By Michelle Zimmerman
With the permission of my 13-year-old son Clark, I signed up to talk to his 8th grade class for the school’s Career Day. At first, he was hesitant, but when I told him I would be bringing chocolate, he felt a little better about the whole thing.
It’s not easy getting 13- and 14-year-olds to be engaged in any discussion, let alone one about chocolate. But I had something up my sleeve that I knew would get them involved—a bar of chocolate with ants!
The morning started with me giving the students a bit of background about me and how I won a scholarship in high school to attend culinary school. Then, I showed them a slideshow with pictures of all the wedding and birthday cakes I’ve made over the past 20 years. They loved the opportunity to talk about their favorites and vote for the cakes they liked best. We talked about finances and how much money is takes to run a business like my company, Curating Taste in Phoenix, and how much money someone can make in this industry. Then came the fun stuff!
When I told them I attended a school that taught me how to each chocolate, their eyes lit up, and even the cool kids thought that was cool. At this point, I knew I had them, so I showed them some pictures of a cacao tree and passed around a wooden cacao pod sculpture as the kids tried to make sense of how that tree and the pod help produce the chocolate they love to eat.
Not surprisingly, most of the students in Clark’s class said they loved regular grocery store chocolate. In fact, when I told them there was fancy chocolate, they asked if the fancy chocolate was Hershey’s. I laughed and told them the chocolate I was going to give them was different than anything they could buy in a traditional grocery store—and that made them perk up with curiosity.
I saved the best part of the presentation for last. I brought two pieces of chocolate for the students to try and told they both contained a secret ingredient. The first piece of chocolate, I said, had an ingredient that required students to be brave—and I told them they couldn’t be upset at me when I told them what it was. The second piece of chocolate’s secret ingredient was exciting but not scary, I said.
To my surprise, about two-thirds of the 28 students chose to be brave. Imagine their surprise when I told them the piece of chocolate they tried contained Amazonian ants (thanks, To’ak for your wonderful Amazonian Ant Bar). Most of the kids freaked out but were excited that they tried ants—though one poor girl looked like she was going to be sick. Other students didn’t believe me, but once I showed them the package, they were convinced.
The other students tried a piece of Seattle Chocolate’s Moon Rocks Truffle Bar with popping candy, so the secret and exciting ingredient in that piece of chocolate was easy for the students to figure out.
After class ended, the students ate all the leftover chocolate. I think the entire presentation was a great success. It is always a satisfactory experience when opening young people’s eyes and minds to different things.