Why a Tesla engineer redesigned the chocolate chip

Dandelion Chocolate founder Todd Masonis never expected his chocolate chips to go viral.

Masonis said the distinctive chocolate chips — large faceted squares with varying thickness designed by Tesla senior engineer Remy Labesque — are the type of thing San Francisco-based Dandelion Chocolate does. The 10-year-old company makes artisanal craft chocolate with specialized cacao beans directly purchased from small farmers throughout the world. Dandelion actually creates the chocolate from the beans, fermenting, roasting, grinding, emulsifying and tempering it in house. Masonis said Dandelion Chocolate’s products are super premium because of the nature of their sourcing creation, and the company does everything it can to showcase its product.

“We said, ‘Well, what would be a really thoughtful expression of this?'” Masonis said. “So we thought really, really deeply about all those details, and what the shape should be, and how do we want it to melt, and how do we want it to be on your tongue, and what should it look like, and how does it work if you have it in a big bag, and what happens if you have smaller pieces for tasting, and what are the right sizes, and how do we want them to bake and retain their shape?”

“It might inspire more people to really think deeply about what would be the perfect expression of a chocolate chip. And it might be very different than ours. And that’s totally okay.”

Todd Masonis
Founder, Dandelion Chocolate

Before the redesign, Dandelion Chocolate didn’t sell chocolate chips. The company, which has a bakery and café in its San Francisco location, would hand-pipe chocolate chips for use in its baked goods. And while its pastry chefs would use those to create desserts and cookies, Masonis said it was too labor-intensive to create chocolate chips to sell to consumers.

Dandelion’s idea to redesign the chocolate chip was first hatched about three years ago, but Masonis said it’s not as if there has been three solid years of R&D into this design. Instead, the craft chocolate maker was expanding and improvingthe way it did everything — building a factory to process the small-batch beans it buys and directly ships to factories in the U.S. and Japan, perfecting using that equipment to make its high-quality chocolate bars, and then designing and producing the new chips.

These chips, Masonis said, highlight everything Dandelion Chocolate wants consumers to notice about their high-end confections. They are aesthetically pleasing with their angled squares. They are a relatively large piece of chocolate for baking in cookies. The edges are different thicknesses, so after a consumer puts one in her mouth, some of the chocolate starts melting right away. Some take a bit longer. The melting is also gradual, which Masonis said is important because some of Dandelion’s chocolates are quite rich and difficult to take in large quantities all at once.

Lisa Vega, executive pastry chef for Dandelion Chocolate, described the effect.

“I think this chip is like the butter in a croissant,” Vega said. “…It’s almost like it creates these layers of chocolate that are really, really unique, and perfect for cookies and muffins and scones and all those things, because it is a flat-like shape with the little angled sides.”

Both Masonis and Vega said there is nothing wrong with traditional chocolate chips, but they’re shaped in a way that is mass produced for efficiency, not for maximum experience. Masonis said that the single-sourced chocolates Dandelion makes are all about the experience. With proper and careful treatment, chocolate can have different flavor and fragrance undertones, much like wine. The redesigned chips are designed to enhance that, and the shape works well for all of the varieties of chocolates the company makes.

Masonis said the media attention on the new chips has focused new attention on the company, as well as craft chocolate as a whole. 

“It might inspire more people to really think deeply about what would be the perfect expression of a chocolate chip,” he said. “And it might be very different than ours. And that’s totally okay.”

Original Publication by Megan Poinski at FoodDive.

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