Surfing, Staple Removers and Salad: On the Line With Karen Webster of Cocoa Parlor

Photo courtesy Karen Webster

I couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate this week’s lovely holiday than with a local chocolatier. Karen Webster is no stranger to Orange County, and her love of the surf inspires many of Cocoa Parlor’s products.

Tell me about what inspires your chocolate.

Surfing is my inspiration. The names and flavors are all inspired by the places I surf, the people I meet, or just the experiences I have surfing.

I want to know more about the quinoa granola bars.

I created these quinoa bars because of the great crunch from the quinoa crisps, and because quinoa is an amazing superfood. The bars are a healthier version of the rice crispy treat, made with organic coconut nectar and organic coconut oil. My newest creation is the almond quinoa bar. They are made with organic almond butter and vegan organic white chocolate; they are crazy.

How easy/difficult is it to make a tasty vegan product?

When you start with pure, natural, organic ingredients, it’s hard to mess up. With great ingredients, anything is possible. Remember: chocolate in its rawest form is vegan!

Best culinary tip for the home pastry chef.

Technique is really important with pastries and baked goods. Make sure you understand all the basic techniques. For example, “one egg at a time” means you have to have the first egg mixed in before you can add the other egg.

What is your guilty pleasure food?

I guess I’m a milk chocolate die hard. I love the warmth of the milk, as long as it’s not too sweet.

When was the last time you cut/burned yourself?

I cut myself yesterday digging into my office drawer, and there was a staple remover in the way. Ouch! I usually cut myself when I am not in the kitchen. Strange how that works. I haven’t burnt myself for a few months. Yeah! Usually I give myself a pretty serious burn, as I am rushing to taking out the roasted almonds, or something like that.

What is the most popular item? And do you have a favorite?

Night Train is probably our most popular chocolate bar. However, I can’t stop eating our new almond butter quinoa bar. 

How does Cocoa Parlor differentiate itself from other concepts?

Only organic, and only if it tastes amazing! Oh, and we surf!

When did you realize you wanted to be in the industry?

1982. Ouch, I’m old. I went to school from ’83-’85 at Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute and received an occupational science degree in Pastry Arts. Yes, a degree in pastries (laughs).

Where else did you learn how to do pastry?

Ecole Lenotre in Paris, France.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Cocoa Parlor?

Dark Perfection– it is amazing! It’s just a plain 70% dark chocolate. The flavor just keeps giving on this one.

Favorite places to eat:

Riders Club, El Campion. Neither is vegan or organic, but really, really good food. Simple, close to the roots.

What is your favorite utensil or appliance in the kitchen?

My hands; I’m old school.

Tell me something most people don’t know about you.

I have a black cat.

Last thing you looked up online:

Surf report!

Hardest life lesson you’ve learned:

Having a 21-year-old is really trying!

You’re making breakfast; what are you having?

Crazy, but I like salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And if I’m working, chances are I’m eating chocolate.

What other profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?

Well, I left this profession for several years and ran off to the race track. I wanted to be a jockey.

 

Cocoa Parlor is located at 31161 Niguel Rd., Laguna Niguel, (949) 877-9549; www.cocoaparlor.com.

A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.