Amy Singh, at least partially frozen forever on the internet as the pre-teen chocolate savant, is growing up. The 22-year-old graduated this past May from Boston University with a double major in International Relations and Economics, but there will always be traces of her as a young girl celebrated for her chocolate making skills, not least for her 2007 public service video created to raise awareness about the presence of third world child labor in cacao’s journey to first world shelves.
Prior to the PSA, the sister of three and child of a pharmaceutical company engineer and a nurse, had been recognized for educating her own taste buds and others, and developing her own homemade chocolate brand. However, that video showed how her journey was evolving from an interest in the way chocolate affected her to how it connected the world. It was a vision she pursued at BU, with one of the highlights of those four years being invited to give a Ted Talk in Prague, which she told an interviewer was her first public presentation about chocolate since about age 11.
For all the claims about how chocolate increases brain power, Amy’s is truly a story of how a passion for chocolate opens up the mind, and she has been kind enough to take some time from her new job as an analyst for an educational management company to answer a few questions about where that open mind will take her next.
Cupid Alley Chocolatieres: What is the first taste of chocolate that you remember inspiring your passion and can you name a current favorite?
Amy Singh: Thanks to wonderful parents and family friends, I was exposed to chocolate (good chocolate) from a very young age. And because I live in the NYC area, I started going to the New York Chocolate Show also at a young age as well. These two things definitely ignited my passion for chocolate. I cannot remember specifically the first taste of chocolate that trigged my curiosity, but I was so intrigued by the fact that chocolate was made of cacao, a fruit! That is why I initially began researching chocolate. The complex nature and taste of chocolate continues to excite me. I always have a hard time picking favorites because depending on the time of day and the mood I am in, determines the types of chocolate I want to be indulging in. But if I must choose one right now, it would be Pacari Raw 70 percent (Ecuador) — the flavors of the beans are incredibly rich and also remind me a lot of my own chocolate!
CAC: How did your family and friends participate in your chocolate journey when you were younger?
AS: My family and friends have been quite the support network. I always get asked about how I was able to juggle school, sports, family, friends, and chocolate adventuring when I was young and it really comes down to the fact that I have some incredible people, mentors, friends, family, in my life to make it all possible. My mom likes to say that it takes a village to raise a family and I could not agree more with her. My dad has always been an adventurous eater and has a great palate, so when it came to chocolate, he was always supporting me to dive deeper and go further. I am also extremely fortunate to have a great friend/mentor, Jim, who has been there always from day one with a lending hand and mind. Jim and my dad used to work together and are both engineers, so as you can imagine that became a huge asset when I was trying to construct my own chocolate factory.
I am one of four children in my family (five, if you include our dog, Ace) and so much of who I am and what I have done and continue to do, is because of my siblings and parents. When I was young, I used to copy everything that my older sister, Anita, did. If she was into a new brand of shoes, so was I! So it is no surprise when I think back to my initial love for chocolate, in part, bloomed from my sister’s love for chocolate. Back in the day, way before I was making chocolate, my sister was the chocolate princess, or at least that was what her email said!
CAC: Which college experiences in and out of the classroom regarding chocolate were most interesting and helped you develop?
AS: One of the best experiences of my college years was studying abroad in London. Not only was it a transformative experience for me personally, but it allowed me to reflect and experience chocolate in a new light. I found that within the United Kingdom, people and stores tended to much more social awareness of fair trade, and so there was much more of it to be seen on the product labels, especially those for chocolate. It was pretty exciting to engage in deep conversations with people about this. I was also very fortunate to be able to travel throughout Europe as well and continue to experience chocolate differently. It also allowed me to reconnect with chocolate experts/friends, like Chloe Doutre-Roussel, whom I met up with while I was visiting Paris
I would have to also mention that my college experiences in Boston, opened the doors to many people and places that I was able to connect with because of chocolate! Many of my photos and videos of my early chocolate adventure days, resurfaced during my college years. My friends thought it was the funniest and “cutest” thing ever! I beg to differ…
CAC: How does being a chocolate celebrity affect your everyday life with friends and family, and do you have a philosophy of how chocolate connects the world?
AS: Ha, ha! Chocolate celebrity! I am truly humbled by that, but by no means do I consider myself a chocolate celebrity (nor do most people!) It is a pretty rare occasion for someone to recognize me as that chocolate girl and the few times it has happened, I was completely floored. I actually tend not to talk much about my chocolate adventures unless someone specifically brings it up. It is my friends and family that have been there from day one of my chocolate journey, that are the ones that usually “brag” to other people about my adventures. It definitely is always fun seeing and hearing people’s reactions though. For example, when one of my close friends from college heard about my chocolate story a few years ago, she was adamant about explaining to me about how and why chocolate making from beans is so difficult… “My friends tried to make chocolate in high school and they just could not do it! It is sooo hard!” I just sat, listened, and smiled!
Chocolate connects the world, because for the most part it is mutual ground for people — whether you have am expert palate or just simply enjoy eating chocolate covered strawberries — chocolate has a unique way of connecting us. For me, it has made the world so much smaller, in that I have friends who I have made throughout the globe because of chocolate. My young self was also never too shy about speaking to people about chocolate, including some of the world’s experts in chocolate. For example, when I reached out to Maricel Presilla, I was just in the research phrase of my chocolate making adventures. She invited me to one of her restaurants in New Jersey and handed me a bag of world class cacao beans, and eventually that led to my very own chocolate. She could have easily dismissed a 9-year-old but instead she treated me with respect and generosity. When the TEDxPrague coordinator who had invited me to speak told me that he had heard about me through a colleague of his, who happened to have worked in a chocolate shop in the Czech Republic, I was once again reminded how small the world can be — and also incredibly amazed that my story traveled so far and took the interest of people that did not know me at all!
CAC: Do you have a chocolate-themed wish list?
AS: Chocolate-themed wish list! I can think of too many things that are on this list including creating my very own version of a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory! In reality though, I do truly want to, some day soon, visit a cacao plantation/farm. I have done a decent amount of research on cacao plantations around the world but have never visited one. It would be a remarkable experience and I look forward to when I can make this happen.
CAC: What’s next for you in continuing your journey of chocolate passion and also in pursuing other interests?
AS: With chocolate, I find myself always being surprised by what doors and opportunities open next. I never imagined or dreamed of being on a TEDx stage giving a talk about my chocolate story! And yet, it happened! I currently do not have any specific chocolate projects at the moment but I am always thinking about next steps as well as always trying to stay in touch and connected with all the wonderful people that I have met because of my chocolate adventures.
I graduated from Boston University this past May with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Economics, and I just started my first post-graduation job. I am working as an analyst for an educational management company that specializes in failing/turnaround public schools. Education is also another passions of mine and just like chocolate, most people have a connection to it and can find some common ground. I am looking forward to being a small part of transforming the education system as well as figuring out how to continue to combine my passions for chocolate — the past, present and future of which an be seen at AmysChocolate.com and facebook.com/amyschocolate.com — and education!