Exquisito Fine Chocolates Wins Food Innovation Pitch Night
When Carolina Quijano decided to leave behind a successful career as a management consultant to open up a bean-to-bar artisan chocolate company, she was committed to more than producing high-quality small-batch chocolate. For Quijano, it was essential to pay farmers fair wages for their premium cacao beans.
That pledge and her sharp focus on her goals to grow her business impressed the judges at the recent Food Innovation Pitch Night. Quijano’s Exquisito Fine Chocolates beat out other competitors to win first place, including mentoring sessions, free coworking space and a promotional video.
“Having a successful panel of business insiders view your brand as scalable and unique helps to give a boost of confidence as the business grows,” says Quijano. “I’m absolutely grateful and humbled.”
The event, sponsored by the Better Food Movement, asked aspiring food entrepreneurs and startups to pitch their company or concept to a panel of industry leaders made up of Joel Pollock, co-founder of Panther Coffee; Ignacio Garcia-Menocal, CEO of Grove Bay Hospitality and Michael Hall, CEO of Digital Grass. The evening was moderated by Evan Benn, editor-in-chief of Indulge Magazine.
"My first wholesale clients were chef Max Santiago (Sugar Factory; formerly of Salty Donut) and Suzy Battle (Azucar). Working to supply Max was a great lesson in understanding what a chef looks for in chocolate and with his imaginative requests, helped developer a wider catalogue of balanced recipes."
Quijano says Batlle had requested a cacao percentage she didn't manufacture, “but eager to gain her business I ran various tests until perfecting what is now their staple chocolate recipe for 73% origins,” she says. Exquisito Fine Chocolate wholesale clients also include Edge Steak and Bar, Threefold Cafe, Pasion del Cielo and Vixi Gelateria.
While the Little Havana move will help establish her chocolate factory, Quijano doesn’t plan to cut corners. “It takes us four days to make a single batch of chocolate and we wouldn't have it any other way,” she says.