world, and she didn’t really like my style. Her dad was a big publisher of books, so she did her book and I did nothing. Oh no! I don’t want to be a chef in a restaurant. Now I don’t have a book to write, so I’m left with no purpose.

But the resistance tends to be the best guide when you have a failure point or a missed expectation. I was working for my uncle in Dallas who had just started a company that was a mail catalog, first version of online business for home goods. He said that during the fourth quarter, people buy a lot of food. Let’s find some great foodstuffs for the fourth quarter. In Dallas, they have a gourmet food mart. I went in there and I saw a ton of chocolate. Loads of chocolate, but all the same story. My grandmother’s recipe. World War II recipe origin story. There was nothing that was fresh. I had this moment where I realized there was a really hole to fill here. I knew about this foodie movement. It was happening in the States: Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado magazines, I remember those coming out. Then Starbucks being established, a sort of second wave coffee. There was this foodie movement. I thought, “Right now, America just seems to know about French cuisine and Italian cuisine, but it doesn’t really know that much more after that.”

With those data points and my understanding of fine dining and traveling the world, seeing those influences and ingredients, I went home. I had this beautiful necklace on from the Nagaland Tribes in India. I just looked at that necklace and for some reason, [I thought] “I’m going to pay tribute and homage to the Nagaland and I’m going to go make a curry-coconut milk chocolate truffle. And I’m going to use all these beautiful cultures and these experiences I had as the inspiration and the connection to create a chocolate that’s really rooted in a story.” And I remember making 22 different chocolates that night.

I brought them into the office in Dallas. Dallas was a big Dickey’s Barbecue town. People thought it sounded awful and gross. I said, “Just try it!” Then I had this woman who picked up the chocolate very cautiously and tasted it and was like, “Oh my God! I cannot believe it. This is amazing! Let me try the one with the wasabi, or the one with the olive oil.” It became this opening of the mind that I saw. The opening of the heart and mind to new ideas, and I thought, “Now this is very powerful.”

That’s how I was like, This is it. I’m going to do chocolate.

Kirk Bachmann: Was that the first truffle? That was your first truffle.

Katrina Markoff: Yeah.

Kirk Bachmann: Unbelievable.

The Power of Cacao

Katrina Markoff: Yeah. The Naga. The curry. That’s when I started researching about the history of cacao, and then I became even more sure that this was what I wanted to work with, because it was sacred plant medicine. The native Mayan and Aztec and Olmecs really revered this to the highest level of raising your vibe, bringing it into your heart space, connecting you to the above to get messages. Opening your mind. “Oh my God, there is so much synchronicity into what I’m seeing, how I’m using it in a very new way as a confection.” Versus the way they used it, which was more of a bitter elixir.

It reassured me, “I am on the right path. This is a sign. This is a sign that I’m seeing this. This is in its history. I have to work with this. This is the most powerful food, and I will work with this one.”

As a person who probably has ADHD and all of these things, it also helped me really focus when it was one substrate, one medium. Then from there, I could do almost anything with it. Because of the range, savory to sweet is so vast. But I wasn’t really doing it necessarily just for the food experience. It was for the transition of other stories and getting people to engage, ultimately, with their senses by having really beautiful purple packaging and really beautiful ribbon. The layers of the stories and the insert cards. Then of course, the look of the chocolates.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s the whole experience. I remember the first time that I started seeing your product. You know that I spent some time with our colleagues, Chef Patrick and Kathy, and I noticed Chef Pascal with someone that I traveled around the country with. All of a sudden I open up the box, and there’s a Chef Pascal truffle. Was that fun? Was that by design? I learned a lot, and I’m going to honor you by naming one of my truffles?

Katrina Markoff: He was one of my favorites. Yeah.

Kirk Bachmann: He was everyone’s favorite!

Katrina Markoff: He was just…the dimples! So sweet and funny, and he’d always say, “A little bit more kirsch” all the time. He was just very gleeful…

Kirk Bachmann: And talented.

Katrina Markoff: And talented. And super talented. I loved how he could be really warm and also really talented. That wasn’t always the case in the kitchen. There’s a lot of ego. He was just a beautiful person, I thought. Always ready to laugh. Great, great guy.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that. Great, great memories. I love when you reflect a little bit. When we think about your work with different flavors, I’d love for you to speak to how you see chocolate as a connector. A connector for relationships, for experiences, that sort of thing.

Katrina Markoff: Yes. I see it both metaphysically and commercially. When you say the word chocolate, 99 percent of the people’s ears are like, “Ooh. Chocolate. I would love a chocolate.” It’s eaten in a way you eat with your fingers. It’s often eaten alone. This reverence for the food gives me a leading edge on people’s interest in it. It’s universally lovable.

But when you do the metaphysical component to the history of cacao and you look at how the science behind it. Cacao has health benefits that the Mayans and the Aztecs knew before about heart health and vascularity and all that. Metaphysically, maybe partially because of the science, it would release those endorphins that made you feel lighter, loved, happier. I say that’s taking you out of the fear state and into the heart space where you are more open to forgive yourself, to forgive other people, and to just connect.

