Cacao farmers are the backbone of the global chocolate industry and yet receive the lowest shares of revenue for chocolate production. However, vendors the highest quality, best-tasting beans typically make 200%-300% or more per metric selling their product to specialty chocolate makers. Having already dedicated several years of research to cacao quality and flavor, I wish to position myself as a consultant for chocolate companies purchasing cacao from small farmers who wish to improve their beans' quality. As a consultant, I would advise cacao farmers on improving the quality of their product by changing harvest, fermentation, and drying parameters to produce cacao beans that can be sold at a premium price.
My doctoral research aims to develop a model of the enzymatic digestion of the cacao vicilin protein, which leads to peptide products essential for the production of chocolate flavor. Modeling of this protein would be an innovative contribution to this understudied yet vital area in chocolate production. These models will prove to be an integral part of advancing farm and production operations and can lead to decisions about further breeding and processing. The technological advancement of cacao production and processing is vital to its existence.
I came to this research through several years of experience in background fields of food science, microbiology, and fermentation. I have gained industry experience as a chocolate-maker and farm consultant, including consulting work on best fermentation practices for farms in Cameroon and Nicaragua. My speaking engagements include the Craft Chocolate Experience and Lillian Fountain Smith conferences, where I was invited to speak about own research and its effect on the industry. My recent publication “Effects of time and temperature during melanging on the volatile profile of dark chocolate” showcases how, using a metabolomics approach, time and temperature are critical factors in determining the aroma chemistry of chocolate and affects a diverse set of known flavor active compounds. Taken together, these experiences add up to a significant level of expertise in the field of cacao and chocolate.