When artist Michele Bourgeau got the Instagram message from our Founder Mike Nichols asking her to partner with him, she asked her husband, “Do you think this is for real?” Lucky for chocolate lovers and art connoisseurs alike, it was very real.
Mike knew what he wanted: REAL art on REAL chocolate. No prefab graphics or clipart but rather creations as unique as M. Cacao itself. He had the flavors ready – he just needed his artist.
Michele had been creating unique art for most of her life, and though she had never done commercial work before, she was excited by Mike’s outreach and the interest he showed in her creations. Michele toured our kitchen at M. Cacao, met Mike and felt he (and the chocolate) were authentic and lovely. From there, the process of turning chocolate into art began.
Mike and Michele had the same goal for their respective works of art: it must tell a soulful story. Mike and our Master Chocolatier Chef Delphin invent culinary chocolate creations meant to surprise and delight the senses and take the consumer on a journey. Their chocolate is not “just” chocolate – it is food for the soul. Michele pulls beauty from her surroundings and embraces quirky artistic elements that come together to tell stories as unique as the art itself.
The logical first step for Michele was to create some new art for the project – but that was not what Mike wanted. He liked what he had already seen from Michele: an unexpected mix of mediums, some traditional and some non-traditional, but all telling a rich story. Mike poured through her art and soon Celebration caught his eye.
The piece, inspired by the stylings of Marc Chagall, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Maxfield Parrish, is the perfect companion to M. Cacao’s Mexican Horchata: an explosion of color, design and nature. Layered and sensory driven just like the delicious combination of creamy milk chocolate, aromatic rum, vanilla, cinnamon and crisped rice.
Mike and Michele selected 5 additional pieces from there and the Art Bars collection was born.
Well, kind of.
Mike was familiar with chocolate transfer sheets: colored cocoa butter designs on clear backing that transfer to tempered chocolate once it cools. The Art Bars posed a new challenge for us at M. Cacao though: how do we translate Michele’s physical works into a digital image that can be transferred onto the bars without compromising the integrity of the art? Oh, and limit all depictions to only 6 colors!
Over the next 4 to 5 months, the process of digitizing the art began. Michele began collaborating with Sarah Moorhead, freelance illustrator and graphic artist. Back and forth they communicated, Sarah attempting to digitally recreate the art, and Michele speaking to the integrity of each draft. This was a new challenge for Sarah and a journey in self awareness for Michele: “I learned how possessive I am about my art when Sarah came back with a color that was different from the original. I had to learn how to collaborate while all those emotions kept coming up.” Sarah’s passion for her side of the project is what allowed Michele to ease into the process: they were two passionate people working together to create art. Period.
Some of the art proved more challenging than others. Celebration and Let's Dance, a collage inspired by the world of ecology and plant growth, both were tough according to Sarah. The natural looking, multi-layered and delicate nature of the pieces did not organically lend themselves to the digital quality traditionally seen in chocolate transfer designs. As a lover and creator of art herself, Sarah leaned into the process and celebrated the uniqueness of it all.
Months later, 6 of Michele’s creations had been digitized and were ready for the transfer sheets. Two Art Bars were first to debut: Three Graces, dark chocolate with the bright flavors of candied oranges, lemons and limes and Brownie Buddies, dark chocolate chock full of pecan brownie pieces. The remaining 4 bars will be released in the near future– a drawn out reveal appropriate for any great work of art like these.
How do the creators feel about the project? Mike and Chef Delphin are thrilled to see the vision come to life. Sarah is grateful for the challenge and her time working with Michele. And Michele said it was one of the most exciting experiences of her life and worth all the time spent.
Most importantly, how do chocolate and art lovers feel about the project?
If you have not had the opportunity to see and hold one of these bars up close, take our word for it, they will change the way you eat chocolate:
Michele gifted some to her dogwalker who at one point was overheard yelling at her husband, “Don’t eat it yet! I’m not ready.” Her neighbor put the art bars in front of her confused grandkids: “Is this candy? Is it a cookie? Can we eat it?”
Some say the art bars are just too pretty to eat. Some try to peel off the art before they even eat it. Others take a quick first bite, eager to taste the flavors or a true work of art.
No matter your own process, the art bars WILL make you contemplate the creation in front of you – before or after your initial taste. And that is our main goal here at M. Cacao: to change the way you experience chocolate.