Then, cacao has cannabinoids in it, which makes you feel more calm. There’s some psychedelic effects to cacao in it’s whole form. Maybe yes, maybe no. The idea of it opening your mind, whether that’s through increased blood flow or however you want to go deep into the psychedelics. Do we have access to the above? It’s just an amazing food.

When you combine it with ritual, where we have a self-love ritual and a new beginnings ritual and a protection ritual, for prosperity, all different kinds. When you combine food, and particularly chocolate which was used in ceremony for raising your vibe and bringing love into your heart and giving you energy, that’s really, really powerful. Your body says, “Oh, we’re doing something really special here. We’re creating intention. We’re drinking something super delicious in a very specific way.” That’s a little bit of quantum there. How are we magnetizing our thoughts to manifest through this process of drinking and creating this chocolate, or just tasting this chocolate?

I am always thinking about how I can used chocolate for purpose, cacao for purpose. Ultimately, I’m pretty deep. I want to do something deeper than just the pleasure of taste. I want to go way further. Everything should have a reason for being and for being tasted. How do you put your intention into your food before you taste it? How can that help manifest what you want in your life? We are in a constant state of creation, whether we think it or not, we are. Because we create our whole world. We choose our thoughts that we believe or don’t believe.

As much as you can talk about heart health and all that, is in cacao, but I think the mental health component of eating chocolate in a certain way through the guided tastings that we do, connecting with breath, going through all the sensory cues of…I’m going to belly breathe to trigger my vagus nerve and relax my nervous system and really quiet my mind. When you can get the mind to slow the heck down and let the feelings have room to feel, you get really connected, really grounded. Through that grounding and that connection to yourself, that’s when you can hear your voice. Not the voice of the mind, which is usually a fear or worry voice, but the truth voice.

Because I find that, I want to share that with people. It’s yummy to do it through chocolate.

Start and Improve as You Go

Kirk Bachmann: It’s so well said. Riveting. When does the documentary come out? When does the movie come out? I feel like I’m on a movie set. It’s so riveting.

Speaking of which, so many celebrities love your product. Outside of the gal in Dallas that tasted your first truffle, has there been a moment that just blew your mind? Someone’s reaction to one of your chocolates that really stands out?

Katrina Markoff: You know, it’s funny. I’ve had a lot of that, but none of it. Maybe this is a problem I have, but I’ve never take that in. I never think anything I do is good enough so I’m constantly…nothing’s perfect. I’m always thinking it could be better. How do we make it better? It is a flaw of mine. I should take it in. There’s always room to do better.

One of the things that allow me to actually create the amount of things that we do, because I believe nothing is perfect. I will get it to a place where it’s about 80 percent there. Then I can always improve it, improve it, improve it. I don’t know that perfect ever exists, and if I said it had to be perfect, I probably wouldn’t produce a dang thing. You have to give space to yourself to improve and to say, “It’s okay for right now. We’re going to make it better, but let’s just start.” A lot of it is starting.

When you look at the first box we ever had of our chocolate, it is embarrassing. I cannot believe. But I didn’t have money. I didn’t have resources. I didn’t raise funding. So it was what it was. That’s where the passion can kind of make up where you don’t have the funds to have the pretty, perfect-looking box or branding. Because you’ll get to that.

Kirk Bachmann: Such a good message for people listening. I love the passion and the continued pressure on yourself. Others might call it humility, and that’s okay. That’s a beautiful characteristic, to be humble like that. It keeps you motivated.

You’ve mentioned this notion of the power of collaboration. The other day when we were talking, you mentioned connection time. Working with people with energy helps you to be creative and you to focus. Can you talk a little bit more about how important the people around you are to producing your product?

The Power of Collaboration

Katrina Markoff: Yes. I think having the right hearts and open minds around you are really important. If people don’t buy in to your vision – this is a really unusual thing to talk about. The energetics of food is not really something most people talk about. As I say the reason we’re sourcing the best-in-class ingredients is not just because it’s the most expensive or has the name. It’s because the producers behind it are so loving to this ingredient because it’s so valuable because they want to be so proud of it. It comes from an IGP region or an AOC or whatever. There is something in that. It’s not just the money, it’s actually the pride.

When we come back and make ingredients with it and spend more money on it, and create the packaging around it, you want to have people that are aligned and see that we’re trying to create deep, deep experience. They have to be in it to really express it. My head designer here is so in it, and I would say we are producing the best packaging. This era with Liz is really the best we’ve ever done. She is so into this, understanding sacred geometry and alchemy and the idea of transformation to help people be always in states of making themselves better. Because she’s into it, you can see it and feel it in the art.

