Musings of a Master Chef: Rich In Chocolate

by Certified Master Chef James Corwell

This time of year we seek to celebrate the best in ourselves, family and friends.  Connecting and reflecting in the dormant months of the year is part of the human-psyche. This is our collective time for retrospection, to adorn, to celebrating traditions and to nourish the soul with company, love, wisdom, and dreams of the future year.  Celebratory foods like coco are especially emblematic of the holidays helping us to make sense of the past, present and future.

The cocoa bean and it’s uses date back thousands of years to Amazon and Meso America. All the great civilizations from the Olmecs, Incas, Maya and Aztecs all processed it. The mystical, god-like value of this noble bean among the cultures and the people enabled it’s use as a currency across the land.

To date chocolate has literally gilded the foundations of western food culture for the last 500 years. The problem, like so many other global commodities, is chocolate exists on a rocky and painful foundation. The arc of the cocoa bean has changed very little since its discovery. Chocolate started as a conflict commodity that Spain introduced to Europe after the destruction of the Aztecs. Fast forward 500 years and you would think things would have gotten better. Unfortunately, its likely become worse. In the end-justifies-the-means global economy, Africa now produces 70% of the worlds chocolate and much of that is done with forced labor, child labor and even slavery. 

That is why buying Fair Trade chocolate can help. Though not a perfect solution it is quite a big step in the right direction. Here is a recommendation for your reference to help break this 500-year cycle while enjoying all of the richness that chocolate has to offer. 

Please enjoy the recipe below. I like it because it is a rare sample of a pre-Columbian chocolate drink Montezuma might have consumed.  It is thickened with corn flour. He may have also added spices like chili, flowers, vanilla, honey and perhaps even blood but I have left those out for our application here.

In this season of giving know that your food has a story. Let the story of where and how your food is made be your gift to others.  Because no matter who or where you are, we all want to feel warm and secure just like the feelings we get from eating chocolate.

Warmly, James

Mexican Hot Chocolate – Champurrado

Serves: 4


  • Almond Milk, unsweetened 2 cups 
  • Clove 1
  • Cinnamon, 2-inch stick 1 
  • Nutmeg, grated fresh ¼ tsp.
  • Vanilla, extract 1 tsp.
  • Brown Sugar 1 ½ Tlbs.
  • Guittard Chocolate Mix 4 Tlbs.
  • Masa Harina ¼ cup
  • Water ½ cup


  1. In an adequately sized pot combine the milk, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, sugar, and chocolate.
  2. Over medium low heat bring the chocolate mixture to a simmer stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
  3. In a bowl mix together the masa harina and water until smooth.
  4. Whisk the masa mixture into the chocolate and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Strain the finished Champurrado removing the piece of clove and cinnamon before serving warm.

Chef’s Note: Add some more hot water if the Champurrado becomes too thick.  

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