North Carolina native Hallot Parson jumped into the kitchen while attending college in Dallas, Texas. He abandoned his university studies to work for Chef Stephen Pyles before moving on to posts in Aspen and New York City. After 11 years away from home, Parson moved back North Carolina and continued to work in kitchens until he took a life-changing trip to Escazú, Costa Rica. It was there he met cacao farmers and decided on a life in chocolate.
A great deal of independent study, he founded Escazú Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh, North Carolina, alongside business partner Danielle Centeno. A proud Venezeulan with a background in the culinary arts, it was almost inevitable that chef-turned-chocolatier Centeno would champion her homeland’s cacao. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, with professional experience in savory and pastry kitchens, Centeno approaches the full richness of cacao with an open mind—and palate.
Together the duo transforms cacao beans that have been carefully, thoughtfully, and (most importantly) personally sourced from Central and South America. It’s Parson’s job to roast, grind, and process the beans from raw state to luxury product, using centuries old recipes and tools they’ve retrofitted for their small-scale, hands-on operation. Centeno serves at Escazú’s chocolatier, taking their house-ground chocolate and crafting bars, bonbons, and confections that people all over the North Carolina and the Southeast can’t get enough of.
Why: It builds awareness of the problems in our current food system and combines educational activities with a practical way of providing fresh produce to the local community.
Interview with Artisans Danielle Centeno and Hallot Parsons of Escazú Artisan Chocolate – Raleigh, NC