UT alumna Larissa Mae Sarangaya doesn’t let the her cramped apartment kitchen keep her from cooking in it. In fact, it’s where she runs her business.
Within a month of her December 2014 graduation, Sarangaya launched her online business Tsokolate Artisan Chocolates & Confections under the web name BearBatLionDog. She runs the chocolate shop out of her apartment where Tsokolate customers pick up their orders.
On weekends, she sells freshly made caramels at the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market because state laws prevent business owners from selling to stores unless they use a commercial kitchen.
“It’s just something that you have to overcome and be creative about as you’re growing,” Sarangaya said. “I have faith in my capabilities and my business.”
“Tsokolate” — the Filipino translation for “chocolate” — is a tribute to Sarangaya’s home in the Philippines. The name of Tsokolate’s website, thebearbatliondog.com, commemorates Betsy, Sarangaya’s Yorkie-Shih-Tzu mix.
Sarangaya said crafting artisan chocolates tests her patience and precision. Unlike traditional cooking — in which she eyeballs the amount of spices needed and uses her instincts to guide her along — she said making chocolate is very detail-oriented.
“The temperature has to be right, or the chocolate will be streaky and gray,” Sarangaya said. “Your ingredients have to measure correctly, or the flavor will be very off. With the pastry arts, it’s a science.”
Sarangaya, a self-proclaimed chocoholic, said despite the meticulous process, she tries to be as imaginative with her creations as possible.
“My creative outlet is individually painting each chocolate,” Sarangaya said. “I’ve always loved colors [and] things that are not cookie-cutter. I want something to be as visually appealing as it appeals to your taste buds.”
Although she received a degree in sociology at UT, Sarangaya was determined to follow her passion for cooking. She earned an associate’s degree from a culinary arts school and spent a summer interning with master chocolatiers at a five-star luxury hotel in the Philippines.
“I had a notebook, and I tried to absorb everything so I could take it with me,” Sarangaya said. “But the most valuable thing I learned was patience. You can’t rush
Sarangaya decided to create her chocolate business after her Instagram followers asked to purchase the treats in her photos.
“I was just posting my Sriracha chocolates for fun,” Sarangaya said. “I saw an opportunity [because] chocolate is booming. There’s a kind of revolution happening about artisan chocolates, and I decided to jump on it.”
Nicole Nguyen, Sarangaya’s friend and taste-tester, said in an email that Sarangaya’s innovations extend beyond the treats’ appearance. She said she remembered when Sarangaya used molasses to make caramels because it was the only organic ingredient she could get her hands on.
“They were unlike anything I have ever had,” Nguyen said. “Larissa is insanely creative and can adapt to any situation. She is efficient and inventive in her use of materials, [and] she makes do with what she is able to get.”
James Nakayama, executive chef at Northwest Forest Conference Center where Sarangaya worked, said in an email that her strengths overshadow the challenges she comes across.
“[Larissa] is passionate about food in general and chocolate in particular,” Nakayama said. “She has a great palate, handles contingencies well and always keeps the goal in mind. I think she really lives to do this type of work.”
Sarangaya plans to move the business out of her cramped, inefficient apartment and open a brick-and-mortar shop. But for now, Sarangaya said she will continue creating molasses caramels, Sriracha truffles, balsamic vinegar truffles and brightly-splattered chocolate bars while experimenting with unusual flavor combinations.
“I enjoy letting others try what I create,” Sarangaya said. “The most rewarding thing is seeing the instant gratification on their faces.”