BROOKLYN CHOCOLATE TOUR
By Jessica McKenzie | FEBRUARY 12, 2013
Daniel Preston, the founder of Cacao Prieto (218 Conover Street, Red Hook), was an aerospace engineer who sold his defense company and started a chocolate factory and distillery. “You’d be surprised how many engineers would be comfortable in a chocolate factory, but chocolate really came of age in the industrial revolution,” says Preston. Preston and his team of engineers developed chocolate-making machinery they sell to other bean-to-bar companies. He invites curious chocolate lovers out to their Red Hook location to see the mix of Victorian and state-of-the-art equipment at work. Although there are no scheduled tours during the winter, the sign on the door says “Please Knock” and they give impromptu tours all the time. “We’re friendly people,” Preston said. The storefront where you can taste and purchase their products is staffed from 11am – 7pm on weekends.
Their cocktail bar Botanica is closed until spring, but you can whip up your own Valentine’s Day cocktail with Cacao Prieto’s Don Rafael Cacao Rum (available at Dry Dock Wine & Spirits in Red Hook): simply shake with muddled raspberries and ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a raspberry. If you want a traditional offering of chocolate for your sweetheart, Preston suggests the Bark Bars. Each organic, single-origin bar comes with a postcard illustrating a romantic story from his family history.
Scientists at Cacao Biotechnologies & Cacao Prieto have developed a new method of fermenting and extracting cacao beans that significantly increases the potency of natural antioxidants. The molecules being developed are Epicatechin based bioflavoniods with extraordinary antioxidant activity; more than 1000 times more potent than similar molecules derived from green tea.
In collaboration with ASP (Art, Science, Passion) and founder Rhett Butler, a facial soap was formulated with our developed Cacao Epicatechin antioxidant. The soap is truly a fountain of youth product formulated with natural and organic ingredients it posses a high percentage of functional ingredients. There is no “angel dusting” in this meticulous formula that spared no expense for function.
UV rays, IR radiation, pollution, and lifestyle factors generate damaging free radicals that can prematurely age skin. Antioxidants neutralize these unstable molecules, acting as a second line of defense against photodamage and accelerated aging. This soap will improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation by neutralizing free radicals and stimulating collagen production.
The unique soap’s ingredients include: Epicatechin antioxidants from Cacao Prieto, Widow Jane mineral water, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, almond oil, activated carbon, iron oxide, brown sugar, honey, green tea, urea, jojoba oil, macadamia oil, avacado oil, rose hip oil, grape seed oil, sheat germ oil, evening primrose oil, camellia tea seed oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, perrila oil, apricot oil, hazelnut oil, vitamin E, bentonite clay, honeysuckle oil, chamomile oil, blood orange oil, neroli oil, sweet orange oil, myrrh oil, cardamon oil, bergamot oil.
The soap will be branded and marketed by ASP later this year as part of their “black” line of natural products. The below samples were packaged by Cacao Prieto for our beta test panel of doctors and consumers.
Our scientists and “apothecary” laboratory is available for collaborations or developmental work. Please contact us to discuss your product development needs.
Blue Moon® and Chocolate, a Perfect Pairing:
Our head brewmaster, Keith, will tell you that selecting the right ingredients for a beer goes a long way in making it a great beer. The same goes for Daniel Preston and the crew at Cacao Prieto when they’re crafting their chocolate. It’s definitely some of the best chocolate we’ve had.
watch the video at: http://bluemoonbrewingcompany.com/video/Chocolate-60.mp4
DANIEL PRIETO PRESTON / CEO / CACAO PRIETO
It’s easy to get distracted when you start with the word ‘chocolate’, but Daniel’s story snaps us back to attention rather quickly. He’s what we might call an ‘extreme career changer’ (if we were writing a reality show), and we were surprised to discover that even an aerospace engineer can apply his existing job skills to making chocolate. Of course, it’s so much more than that, as you’ll see when you read his interview, visit the Cacao Prieto website, or taste one of their amazing confections (are we getting distracted again?)
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
My background is engineering. I founded an aerospace company producing life saving technologies for our military. When I sold the company the deal came with a five year non compete. I found myself in a position where I had to do something completely different. There was no real ‘aha’ moment, more like a conspiring of the universe that landed me here.
