Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Chile Pepper Fiesta Preview: Celebrating the Combination Of Chiles and Chocolate

by Sarah Tobol (Sarah.Tobol @, published online 09-30-2009

It's 'As Old as the First Recipe'

By Sarah Tobol
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BOTANIC GARDEN - Chocolatier Jean-Francois Bonnet, executive pastry chef and owner of Tumbador Chocolate in Sunset Park, will be the first to admit he might not have been a likely candidate to produce chile/chocolate creations.

"I didn't grow up on spice at all. I'll tell you, the spiciest I ever had was mustard," says Bonnet, who grew up in the south of France.

Still, he says with a smile, "I'm not bringing anything that doesn't have heat - it's more heat than I would enjoy."

Chocolates at the Tumbador chocolate factory.
Photo by Kate Blumm

At Saturday's Chile Pepper Fiesta at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Bonnet will be one of the 12 chocolatiers, chocolate makers or confectioners offering treats in the Chocolate Chile Cabana in the garden's Osborne Garden. It's the first year for the fall festival to feature one of the oldest culinary pairings.

Bonnet, who came to New York 10 years ago and trained as a pastry chef under acclaimed French chef Daniel Boulud, will be showcasing the combination in three different ways: lime ancho bon bons, cranberry pumpkinseed chile rochers, and a lime ancho pop covered in dark chocolate. He will also bring a hot chocolate drink.

Bonnet explained that his spice flavorings come from a mix of cinnamon, ginger, ancho pepper, star anise, green anise, clove and some nutmeg.

Chocolate/chile treats will also come from local businesses such as Nunu Chocolates, Williamsburg-based chocolate makers Mast Brothers Chocolate, Kumquat Cupcakery, Whimsey & Spice and Tumbador Chocolate.

Other attractions in the cabana will be the "Brooklyn Chile Peppers 'n' Chocolate Takedown," where amateurs can compete to make their own chile-chocolate dishes; leading chocolate historian Maricel E. Presill will sign copies of her new work, The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History; and Chipotle Ale and Chocolate Stout by Portland's Rogue Brewery will be offered.

Also in the cabana will be local food historian Alexandra Leaf, who conducts walking tours of the city geared toward chocolate through her company Chocolate Tours of NYC. She will be available for questions about chocolate and will also moderate a panel about the history, health benefits and trends of chiles and chocolate.

"It's as old as the very first recipe," Leaf told the Eagle of the food combination, which she said underwent a resurgence in the 1980s. What makes it so delicious, she explained, is when chocolatiers and chocolate makers use "the flavor profiles of the chile pepper and not just the heat."

The Fiesta won't only focus on chocolate, however. There will also be a series of spicy food demonstrations and tastings, concerts, a chi kung workshop and advice on cultivating chile peppers.

The Chile Pepper Fiesta will take place this Saturday, October 3 from noon - 6:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. For more information, visit For details about Tumbador Chocolate, visit, for details about Chocolate Tours of NYC, visit