I like to keep things as local, organic, and fair-trade as possible. I also believe in simple, whole, fresh ingredients.
Nuts/Eggs: In keeping things local, I regularly find ingredients at Farmers Markets, especially the Hollywood Farmers Market. The roasted peanuts in my LA Luxe Bar, for example, are from Avila and Sons Farms in Hanford (CA), and the eggs I use are also found via the Hollywood FM.
Dairy: All of the creams I use come from the Straus Family Creamery located in Petaluma (CA). The Straus Creamery is renowned for their sustainable, conscientious approach to dairy, and also for the exceptional quality of their products. The Humboldt Creamery provides the butter I use: their Organic Unsalted Butter is AA quality, and is produced in a sustainable, toxin-free way. This butter is not only responsible, but tastes truly exceptional too.
Sugar: My sweeteners are organic and fair-trade and come from Wholesome Sweeteners—fair-trade is another aspect that is important to me. When products have a local source a customer has a certain quality control insofar as she can ask directly what means were taken to create the product before her. And because things are local, the producer takes accountability seriously. On the other hand, when the production process takes place on a global level, it’s easy for the customer to miss cues that would otherwise prompt her to ask how a certain product was made (and whether or not any one was exploited during that production process). Likewise, it can be difficult to hold companies or producers accountable when the production process happens so many countries away. Sugar is a commodity that is produced on a global level. A company that is certified as fair-trade is one that is, in some way, creating a space of accountability and sustainability— human sustainability motivated by empathy in the realm of production and commerce.
I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic and Fair-trade Cane Sugar. This is not a refined white sugar. Rather, it is made from ‘cane juice, which is rich in molasses, vitamins and minerals, and is extracted, clarified, evaporated and crystallized. The result is a blonde-colored, delicious and natural organic sugar.’
When I make caramel I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Light Corn Syrup. Wholesome Sweeteners provides the only ‘organic alternative to the highly processed, synthetic, conventional GMO corn syrups.’ This is not a high-fructose corn syrup. I’ve been asked if I can replace the need for this syrup with some other syrup, why not molasses? or agave? Quite simply the use of corn syrup is the best way prevent crystallization in caramel, specifically. Since the use of corn syrup is essential in some candy-making, I use the best product available on the market.
Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Light Corn Syrup is produced in Austria from guaranteed GMO-free organic corn, and is a blend of organic corn syrup, organic glucose syrup and organic vanilla. It is grown organically and certified, and it is produced without chemicals, additives or artificial flavors.
Chocolate: Chocolate, of course, is another commodity for which companies ought to be held accountable. Big Chocolate companies like Hershey’s use cocoa that is harvested from the Ivory Coast—the world’s leading supplier of cocoa. Child labor takes on a new low in this region where and estimated 109,000 children work under “the worst forms of child labor,” according to the US Department of State, and some 10,000 of which are victims of enslavement or human trafficking. Find that USDS report here.
I am committed to helping combat exploitation that occurs during chocolate harvesting in my own small way. As such, I donate one percent of our profits to International Labor Rights Forum, “a non-profit organization that is committed to combating the scourge of forced child labor in the cocoa industry through public education and corporate campaigns.” If you have a chance, take a gander at the ILRF Cocoa Campaign, and check Fairtrade USA to see your favorite chocolate is listed as a fair-trade commodity.
Furthermore, I use Valrhona chocolate: Valrhona is not only fair-trade but also some of the foremost chocolate in the world. In trying to achieve a chocolate flavor-profile that is on the darker end, I strive to develop custom-blends of Valrhona chocolate that perfectly complements my nougats, caramels, and other centers.