Get Ready For a Gourmet Chocolate Factory

January 25, 2012

By Teya Vitu

Serious chocolate snobs should be overjoyed with what Barbara Fox crafts at her Downtown chocolate factory.

She’s the one-woman show behind Chocolate Fox, a tiny 200-square foot chocolate wonderland tucked into the recesses behind Kade Mislinski’s HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery and recently opened Playground Lounge.

Barbara Fox will produce chocolate to die for behind HUB/Playground.

Chocolate Fox, 270 East Congress St., opens February 3.

Fox will be working with premium French and Swiss grand cru and single origin chocolates sourced in Venezuela to craft her artisan chocolates.

“We’re making truffles with ganache filling, suckers, molded pieces and chocolate bark,” Fox said.

Chocolate Fox is not a retail outlet. Fox’s creations will be available at HUB and likely other Downtown restaurants once she starts producing in January.

Mislinski is chomping at the bit for Fox to get her chocolate factory going.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Chocolate Fox,” Mislinski said. “My ice cream chefs will be working with Chocolate Fox. They are creating stuff we’ve never thought of. New chocolate flavors are coming into ice cream.”

And once Mislinski opens his Playground, he envisions having buckets of Fox chocolate that patrons can use to make S’mores.

“Chocolate on the playground is fun,” Mislinski said.

Fox scouted around Tucson for a place to launch Chocolate Fox for the past two years, but the strip mall scene or available kitchen spaces did not appeal to her in the slightest.

Some Chocolate Fox delicacies.

“They are all like submarines,” Fox said. “When I met Scott and Kade, this turned out to be fabulous.”

How did she meet Mislinski and Scott Stiteler, who owns Mislinski’s HUB and Playground spaces and One North Fifth Apartments? She had interior design work done at her home by Miguel Fuentevilla and Sonya Sotinsky, the FORS Architecture + Interiors team that has become the go-to designers for Downtown eateries, including the interiors for HUB and DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails.

“I think the way Scott and Kade look at it is that Downtown should offer a lot of experiences in the same space,” Fox said. “Scott has a concept for all this. That’s the excitement for us. We get to innovate. They want to do some things that we haven’t done before “

Barbara Fox is a very late bloomer in the chocolate world, only entering the culinary field three years ago after retiring in 2004 from Microsoft in Seattle where she worked as a software architect.

She had a second home in Gleneden Beach on the Oregon coast since 2000, but since 2004 has lived the cooler months in Tucson, where here mother has lived for 38 years. Now Fox splits the year between Tucson and Gleneden Beach.

Post-Microsoft, she wanted to do something entirely different.

“I thought I’d start out being a line cook somewhere,” Fox said.

She studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, Calif., and Hyde Park, N.Y. as well as advanced training at Valrhona’s École de Grand Chocolat in Tain-l’Hermitage, France and the French Pastry School and Callebaut Chocolate Academy, both in Chicago.

Fox signed on at the Side Door Café in Gleneden Beach.

“I was the little bread girl. I made all the bread,” she said. “I was a baker. Baking sort of evolved into chocolate.”

She also got space at Side Door to start Chocolate Fox three years ago. Her truffles are served on a plate for dessert.

Chocolate Fox is a nonprofit with all the Oregon proceeds going to a designated charity, and once she’s up and running her, she will pick a Tucson charity for the profits generated here.

“This will be a bigger operation than Oregon,” Fox said.

Chocolate Fox in Tucson will have chocolate melting and tempering machines, refrigeration and storage.

“I think there’s a magic about chocolate that blew me away,” Fox said. “People are just discovering chocolate. The appreciation of chocolate is just starting now. People want to have a conversation about chocolate. It’s like wine was in the 1970s. People care about Fair Trade chocolate and organic chocolate.”