Writer Fadi Sitto
Photography Courtesy of Zak’s Chocolate
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it,” Willy Wonka said.
For anyone who loves the art of authentic chocolate making and detailed craftsmanship of award-winning chocolatiers, Zak’s Chocolate in Scottsdale is your paradise within view.
Zak’s Chocolate, founded and run by Jim and Maureen Elitzak is a premium small-batch craft chocolate experience uniquely local and refreshingly ethical in its practices.
Since 2015, this quaint production space and retail shop has created original chocolate from cacao beans from all over Central America, South America, Madagascar and other top producers.
“This was a hobby that literally got out of control over time,” Jim says.
The first thing I noticed as I walk in is the heavenly aroma. I sat on a stool at the chocolate bar, relaxing while I enjoyed freshly roasted coffee and some of the finest chocolate I’ve ever had.
Beverly Barnes, who’s been coming to Zak’s for the past two years says, “I come here every time I have an opportunity, whenever I need a gift or whenever I go to lunch with a friend. We come here for dessert. I walk in and smell this wonderful smell and I think, wow!”
Local gems like Zak’s Chocolate are few and far between when it comes to the world of chocolate. The chocolate here is made on premises—something rare among chocolatiers.
A chocolatier is a person who works passionately with chocolate to design, create and sculpt masterpieces. They are able to impart their own distinctiveness to each and every chocolate delight; it often takes them years to perfect the craft.
The chocolate maker on the other hand, is one who grinds the cacao beans and actually creates chocolate, much like a wine maker would create wine from scratch. They buy the cacao beans, roast them, and use other equipment to make the chocolate that chocolatiers need.
A rare breed these days, Jim and Maureen are both chocolate makers and highly trained chocolatiers. The process is more scientific than you can imagine, though here at Zak’s, they make it seem like second nature.
Until about 20 years ago, there were only a handful of people making craft, or small-batch chocolate. Today, there are a few hundred in the world. Zak’s is at the forefront of this small batch choco-revolution.
No short cuts are allowed. Everything is done by hand, from the initial hand-sorting of cacao beans to the finished mouthwatering products you’ll find in their shop.
In 2017, Zak’s Chocolate won the prestigious International Chocolate Award. They followed that up in 2018 by winning a silver medal for their “Simply” chocolate truffle at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London.
The roaring roaster is the backbone of Zak’s chocolate kitchen. Jim roasts all their cacao beans light to medium roast. This process reduces the bitterness and not only keeps the original natural flavors of the bean, but it highlights the notes and flavors.
Less is more. Their specialty dark chocolate bars have very distinct flavor profiles, and nothing is unnecessary added in.
Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. | Saturday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. | 6990 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale | 480-607-6581 | zakschocolate.com