Melanie is a multi award winning , chocolatier now co- owner of the Art of Chocolate/Cacao Santa Fe. She was the former creator & owner of Sweet Paradise Chocolatier in Wailea ,Maui which she started in 2008 and sold in 2015.
Melanie's love of chocolate developed during her numerous trips to Europe as a diamond and gem buyer for fine jewelery companies both in New Mexico and Hawaii.
On one of her buying trips she had a diamond deal go wonky when the cutter discovered he'd accidentally undersold the parcel of diamonds and asked for them back. Her broker advised her she could take the issue to diamond court down the street but she empathized with the cutter who would be in trouble for making such a costly mistake and gave the parcel back.
As a heartfelt thank you for giving back the diamonds she was presented with an amazing gift, a box of exquisite, fragrant chocolates that ultimately would change her course in life...
A world traveler and adventurer Melanie chose to study chocolate not just by studying confectionary chemistry and classic technique from the finest specialty chocolate making schools,( Culinary Institute of America/ NY, Callebaut Academy and others) but also direct from the origins, from the many cacao farms throughout Latin America.
There, by getting her own hands dirty, she learned about cultivating and harvesting cacao, the importance of proper fermentation and all the details that transform raw cacao beans into fine chocolate.
Today she cultivates about 100 cacao trees in Maui Hawaii on a farm that also grows award winning coffee, vanilla orchids, and vegetables for the islands chefs and provides educational farm tours about chocolate. The farm has been featured on the Travel Channel's Island Explorers episode.
She is also shareholder in an early stage, 50 acre cacao farm in the Toledo district of Southern Belize called Serendipity Cacao Ltd.
Melanie serves on the board of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and was a founding member of both the Hawaii Chocolate & Cacao Association and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation initiative of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. She also serves as a tutor for Ecole Chocolat's on line business program for chocolate makers.
A recent return to her New Mexico roots was re- inspired through the discovery of cacao residue in pottery of the pueblo ruins of Chaco Canyon. Since New Mexico is a high desert it was clear that trade routes from Latin countries had been cultivated to bring the sacred cacao beans to the Anasazi people.
A love of the land and it's history , a creative desire to explore the rich tapestry of regional flavors that give an area it's distinctive "sense of place" and an eye for design are all brought together in Melanie's Sweet Paradise Chocolatier and latest endeavor with partner Derek Lanter, Art of Chocolate which delivers a total experience of chocolate beyond the wrapper.