You know you’re a great chocolate-maker when Oprah, Serena Williams, Issa Rae, and Kelis sing your praises. Ten years ago, designer chocolatier Chef Phillip Ashley Rix set out to blaze a trail with his wildly imaginative luxury chocolates that celebrate the culture. Since then, the man known as the Black Willy Wonka has developed an international following and been named One of America’s Best Confectioners and Chocolatiers by TasteTV.
So, how does Rix come up with chocolates like his award-winning Savoy blue cheese bonbon.
“I get inspiration from so many sources; my encounters with interesting people, traveling, eating, and drinking; but much of it is I spend a lot of time daydreaming and wondering what something would taste like if it were chocolate. That could be music, a movie, or any concept, really. It is the reason I never run out of ideas for new chocolates. It may sound crazy, but some of the best collections come to me in the wee hours of the morning.”Phillip Ashley Rix
Speaking of collections, Rix has created several dope ones: Taste of Memphis pays homage to his hometown; The 50-piece Taste of America is a chocolate lovers dream with a flavor representing each state. And the inventive Soul Food Collection features fried chicken, Kool-Aid, collard green, and macaroni & cheese flavored bonbons that will have you jones-ing for a summer cookout. Rix also dropped collections inspired by the popular HBO shows, “Love Craft Country” and “Insecure”, and teamed with Black-owned Uncle Nearest Premium Aged Whiskey for the Phillip Ashley X Uncle Nearest, a box that brings two African American craftsmen together in one box.
Once inspired, Rix spends hours, days and sometimes months digging into the concept, researching how to translate the idea into flavors, writing formulas, and figuring out which ingredients to pair to tell a story in a meaningful way. He then crafts the ganache, conducts taste tests to tweak the final product, and then signs off on the flavor(s). “We typically paint 21 to 32 pieces at time. Some designs require finger painting which is done one cell at a time. Painters typically work four-to-five-hour shifts and will yield 3,500 to 5,000 chocolates each. The visual design is primarily driven by the style and purpose of the collection, flavor profiles and the mood I want to visually communicate.” The chocolates arrive in specially designed boxes, or the Phillip Ashley signature black box with the green inscription, ‘Every chocolate should tell a story’ and includes a flavor menu. When asked what he considers his most artistic chocolate, Rix has an easy answer, “the next one”. Like a true artist, he aims to create something exciting with each new flavor.
So, what is new? “I am in the lab working on several new projects including a Mixtape Collection inspired by some of my favorite music, an international flavors collection, and a new Fall/Winter box that includes unique teas that have been infused into milk chocolate and caramel bonbons,” says Rix. “And just in time for the holidays, I recently dropped the Luxury Advent Calendar, a 24-piece box filled with festive bonbons that resemble shimmering holiday ornaments in seasonal flavors like Eggnog, Gingerbread Man, Pecan Pie, Rosemary Grapefruit, Chess Pie, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Spice, German Chocolate Cake, Bourbon Banana Nut Bread, and Pear Tarte Tartin.
If you’re in Memphis, stop by the 1,300 square-foot retail studio and boutique located in the heart of the city’s historic Cooper Young District. As for the rest of us, head to www.phillipashleychocolate.com to shop all collections and the Luxury Advent Calendar available for pre-order now. “We ship everywhere, so visit us locally, or let us ship our award-winning chocolates to you.”