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Matt Caputo knows fine chocolate. In fact, when he was unexpectedly blindfolded for a taste test in front of the camera for a local TV station, he easily passed their test. They give him a brand you can buy in the grocery store and a bar of chocolate from his shop. He knew the difference before he even tasted the grocery store chocolate, just by its smell. Today, the mere whiff of a Hershey’s bar can make him want to vomit, which science backs up. Turns out the two contain a chemical called butyric acid, that gives vomit its characteristic smell.
The Curator of Chocolate
Caputo’s is equal part historic preservation (living museum) and art gallery. Matt doesn’t just know the brand names, he knows the people who made the chocolate (they’re friends), where the beans were grown and the historical background. Its made by artisans who know each ingredient, the species of plant or animal, its pedigree and each step of the process of growing and harvesting. Matt sees his role not only as an educator, but as a preserver.
He didn’t travel the world and study chocolate, cheese and other food to be a food snob. It’s not expensive because it’s high brow. Instead, he and other connoisseurs want to protect a heritage. There’s a story behind every brand. Like starving artists, despite the cost of their product compared to cheaply made brands, many struggle financially.
His Job: Eating a Pound of Chocolate a Day
As part of his job as owner of Caputo’s Market and Deli in Salt Lake, he eats between 1/4 and a full pound of chocolate every day. A single bar of chocolate can take him an hour to get through and there are over 20 bars at his desk waiting to be sampled. He’s constantly expanding the chocolate section of his store and each must pass his discriminating taste. He’s trained his palate too. It takes a lot to give him palate shock – which he describes as a slight numbness on your tongue like Novocaine, that dulls your taste buds. Our group of Utah bloggers is at palate shock in a few tastings, it takes him 60-70.
How to Sample Fine Chocolate
When you taste fine chocolate you should let it melt in your mouth before you chew or swallow. Let all parts of your tongue get washed in it. Notice the various notes it hits. I try this. At the end of the class we eat cake. I immediately note the fruity or clover-like taste in the chocolate and I know my taste buds will never be the same again.
The US, and Utah is Known for its Fine Chocolate
Even though he tries to be low key about it, Matt Caputo is a chocolate expert and connoisseur. And surprisingly, in the world of fine chocolate, you can forget Belgium. In the past 3 years, America and even Utah is becoming known for its chocolate (thanks to Amano Chocolate for putting us on the map).
I bet you didn’t know that Caputo’s right here in Utah has the world’s largest collection of fine chocolate. They sell more Amano Chocolate than anyone. People bring Matt chocolate they love to see what the expert thinks. Few pass. So it took some coaxing for him to try Amano Chocolate the first time. But after he did, he immediately bought cases. He’s part of the newly formed Chocolate Society and contributor at SeventyPercent.com
Can you Trust a Thin Food Connoisseur?
I wonder how Matt can stay so trim despite eating so much chocolate but he explains that fine chocolate is filling. You don’t need a lot, in fact it’s hard to eat a lot. Dark chocolate doesn’t have a lot of fillers and fat and is full of antioxidants. He stops short of saying its healthy but says it’s the cheese, not the chocolate that he must fight.
Consider me educated. I’m afraid I can never look at chocolate the same way again. If you want to be introduced to the world of fine chocolate, check out Caputo’s chocolate infographic or attend one of Matt’s classes. And with that, I’m grabbing the rest of my chocolate cake to eat. For breakfast.