My closest friend is a noted foodie and mixologist in NY, he talked me into partnering on a cocktail bar. The bar is called Lingua Botanica (language of plants in Latin), aka Botanica. It features an extensive cocktail list of unusual and esoteric herbal liquors, fresh herbs and botanicals…. I developed an appreciation and fascination with herbal alcohols and artisan distilling… Overlapping with this I visited family in the Dominican Republic and was exposed to Cacao. My family goes back to the late 1800’s in D.R. and were always in agriculture. Cacao is truly a magical tree. I became fascinated by the plant and when I delved into the chemistry and science behind it I was hooked….
I set off to vertically integrate my family’s farm. Most people are not aware that cacao seeds (cocoa beans) do not taste like chocolate until they are fermented. Chocolate is a fermented food. The byproduct in the fermentation is a foul alcoholic liquid called “sweatings”. When I began integrating processes on our farm, it occurred to me that there were thousands of years of recorded science behind cultured foods: cheese, wine, yogurt, etc… and pretty much all of this had passed cacao by. Standard practice was to crack open cacao fruit (pods) in the field and pile up the pulp covered seeds to allow it to ferment. Basically completely uncontrolled and performed in a dirty environment, the fermentation begins contaminated. You would not find wine makers who would stomp their grapes in a puddle and hope they taste good in a week. So why cacao? I set out on a journey to do things differently. We have since re-examined and re-engineered most all aspects of cacao cultivation and chocolate production. The results led me into founding companies for liquor and chocolate, deeply rewarding and delicious enterprises…..
If I did have to pick an ‘aha’ moment, though, I would say it happened in architecting our farm expansion…We have outgrown our initial farm and are expanding with 2000 hectares. The project is monumental: we are clearing 300,000 coconut trees that are too old to be productive and replanting with 2,000,000 cacao trees. We are building a city for 1,600 employees, schools, churches, a saw mill, a brick factory, large scale biochar, compost and vermiculture operations, setting up germplasm repostories for the genetic preservation of the countries rare cacao breeds, building laboratories for invitro cultivation of cacao, etc……its a bit overwhelming…. I never thought I would fancy myself a farmer, but I also never dreamed just how much science is involved in operating a self sustaining farm (and how difficult it could be).
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I am a professional inventor, I hold over 100 patents in 17+ countries. The legal definition of an invention is something that doesn’t exist in the public domain and which is not obvious to someone normally skilled in the art. I have some particular abilities that make me a natural inventor: I have a photographic memory which allows me to catalog information I have read, I am very good at seeing patterns and connecting the dots that others pass by.
That said, I came across this industry of cacao and saw no vertical integration. There are many companies and people in between the plant nursery and the final chocolate maker. I saw no alignment of interests… I guess my skill set allowed me to visualize the way things should be and try to change it. We are beginning to change things on a national level, and before this project comes to completion we will have changed things on a global level.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
I am truly passionate and intellectually engaged by what we are doing. I imagine it will hold my attention for a long time to come…as to obstacles, they are everywhere, but that’s par for the entrepreneurial course, they’re what makes life more interesting.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
I have never been much of an alarmist or conspiracy theorist, but I am sure that our current system of food production at a farm level in this country is not sustainable. I find the most exciting opportunities out there involve correcting this problem. Educating America in healthy diet and sustainable farming practices, etc.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Chocolate ! Already there.
An article by Michiyo Nakana about her visit to Cacao Prieto in March.
Astor Wines and Spirits: We are proud to be the first and only retailer currently providing these original and incredible new spirits from Cacao Prieto.
If you are after main-stream, cookie-cutter, white bread, built for the masses destinations then PRECINKT is not for you. Our mission is to avoid those places and instead challenge you to uncover local gems and make them your own.
MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012
The Brooklyn Brewsers Tour Cacao Prieto
(click here to read the article)
The Brooklyn Brewsers had the privilege to tour Cacao Prieto in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Cacao Prieto is a combination; single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer and a small-batch rum distiller.
First off, the street was very lively with a large overflow crowd of patrons enjoying a beautiful day in the bar next door. Cacao Prieto is in a charming, re-purposed warehouse space that is replete with many focal points of eye candy. Brick walls and wide plank hardwood floors blend nicely with more modern, segmented glass walls that divide the retail space from the production space. Just beyond the retail space, the copper distiller looms like a shimmering sculpture…but more on that later. At the rear of the production space there is a inner courtyard with a tree juxtaposed against industrial facades. If you are into aesthetics, this is a great space to see in person.
Sunday, May 20th, 2012