Feast 5 is a weekly column introducing you to some of the best chefs, bartenders, makers, farmers and more around the region. Have a recommendation for someone who should be featured? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jannah “Jan” Sanchez and her sister, Elle Sanchez, opened Tsokolate in Columbia just last year, and amid the challenges of the pandemic, the small-batch chocolatier is already a beloved name in mid-Missouri. The duo originally hail from the Philippines, but came to Columbia by way of New York City, where they operated a catering company together.
An alum of City & Guilds of London Institute, Jan is Tsokolate’s pastry chef and chocolatier, taking charge of the shop’s baked creations, such as the seasonal red velvet cake, along with Tsokolate’s bestselling vegan superfood bonbons. Her résumé includes work under world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud and other big-name chefs, but it’s the reason behind her drive to create that makes her a real star: to use her skills to give back to her community and those in need. Along with Tsokolate, the sisters are founders of Missouri-based nonprofit Juste Deserts, meaning “poetic justice,” which teaches livelihood skills to survivors of human, child and sex trafficking.
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Sisters Elle and Jan Sanchez use nutrient-rich ingredients such as elderberry and blue spirulina to craft superfood bonbons at Tsokolate in Columbia, Missouri.
Here, Jan weaves together memories and experiences from her childhood in the Philippines, life in New York City and her new home in central Missouri.
1. What’s the best thing you’ve ordered at a local bar or restaurant recently? Tom kha soup, level two spice, with tofu from Thai Express is pristine! Hands down it’s the best thing you could get for yourself. At one point, we were getting this two to three times a week! I haven't had it with any other protein before, but I'm sure it’s good however you take it. The owners are lovely people as well, so it’s a win-win overall!
2. What’s the best style of pizza – and why? Oh, you know I'm biased about this as a New Yorker, right? New York pizza, all the way from Joe's Pizza. They've been around for over 100 years for a reason. But also, handmade pizza cooked in a wood-burning brick oven? Good Lord! The charred flavor, the crust, the perfectly melted cheese with sundried tomatoes, fresh basil and freshly made mozzarella? You have not lived until you've had that! Spago by Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills, California, also makes amazing pizza cooked exactly the way I described it, in a brick wood-burning oven with a ton of semolina flour.
3. What’s your favorite food memory? When my sister and I were little, every Friday our great grandma would take us to her restaurant Golden Courie in Cebu, and grab some of their baked mussels mixed with fresh butter, garlic, and cheese – you have to get every last drop of the juice. She would also make her grilled bangus (fish), her grilled chicken and we would drive to her beach house where she would cook some more food and we'd go swimming and eat again. But the baked mussels were her signature dish that always hit the spot!
4. What ingredient do you think everyone should keep at home and why? Cacao or dark chocolate! Because if you have nothing else to eat, it not only satiates your hunger from its natural good cocoa butter – good fat – it's also the number one anti-cancer superfood. It has a ton of health benefits and is packed with antioxidants and filled with so many nutrients such as magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and other minerals. You can use it in a lot of different applications both sweet and savory, too. So, if you lose everything else, just not dark chocolate!
5. What’s your most controversial food opinion? Dark chocolate, 72 percent or higher, absolutely no milk – I put an emphasis on this since some store-bought darks have milk in them – is the best way to start your day before you even have breakfast. Some chocolate makers have their kids eat at least eight grams of dark chocolate before breakfast. It's one of the most natural sources of energy, if you're not a coffee drinker, and helps you feel full longer. Eating spicy dark chocolate, like Tsokolate’s Red Chili Swirl, even helps on cold winter mornings to get your body heat going.