In Focus: Rawclates
Salt Lake City… black and white checkered tiles on a countertop… the smell of Dutch cocoa in the air… and a 6-year old girl sitting at the counter while her Swedish great grandmother puts the finishing touches (a little bit of anise and then some cream atop) on a cup of hot cocoa…
That’s one of Hadara Slok’s earliest memories, and it’s completely unsurprising that chocolate sits at its center.
Hadara’s father migrated to Utah from Holland serving as, among other things, a genealogist for the Mormon church. European flair from her father’s side, coupled with Hadara’s “hippie vegan mother” who refused to let her eat chocolate (back then, who knew a little chocolate was actually good for you), fostered Hadara’s early appreciation for our favorite indulgence.
With such a unique parental combination, she certainly felt grateful for those cups of cocoa with great grandma. Visits to her aunt’s house were a different story.
There mom’s chocolate moratorium held serve, and it turned Hadara into a little chocolate thief. She knew exactly where her aunt kept a secret dark chocolate stash — well, Hershey’s Special Dark, so we’re using the term dark chocolate loosely here. She made a habit out of sneaking into her aunt’s cabinet to steal a piece, and miraculously, even with a long list of such covert ops and eats, no one ever caught her in the act.
Despite the early, secret romance with chocolate, it would be decades before Hadara finally went full circle. In fact, Rawclates grew out of necessity to some extent, perhaps even a twist of fate.
Many years after the dutch cocoa days with great grandma, Hadara lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, about as far from Salt Lake City as possible in the United States. After a surgery left her on serious physical restrictions for a few weeks, she started eating a raw diet to compensate. That situation, coupled with a rare allergy to many raw fruits, left Hadara searching for a raw dessert to complement the rest of her nutrition plan.
Enter raw chocolate. Within weeks, Hadara realized she’d found something special.
“Friends visited me and tasted my chocolate. They encouraged me to sell it, that’s how good they said it was. But you know how friends are just sometimes nice and not always honest…”
Inspired but still cautious, she set up some tasting parties, in both Salt Lake City and Chapel Hill, to more accurately gauge interest. After those more formal tastings proved what her friends said all along, she decided to give selling raw chocolate a real go. In 2010, Hadara decided on a few flavors to test the market, secured her license with the North Carolina Agricultural Department, and Rawclates began in earnest.
She also brought her daughter Esar on board in the beginning. Esar even designed the original logo. With a unique raw, vegan and homemade product created (literally made at home,) plus the mother-daughter angle as well, the family team found success in the North Carolina market. Hadara worked hard, eventually selling Rawclates in everything from gourmet grocery stores, to coffee bars, to even yoga studios and acupuncture centers.
‘In the beginning, we were 100% raw, organic, fair trade, kosher, and enriched with super foods like maca, hemp, mesquite, and acai. Our chocolates were soy-free, gluten-free and sugar cane-free as well, made instead with agave.”
PICTURED ABOVE LEFT: Hadara Slok receives a batch of Amazonian bars
Desperately Seeking Stable
Yes, that all sounds great, but the raw obsession created one big roadblock. Shelf stability. Rawclates needed refrigeration, their shelf life minimal to say the least. Keeping the chocolate raw, crafting it without tempering, proved to be quite a challenge.
“We used coconut oil in it, which was a big trend to use in chocolate back in 2010, but we ended up taking that out because oil can make something go rancid more quickly (and we were already in a high-humidity state), plus it would make the chocolate blue.”
The challenge lasted for years. Indeed, in the middle of it, Hadara moved to New York City and took roughly a year-long hiatus from Rawclates, in part to adopt an 8-day old baby.
Not just any baby, but sadly a baby born with an addiction to five different drugs. With an infant that needed so much love and attention, Hadara made one more crucial decision with the move to New York. She attended the International Culinary Institute, seeking a greater understanding of chocolate, all in an effort to solve Rawclates shelf stability issue.
“I received intensive training that made me understand chocolate a lot better. Although it was for conventional chocolate, I combined it with my own my practices and made it holistic.”
She then studied with raw chocolate guru Amy Levin (owner of Ooosha Chocolate), and also Russell James, The Raw Chef, both in the UK. Amy’s guidance provided a huge boost.
“I learned some great skills at the International Culinary Institute, but Amy’s classes really took me to the next level. Holistic confidence… to do this naturally and still have a really great product. Amy instilled that confidence in me. She’s also very giving and down to earth. I learn very well from people who are giving and down to earth. Amy and Russell both are.”
Combining all of this new knowledge with the core of her original vision, Hadara’s time had come.
“Finally, I was ready to really put a great product out there.”
The change was not subtle — it started a true rebirth for Rawclates. In 2014, Hadara officially moved the business to Brooklyn, and then in 2015, she changed the Rawclates packaging as well. All the changes and improvements… everything, it all blended together, like cacao and coconut sugar, to deliver today’s outstanding version of Rawclates.
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