Rural Missouri - February 2011 - (Page 8)

life behind bars Chocolate is sweet success for this lawyer turned chocolatier hen many people change jobs, they look for a position in a similar occupation. But that’s not the case for Shawn Askinosie. When Shawn changed career paths, he took a huge pay cut and a giant leap of faith. Shawn was a criminal defense lawyer in Springfield who has had numerous high-profile cases that garnered the attention of “Court TV” and “Dateline NBC.” But after nearly 20 years of fast-paced law, along with occasional death threats, he knew he needed to do something else for a living. So he began “praying desperately” that God would give him passion for another career. But until his prayer was answered, Shawn would have to find a hobby to relieve the mounting stress of his law practice. “So, like a lot of guys, I began grilling. Then I started baking,” says Shawn. “I became obsessed with cupcakes. I gave thousands of them away.” That passion led Shawn to concoct chocolate desserts, such as soufflés, and eventually the study of pure chocolate and making chocolate from scratch. Shawn’s preoccupation with the sweet elixir soon overflowed from his home kitchen to his law office kitchen, where even paralegals and secretaries stirred chocolate with him. By 2005, Shawn knew what he wanted to do — make chocolate for a living. So he began winding down his law practice at Askinosie and Bilyeu. In May 2007, the doors of Askinosie Chocolate opened in a rehabbed Springfield storefront, and Shawn became one of only 20 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the United States. Shawn is quick to admit he had a big learning curve when pursuing a career in chocolate. “When I started, I didn’t have any idea that it came from a bean. I just thought somebody melted something, molded it and it ended up on a store shelf,” he says. To overcome his chocolate knowledge deficit, Shawn began researching and even traveled to the Amazon to study with world-renowned chefs about chocolate. Then it was on to Ecuador to work in a chocolate factory for a few weeks. Self-described as “obsessive-compulsive when it comes to work,” Shawn admits his career choice has been a selfish one, but one his family supports. “I was making a lot of Buyers of Askinosie Chocolate can track their chocolate’s trip from bean to bar on the website with the “choc-o-lot” number found on the wrapper. W by Heather Berry Above: Dried cacao pods, containing cocoa beans that will eventually become chocolate, can be seen during the factory tour at Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield. Tours are given every Tuesday at 3 p.m. Right: During a trip to Ecuador, Shawn Askinosie checks beans during the fermentation process. money. My career was on the way up,” he says. “I made a conscious decision to make less money. But that also made significant lifestyle changes for my family, too. It took some getting used to.” His wife, Caron, and daughter, Lawren, are integral parts of the family business, as is son-in-law Kyle Malone. According to Shawn, his wife is the “director of common sense” for the operation, with Lawren serving as public relations and sales director and Kyle as production manager. They, along with six other employees, make up the Askinosie Chocolate team. “I still have a law office and keep my license current, but I don’t practice. I do keep a suit here in the office, just in case I need to sue someone who owes us money,” says Shawn with a smile. The art of premium chocolate The Askinosie Chocolate process begins with Shawn buying cacao (pronounced “ca-cow”) beans directly from farmers around the world with whom he’s established relationships. Buying directly from the farmer allows Shawn to influence the flavor and consistency of the beans he buys. Currently, Askinosie Chocolate buys beans from farmers in Ecuador, the Philippines and Tanzania. About every three months, several tons of cocoa beans arrive at the Springfield-based confectionery. Once the beans are cleaned, they’re moved to the roasting room, which Shawn says is a key step to influencing the flavor of the chocolate. When it comes down to making chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate is pretty much an open book, according to 20-year-old Lawren. “The chocolate world is so secretive,” she adds. “We open our books to the employees and the farmers, and we have everything on our website — all 70 steps of our bean-to-bar process. The only thing we keep secret is the tempering heat and how long we leave our chocolate in the conch machine where they add the sugar to the chocolate.” Askinosie Chocolate prides itself on using no additives or preservatives in any of their products. Their chocolate includes only cocoa beans, goat 8 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2011

Rural Missouri - February 2011
Table of Contents
Life Behind Bars
A Powerful Idea
Mail Bag
Angels Among Us
Out Of The Way Eats
The Store Time Forgot
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
For the Birds
Out With the Old...
World Wide Wood
Around Missouri
Just 4 Kids

Rural Missouri - February 2011