Carol Gancia is the founder and head chocolatier of Kokak Chocolates, an artisanal chocolate company that specializes in small-batch single-origin heirloom chocolates in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco and ships within the continental U.S. Hailing from San Francisco, Carol Gancia is an immigrant, LGBTQ member and rising female chocolatier. Kokak, which means “ribbit” in the Filipino language, is inspired by Gancia’s Asian heritage. She spearheads the creative process in designing each chocolate’s flavors and pairs it with colorful, playful designs.
An Irish-Filipino immigrant with deep Asian roots, Gancia was raised in Manila within a family of serious chocolate lovers, where it became a staple childhood memory and sharing tradition. Her Uncle Jorge brought home chocolates from his work trips in Western Europe, inspiring Gancia to develop a profound appreciation for different types of chocolates, such as dark, peppermint, and liqueur styles, by the young age of seven.
In 2004, Gancia immigrated from Manila to San Francisco then created her video production company, Ripplemakers, Inc. Her culinary passion transpired through her work as a television show producer on KQED’s Check Please! Bay Area and Jacque Pépin: More Fast Food My Way. She started experimenting with chocolates and professionally studied with admirable female industry mentors like chocolatier Melissa Coppel in Las Vegas and veteran pastry chef Stacy Radin at the International Culinary Center in California. While training, Gancia fell in love with using single origin chocolates called “Naciónal,” a rare cacao variety sourced in Ecuador and protected by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund. This fair trade variety is farmed sustainably and known to have a complex overall balance with an intense, long, pleasant, and unique flavor.
In June 2020, Gancia opened a new artisanal chocolate shop that was committed to celebrating her culture and community. The brand offers handcrafted, giftable boxed chocolates, bars, truffles, hot chocolates, pastries and coffee. After recently celebrating its two year anniversary, Kokak Chocolates continues to innovate and expand its collections to honor Gancia’s identity, culture, and Filipina heritage. For instance, her use of bright truffle flavors, such as Kalamansi, a Philippine lime grown all over her country, reminds her of drinking this juice on hot days in Manila as a child. The Mango Lemongrass truffle celebrates her home country’s national fruit and fond memories of mango season.
In this episode we discuss:
- How tasting European chocolates as a child inspired a lifelong love of chocolate
- How she embarked on a first career in video production
- Her stint as a television producer for culinary shows
- How she learned the techniques of crafting artisan chocolates
- How Gancia launched Kokak Chocolates
- Her love for Nacional cacao from Ecuador
- What the LGBTQ community means to her
- And much more!