Meet the Maker: Hodie Rondeau of Xoxolat

Posted on April 1st, 2014

Hodie Rondeau of XoxolatVancouverites may know Xoxolat as the source for fine chocolate from around the world, but they might not know Hodie, the brain and heart of it all.

I’ve had the honour of working with Hodie for the last few years. Where I’m spreadsheets and to-do lists, Hodie is creative vision and big thinking. Like the best pairings, she sees things that I don’t—like roping me into a chocolate-and-whiskey seminar a few years ago, when I didn’t even like whiskey. (I’m glad to report that I am now a dram-loving convert.)

My favourite project so far was a couple of days in fall 2013, when we took over the library at Grenfell Elementary to teach kids from grade 4 through 7 about real chocolate. And most recently, she was the gracious host of the launch party for The Chocolate Tasting Kit. Here’s a bit more about the woman I can’t say no to.

What does Xoxolat do?
We primarily import fine chocolate. It’s been amazing to me. When I bought the shop my intention was to be another chocolate store that did kind of candyish chocolate. When I started tasting a lot of these imported chocolates, it was amazing to me how unique each one of them is. And instead of getting rid of all the imports, we in fact have grown so that we probably have the most imported lines of anyone in Canada. And my feeling is that in the last 6 years since I bought the shop, the growth in the number of people wanting to learn about what chocolate really is has been amazing.

We also teach classes. They’re our opportunity to help people see chocolate for what it really is because it’s amazing to me, and certainly to us, that for a word or a product that’s known by the world, no one knows what chocolate really is. For us, we have the thrill and honour of telling people what they don’t know about chocolate. And that it’s an actual food, and that it’s good for you, and that the chocolate they buy probably contains less than 10% actual chocolate in it. So when they taste real chocolate, they get to learn all the real benefits of it.

What do you say to people who think it’s just snobby?
Oh, exactly the opposite. I think that learning to taste through chocolate, tasting anything, helps you enjoy things more. But when you do it through chocolate you don’t get a hangover. You just get to relax and enjoy and just get the taste of it. It becomes about enjoying it.

What’s the best part of your job?
I think the people. On both sides. I came to this from natural health and I thought natural health had the nicest people because they were taking charge of their world and their health, but I think nothing is better than chocolate. Even the saddest person coming in here wants to feel better. I can count on one hand from the supplier side and the customer side of people that aren’t happy…other than that, everybody is happy. It’s amazing.

What’s your biggest challenge?
Trying to do it all. That’s probably the most challenging. It’s hard to do it all, and I want to do it all and it’s hard not to do it.

What do you do when not eating chocolate?
I feel like I breathe, eat and everything chocolate right now. It’s just people and food. Actually, my world has been very much about food. Everything is around people and laughing and talking and enjoying.

Photo credit: Jason McRobbie

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