Padovani's Chocolate: The Next Great Hawaiian Product

Padovani's Chocolate: The Next Great Hawaiian Product

Starbucks did it with coffee. Now, Philippe Padovani is going to do it with chocolate. The idea of taking an everyday staple and making it an indulgent—albeit attainable—luxury item, isn't new. However, the manner in which entrepreneurs elevate said item can make all the difference in the world. Padovani is one of these entrepreneurs, and he's currently on a quest to craft the perfect chocolate, right here in Hawai'i.

This story begins perhaps with a budding French chef, was raised between the Australian Outback and the gilded streets of Marseille, France. At 13 years of age he was chasing kangaroo through high desert plains; at 14 he was apprenticing in the kitchen of Les Mésanges in Montbonnot under the tutelage of some of France's top chefs. From there, a whirlwind of cooking stints at some of the most well-respected French eateries throughout Provence, ending at the infamous La Tour Rose in Lyon.

It makes perfect sense—with his culturally and ethnically diverse background—that Padovani would end up in Hawai'i. He stepped ashore in 1986 to take over the executive chef post at Halekulani's La Mer, followed by a stint at Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani Resort (now the Fairmont Orchid), then on to Lana'i. His true entrepreneur skills were put to the test when he returned to O'ahu to open Padovani's Bistro & Wine Bar, which earned countless awards before shuttering due to issues with the hotel in which it resided.

Having come full circle as a chef, and now business owner, it made sense that Padovani was among the ranks of Hawaii's top chefs that formed the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine movement, which really took hold in the early 1990s. Accredited as one of the founding members, Padovani has felt a constant pang in his side to remain on the leading edge of culinary happenings in Hawai'i. Hence, as the restaurant scene has been evolving over the last 5 years, he has opted to do something completely off the beaten path.

As far back as 1992, Padovani has been consulting with various purveyors and growers of cacao. In one such effort, Padovani consulted for Jim Walsh, the first person to experiment with harvesting cacao on a larger scale in Hawai'i—he planted 18,000 trees. The pair saw limited success: The chocolate was revered by chefs across America, yet the costs of farming the highly-involved organic product made it an unprofitable adventure.

Ten years later, Padovani scoured the globe for the finest chocolate ganache. He tasted and experimented with their varied textures. In 2006, he then brought in his brother, Pierre Padovani, a master chocolatier and pastry chef who trained in the finest patisserie's in all of France. Padovani's Chocolate was born.

Out of their Dole Cannery shop and kitchen (which is fully open to the public), the Padovani's can be found melding hard to find and down-right extraordinary food items with their exquisite ganache. Luscious bights include Tahitian Vanilla truffle, black currant ganache, Ka'u orange, apple banana, sea salt and caramel, and coffee with vanilla and gold flecks. Ingredients like Pekoe tea and cinnamon can also be found in select morsels.

"For nearly twenty years now I've been pushing for cacao to be a major industry here in Hawaii," said Padovani. "We have the necessary parts to produce really exquisite chocolate, it's just going to take some concerted effort by a variety of players."

At the moment, Philippe and Pierre are in talks with a major retailer in the U.S. that may begin carrying their chocolates throughout the country. They have been working on a deal with Wailua Chocolates on O'ahu's North Shore. Partners like Japan Airlines are using the product in their First Class cabin; while the nationwide public can purchase Padovani's Chocolate via their web site.

Those on O'ahu should visit the retail store at Dole Cannery. Yet for the truest experience, head down to Philippe's restaurant Elua, on Kapiolani Blvd., where the latest concoctions can be found on the desert menu.

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