Katrina Markoff, owner and creative force behind Vosges Haut-Chocolat, is taking chocolate and social entrepreneurship to new heights.
A 1995 graduate of Vanderbilt University with degrees in Psychology and Chemistry, three days following graduation Markoff left to pursue her dream of culinary arts in Paris. She studied for one year at Le Cordon Bleu and graduated with Le Grand Diplome in Cuisine and Pastry as well as degrees in Basic and Advanced Oenology.
From Paris, Markoff embarked on an 8 month tour around the world studying food. She worked from place to place, studying the indigenous cuisines of France, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, China, Australia and Hawaii.
It was during this period of time that Katrina witnessed the tragic tale of an Afghani woman whose face and arm were mangled by her husband with a bucket of acid. Katrina decided in that moment that she had to help end abuse, and decided to use the unlikely medium of chocolate as a means to ease suffering, and increase the enjoyment of life. From this experience the social for profit mission of Vosage Haut-Chocolat was born.
Based on Katrina’s international experiences, she developed the concept of ‘exotic truffles.’ Fusing a gamut of indigenous spices, flowers, roots, herbs and liqueurs with premium chocolate, she created a unique tasting experience with each bite. â€œIf we can embrace the idea of trying something new such as the perplexing oddity of curry and chocolate, we just may come one step closer to bringing peace to the world through chocolate.”
Ten years have passed since Katrina Markoff founded Vosges Haut-Chocolat with the ambitious mission of bringing peace to the world through chocolate. Concurrently, an organization by the name of V-Day was laying down its roots in an effort to assemble a global network of grassroots activists.
V-Day is devoted to stopping every kind of violence against women and girls, including battery, rape, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery. Its work is predicated on three core beliefs: that art has the power to transform thinking and inspire people to act, that lasting social and cultural change is spread by ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and that local women know what their communities need and can become unstoppable.
Each year V-Day increases awareness by focusing on a specific group of women in the world who are resisting violence with courage and vision. This year, the spotlight is turned to New Orleans and the Gulf South in celebration of V-Day’s tenth anniversary. “Katrina Warriors” are honored for their strength in spite of devastating loss, and commended for rebuilding community one brick at a time.
On April 11th and 12th 2008, the New Orleans Arena and the Louisiana Superdome will be transformed into a place of peace where V-Day activists from around the world can connect, network, and celebrate life. Activities will strengthen the V-Day model of empowerment by linking art and activism, building bridges across class, nationality and racial divides, and providing a center of caring, learning and healing for the local community. Activists and service providers will aid, support, and empower survivors of violence.
In 2005, Katrina expanded the Vosges Exotic Candy Bar line to include a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar blended with cacao nibs and CafÃ© du Monde chicory coffee. Katrina named the bar “Creole” in homage to the vibrant city of New Orleans. Vosges Haut-Chocolat honors V-Day’s tenth anniversary by donating one dollar for each Creole Exotic Candy Bar sold in 2008. Proceeds support local New Orleans women’s groups in their fight to rebuild.
Chocolate may be an unlikely medium to bring about world change, but it is a sweet one.