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Forest Stories

The day I didn’t get in the medical school

Granddaughter of a pastry cook, as a teenager Luisa wanted to be a doctor, but she did not get in the medical school. And, making her grandmother proud, she found herself in the cuisine. That is where she combined her love for food with her chemistry skills.

During culinary school, to which she decided to attend to get even deeper in the knowledge she intuitively already had, she wanted to study abroad – in Europe – and then open a pâtisserie when she got back. The same path many of her colleagues wanted to follow. And searching for something that would differentiate her from the others while always looking for Brazilian products, Luisa fell in love with the wild cacao from the Amazon.

Foreigner websites, on-line communities, and e-mails exchanged with professionals were her only support when she learned how to make chocolate from cacao beans at her parents’ house. The process was not taught in the culinary schools in Brazil. Her first trials failed, but she did not give up. Cooking demands persistence.

Curiosity and a never-ending hunt for information and innovation are part of Luisa to these days. At the production site, she is always creating and testing recipes, searching for new ways to explore and highlight the flavors Amazon wild cacao provides to the chocolate. Besides mixing and trying recipes until a perfect result, Luisa also tracks every production step down, from cacao harvest and processing to chocolate packaging, adjusting every detail. She is also responsible for the training on fermenting our so special raw material. That is what makes her inventions better every time.

The day I didn’t get in the medical school

On her second try to get in the medical school, Luisa decided to open up her possibilities and asked her sister Andréa to take her to take a culinary school test without telling her parents. She got in Anhembi Morumbi University and dropped out of medical school prep course, diving right in the culinary world. And for her own surprise, her family immediately supported her.

The kitchen became her Disneyland, and, with her family’s support, she started making complex recipes based on culinary books her father bought her. The longer and harder the challenge was, the more fun the family had in the kitchen. On a Christmas eve, they decided to prepare an elaborate turkey recipe created by the famous British Chef Heston Blumenthal. It took three days to be ready and it demanded monitoring every three hours.

It was at that time, when she was trying new things, that Luisa came across a step-by-step chocolate recipe in a book her father had given her, chef Francisco Migoya’s Elements of Dessert. She needed two things: a mill (also known as melanger) and cacao, of course. Her father was able to find her a mill, but cacao was a little more complicated to find.

Luisa and her father started a long research project that led them to the cacao origin: the Amazon Rainforest. It didn’t take long for them to think: That´s it! We found our edge! Let´s make chocolate with Amazonian cacao! With the help of her aunt Helosisa, who worked in Acre for a while, they contacted Alexandre Lins president of Cooperar, a cooperative that harvests the wild cacao that occur in the flood plains of the Purus River. Off they went to the São Sebastião Community, in the Purus River, in the state of Acre, and get a better understanding of what the so-called wild cacao was about. Unfortunately, due to lack of knowledge of the cacao plant in the region, they arrived after the harvest! They did not get to see even one single fruit. But they were able to see the positive impacts of cacao production chain on the families and the environment. After that, there was no turning back.

Still today it is not an easy task to find wild cacao and collect it from the forest. But Luisa and her father saw it as a chance to make something different, with potential to benefit the families and the extraordinary forest.

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