Inaugural Chocolate Class—A Sweet Place to be

November 8, 2023


Photo by Scott Gerdes
Culinary Arts Bean to Bar instructor and co-owner of Chokolá Bean to Bar Debi Vincent (far left) praises her students' chocolate goodies during their final presentation held on Nov. 7 at Chokolá in Taos.

Hands down, chocolate is a favorite human indulgence. Its sweet comfort, alluring texture and aroma, and simple to fantastic concoctions have created smiles for centuries. 

On Nov. 7 at Chokolá Bean to Bar in Taos, 11 UNM-Taos Culinary Arts students showed what they learned about making chocolate treats in instructor and Chokolá co-owner Debi Vincent's inaugural Bean to Bar class. 

Proudly presented on a table in the center of the customer area of the store were creations born from the mind of each student, such as mango and coconut bon bons. A goat milk chocolate cheesecake. White chocolate confections with fruit. Chocolate entremets. Palmiers dipped in chocolate. Eclairs. Chocolate crepes. Red chile and piñon biscotti dipped in chocolate. And Jeans Pineda’s goat milk chocolate bark with chicarrón and Szechuan peppercorn that he described as having “crazy stuff in there.” 

The new course, however, didn’t begin with melting and forming the main ingredient—chocolate. It began with the steps the folks at Chokolá take. “What’s behind all of the goodies is hard labor,” Vincent said. 

Their work started with sorting the cacao beans, roasting them, stone grinding them, tempering (heating the chocolate to an average of about 110 degrees), and then molding the finished product. The classes were held in Chokolá’s Taos factory.

It may have been laborious, but when asked if the class was fun and educational, in unison they all replied, “Very.”

“I can appreciate chocolate more than it just being good,” said Nanette Romero, who is seeking a degree in Culinary Arts. 

Another Culinary Arts degree-seeking student, Ruben Salazar, added, “It’s better to know how to do a lot of things right. That opens more doors.” 

Vincent was full onboard when UNM-Taos reached out to her about the possibility of offering a chocolate bean to bar course within the Culinary Arts program. She went so far as to say this type of class is “cutting edge.” 

“There are very few people in the world who know how chocolate becomes chocolate,” she expressed. “There are few school programs in the U.S. or around the world that offer to teach people how to do this; to learn something so special. I’m proud of UNM-Taos for being progressive.” 

Vincent said the bean-to-bar movement started in the U.S., following specialty coffee. This way of making chocolate is also becoming more popular in Europe, she added, as are the fair trade and organic aspects of bean to bar.

This was Vincent’s first time teaching, although she’s thought about it over the years. She’s been making chocolate for 19 years, and said her work saved her life because it gave her “a reason to live.” 

“I’ve always wanted to teach,” she said. “It’s more interesting than the business side of things and it inspires my creativity as well.” 

The success of, interest in, and joy from the Bean to Bar class means it will be offered again—possibly this coming spring or summer—announced UNM-Taos Administrator Cathy Brandenburg.



Culinary Arts student Alejandro Vigil finishes up his chocolate crepes with assistance from
fellow Culinary Arts student and instructor Gretchen Brockfeld.


A portion of the beautifully crafted sweets created by the Bean to Bar students.