I’ve had people that aren’t. And it’s just a struggle. I feel like I’m having to fight for my idea, my belief. For a long time, I didn’t do a lot of the meditation, the rituals, because I didn’t have the right environment and support. I was saying to you yesterday: when you have to become an entrepreneur, you want to be careful to hire people that have really aligned hearts, but are really smart, too. They don’t necessarily have to have done the job before. If they have good common sense and smarts, and have the heart, that means they’re going to work hard. It’s going to mean they’re going to figure stuff out. But if you get too caught up in fear and stuff, you just freeze and you don’t want to do the innovation thing. You don’t want to try something new for the first time. At least for me, because I’m always doing innovation, having a laboratory culture is really important.

It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

Kirk Bachmann: Really, really well said. Along those same lines, as you were talking I was thinking to myself, is it difficult at times to balance the business demands, the economics, with your personal vision? Never getting too far over your skis type of thing.

Katrina Markoff: I would say when I got into the most troubled era of my business, when things were hard, things didn’t flow, money didn’t flow, it was probably because I was trying to be somebody I wasn’t. I kept thinking, “That girl over there, she’s how I should look, because that’s a female CEO of a company. She goes to those conferences and she speaks like that. So I need to be like her. She hires all these really expensive people that come form big companies, and then they grow the company.” This whole dialogue. That was not me, so I couldn’t really execute that. She can, because it was probably her! But that’s not me.

I think I fell down a lot when I was trying to figure out how to be somebody else other than myself. When I finally got back to myself, because I had made so many mistakes it was the only thing I had left to go back to, then it started to flow again. I’m in the state of flow again. That’s when you have to be in really good connection with yourself to know this feels right. I’m going to go with this.

This is a learning planet. You’re going to make mistakes, and then you’ve got to learn fast. Don’t be afraid of that, because it still keeps you going in the right direction.

Kirk Bachmann: So well said. So vulnerable and so transparent. That’s the word I’m looking for. I was just going to ask you about balance, and I think you just answered that. That’s how you find balance for yourself.

Grind The Right Way

Katrina Markoff: I used to grind away. Grind, grind, grind away, and not get great results. Now, because I’ve had a lot of stuff go down in my life, I have to be more of a primary caregiver for my children. The business. I pick them up from school, I drop them off at school, and I still have this business that I’m running with a great team, of course. But it feels like things flow so much easier when you’re aligned with being transparent, authentic, real. Focusing on the priorities that you can do and divvying it up with your team on what they should be doing, playing to everybody’s strengths. I don’t have to be going to all these conferences or whatever. This other part that I was trying to be somebody else. I can just do it my way. It just somehow works out.

There’s a lot of hard work that goes into starting something. Always. You’re blood, sweating, tearing it. But as you get that established, just stay in your zone where you’re the most prolific and don’t worry so much about the things you’re not good at. Let that stuff go. You’re always improving, but be sure to keep doing the stuff you’re tuned into.

Kirk Bachmann: Such good advice. Katrina, what are you most proud of?

Katrina Markoff: What am I most proud of?

Kirk Bachmann: Tough one. Besides your family.

Katrina Markoff: Oh, yeah. I’m most proud. I’m proud that I learned at a young age to take risks and be a maverick, really.

Kirk Bachmann: Love that.

Katrina Markoff: Despite a lot of criticism from my family. I somehow, along the way, switched. I thought, I know what I’m doing.

Kirk Bachmann: I got this.

Katrina Markoff: And a lot of it was that my brother was so hard on me as a kid. Always would tell me I wasn’t good at that. It kind of makes you strong. Some of those adversarial moments are really important in life.

Kirk Bachmann: Beautiful.

Katrina Markoff: They give you your lane. I do know what I know. I know that. I’m clear. I don’t know if I can say it that well.

Katrina Markoff’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: It goes back to the beginning. It’s peace. You have peace yourself. I just love it.

We’re getting a little close to the end, but before I let you go – I just love chatting with you – the name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. So Katrina, what is the ultimate dish?

Katrina Markoff: This is such a big question.

Kirk Bachmann: It can have chocolate in it, by the way.

Katrina Markoff: it can have chocolate in it. Okay. I would say the ultimate dish for me. It’s like one dish plate. When I was living in Paris, I went to this restaurant called L’Ambroisie in the Place des Vosges which is why Vosges is named Vosges. Because I had my first chocolate experience there. I never liked chocolate before. I was at this restaurant and they brought out this dish, a plate, at the very end of the meal. They said, “This is a truffle beignet and you have to take it in one bite.”

What they did was they froze the chocolate ganache and then they dipped it in beignet batter and fried it. Then, in the process of frying it, it melted the inside. You just don’t eat the exterior and then little flakes of salt on the outside. You bit into this crispy, dough-nutty, little salty, and then this burst of liquid, molten chocolate. That was the moment I fell in love with chocolate.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh my. I have asked this question of many people, but I don’t think that I’ve felt the tingle that I just felt as you described that. Absolutely wonderful.

Katrina, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Just delightful. Congratulations on all your success and much more continued success.

Katrina Markoff: Thank you. It was wonderful. You’re such a beautiful person. Thanks so much for having me.

Kirk Bachmann: Thank you, Katrina.

And thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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