Today we’d like to introduce you to Richard Tango-Lowy.
Richard, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I first encountered the True Soul of Chocolate in 1995. For years I have sought her subtle nuances, studied her moods, and struggled to understand her complex temper. She is a most difficult mistress; coquettish and proud, quick to anger, open only to the most patient of overtures. Chocolate is my passion. I will never master her–who can master one so willful and tempestuous? But I will continue to woo her and to craft a small bit of her soul into each truffle and bonbon I create. For chocolate is art. And as art she is magnificent.
In the 1980s, I was a physicist. In the 1990s I discovered and fell in love with chocolate. After ten years of self-learning, I took Ecole Chocolat’s Professional Chocolatier course out of Vancouver, then went on to earn my first Master Chocolatier certification in France and my second in Tuscany, studied bean-to-bar chocolate making in Ecuador, and now teach Ecole Chocolat’s Master Chocolatier certification for “Recipe Development and Flavor.”
I founded Dancing Lion Chocolate in 2008 and opened our current shop, cafe, and production kitchen in Manchester, New Hampshire in 2011. Last year, Dessert Professional Magazine recognized Dancing Lion Chocolate as one of its “Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America for 2016” and MSN/Spoon University listed us as one of the America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
I work with small farmers and craft chocolate makers around the world to source some of the rarest and most precious cacao and chocolate that exists, which we use to create our elegant truffles, bonbons, chocolate bars, confections, and pastries. We make most of our recipes exactly one time with whatever ingredients are inspiring–usually only 100 of each bonbon, for instance–then move on. We’ve never made a bonbon recipe more than once.
Has it been a smooth road?
It wouldn’t be micro-business if it was a smooth road. Everything about working with chocolate is hard. Acquiring funds for a mortgage and renovation was hard. Building out a shop was stressful and hard.
Then there are the questions… Do we have a valid long-term business model? How will I pay my bills? Will people in Manchester, New Hampshire spend $12 on a chocolate bar or $3.50 on a bonbon? Do we have a clue how to run a cafe? It turns out that the business model is solid, we can pay our bills, and customers from New Hampshire, New England, the country, and the world are willing to spend at least that much on our products; but it wasn’t a done deal at the time.
Then there’s staff. Hiring really good staff who align with your mission and core values is… really hard. Learning how to manage staff effectively and develop the processes that keep a complex business growing and working is, well, hard and complicated. I let go several members of my staff last year for being fundamentally unable to align with our mission. That was hard, but so very right.
Nothing about micro-business is easy, but it’s more satisfying than anything you can believe.
MISSION: To Surprise and delight every customer by providing perfect customer service and the absolute highest quality products.
CORE VALUES: Open-mindedness, creativity, passion, integrity, and hardworking dedication.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Dancing Lion Chocolate – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We source our chocolate and cacao from small farmers and some of the top craft chocolate makers in the world, and we make all of our products in our own kitchen in our shop. I produce a small selection of truffles and bonbons, and make each recipe only one time–20 to 200 of a piece. When it’s gone, I move on and make something new. We specialize in traditional drinking chocolate. I make it the way the Olmecs made it in Guatemala almost 4,000 years ago: chocolate, water, and spices, served frothy in a bowl, spicy or not. It’s not thick (that was introduced by the Spanish in the early 1500s).
Nothing in my shop is bitter and nothing is particularly sweet. Bitter is the result of bad cacao beans or poor processing, and over-sweetness detracts from the beautiful flavor of the chocolate. I work with some of the rarest and most precious chocolate in the world.
(In early October, I flew to Guatemala for the sole purpose of picking up 150lb of spectacularly precious chocolate custom-made for me by one of the most skilled craft chocolate makers (IMHO) working today. I push the envelope–my 72% Dark Milk and 100% Dark chocolates are made from the rarest cacao in the world, grown in Peru’s Maranon Canyon.
Our customers frequently tell us that their visit to Dancing Lion Chocolate was one of the most memorable food experiences of their lives. We surprise and delight people and bring them unexpected happiness–how can you beat that?
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
The Boston Region–New England and Northern New England–is historical, diverse, vibrant, and infinitely interesting. As part of a military family I lived in most of the country and a few places outside. My wife and I have been in Manchester, New Hampshire for almost twenty years and have no plans to leave. The place has a sense of solidity and integrity that’s solidly satisfying. It keeps changing and improving. We have a great local food scene with dynamic restaurants, and farm-to-table is almost a given. My dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables are mostly local.
- Chocolate bars range from $10 to $22. Truffles and bonbons generally range from $3-5.
- A bowl of Traditional Drinking Chocolate is $6.25. With a double shot of espresso it’s $6.75.
- Cookies, brownies, and pastries are $3-4.25. A Puerto Rican Mallorca sandwich (our only savory) is $6.75.
- We make croissants the 3rd weekend of the month for $3.25-$4.75 (call to reserve–they tend to sell out). Same with the cocoa-boiled bagels, which are the first Saturday.
- Address: 917 Elm St., Manchester, NH 03101
- Website: DancingLionChocolate.com
- Phone: 603.625.4043
- Email: info@DancingLionChocolate.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/DancingLionChocolate
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DancingLionChocolate
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoveOfChocolate
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/dancing-lion-chocolate-manchester
Kristin Boudreau, Richard Tango-Lowy