For Sebastian Cisneros, chocolate provides both a career and a way to stay connected with his home country of Ecuador.
Cisneros is a chocolatier in Portland, who sources cacao beans from different regions near the equator. He produces his chocolate from scratch, roasting, deshelling and grinding the cacao beans to make specialty chocolate bars that often incorporate Oregon flavors.
Cisneros came to Oregon as an exchange student and spent his senior year at Ashland High School.
“When I decided to pursue chocolate as a profession it was a great medium to keep myself connected to where I was born and where I grew up and where my family, who I’m very close to, live,” said Cisneros.
After moving to Portland, he began working at craft chocolate shop Cacao, where he learned about the business side of the chocolate trade.
His first batches of chocolate were produced in his own kitchen. Since then, he’s moved into a commercial kitchen and has a small staff who help him make and package the chocolate bars.
He said the creative food culture in Portland inspired him to experiment with non-traditional flavors. Cisneros tries to include local Oregon ingredients such as hazelnuts and Jacobsen salt in his chocolate bars.
“I’ve been living in Oregon for almost close to half of my life. And it’s a place that I’ve come to treasure and has had a large impact on me,” said Cisneros, “so I wanted to try to condense and hopefully mirror some of that experience through local food that is representative of my time here and what I value.”