Stacey Burgess has been eating chocolate for over 30yrs! Once she tried raw chocolate, her taste changed dramatically and she became obsessed with creating the most amazing raw chocolates and truffles, that are full of heath and goodness! With no formal culinary training (does art school count?) she began to gather the tools necessary to create a business within her lifestyle. Cycling, food, health and veganism are all very important, so why not combine it all into a passionate career! Currently lives in Toronto with her lovely cats, sisters Zazoo and Badger.
Stacey Burgess: My name is Stacey Burgess, Creator/CEO of Live On Chocolate Ltd. I've been vegan for about 14yrs and have always had a sweet tooth. I wanted to still enjoy sweets, but also to eat organic and wholesome vegan foods. I found it difficult as 'wholesome sweets' are hard to come by. Throughout University, I was experimenting with raw foods, and creating many different raw desserts and treats. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Design, I switched my art medium to food as art. I started working at my favourite raw vegan restaurant, building skills and knowledge, and for about 5yrs worked in restaurants, and bakeries where I learned many different traditional techniques of dessert making.
Now, my job is Live On Chocolate 100% of the time. Because of my design background, I design and develop all of the packaging, labels, flyers, website/social media, etc for my business. I am in food production about 4 days a week, and bicycle deliveries 2 days a week. All of our packaging is eco-friendly, as well as our kitchen practices. It has been a long building process (and still building!), but so totally worth it! I love what I do, and am very grateful to be doing what I love!
Sarah Velasco: How did Live on Chocolate begin?
Stacey Burgess: I was raised by my Grandmother, and we always had sweets in the house. When I was 9 years old, she retired and we moved to a small town where Nanny opened up a chocolate gift store on the front porch of our house! It was a kid's dream come true! We ran a 'truffle tab' for the late night sweet attacks enjoyed throughout the week. Fast forward 15 years- I started making raw vegan truffles, and cakes for myself and friends. Then I began selling to a few cafes, it was a fun hobby at the time. A year went by, and I developed more and more of a selection of raw vegan treats. The most popular products I currently make are Power Puddings, and they are sold in close to 20 stores in Southern Ontario. Power Puddings are made from a cashew/coconut cream base, and sweetened with low-glycemic coconut nectar. I have one flavour, Coconut Lime, which is nut-free and avocado based. The other three flavours are: Chocolate, Raspberry and Caramel Mocha. All of them have superfood toppings such as sprouted broccoli, sprouted almonds, mesquite, raw cacao, goji and golden berries, and hempseeds. They are a great source of energy, full of heart healthy MCT's from the coconut oil. This provides the liver with a sustainable slow burn energy source. We also have a line of chia puddings coming out this Summer.
Sarah Velasco: We read that you are vegan, any advice for those wanting to start?
Stacey Burgess: I became vegan once I was fully aware of how the meat and dairy industry works. I really had no idea, but now that my eyes are opened, they cannot be shut. I feel fortunate enough to live in a place where I can choose to be vegan, and with ease. It's not about what I 'cannot eat' anymore, it's about the abundance of food that I choose to eat. I was never a huge fruit/veggie fan before, I was raised with meat, potato and vegetables (overcooked, always) The fruit we ate would be apples, bananas, grapes and berries. But now, there are SO many options! And it's not about deprivation! Eating in line with nature makes me feel much more connected to myself and how my body processes and uses the fuel I feed it.
For those seeking a change - it really is not difficult to be vegan. If you think it is, then it will be. If you think it is easy, then it will be! If there is just 'one' thing that you may think you can't give up ("oh I couldn't be vegan because I LOVE cheese too much") Then, simply follow a vegan diet/lifestyle but have cheese if you must. Baby steps, being 'vegan' some is better than none, and the animals will thank you for it! Veganism is more of a lifestyle than diet - but if labels are that important (and you need your cheese) then you can say 'vegetarian' for now.
Sarah Velasco: What does an average day of food look like for you?
Stacey Burgess: Start the morning with water, then 2-3oz wheatgrass juice. Later I will have chia pudding or a Power Pudding for breakfast, sometimes oatmeal. Or a smoothie with berries and green proteins. It depends on the day and if I am awake at 4:30am or 7:30am. I find myself less hungry on the super early days. Chocolate is always my snack, a few times throughout the day! Lunch will be soup, with extra greens thrown in at the end. If I have a really busy day, I will eat a larger lunch, with salads, and quinoa along with soup. Dinner sometimes doesn't happen until late, and if that's the case it might just be something light such as sprouted grain toast with pumpkin seed butter, or another small smoothie.
Sarah Velasco: We read that your cacao is Organic and Fair Trade. What does this mean?
Stacey Burgess: Organic and Fair Trade is extremely important to me and my business. This means that the cacao trees and soil has not been contaminated with pesticides that damage the earth and the famers, and people consuming the chocolate. Organic means the farming practices are inline with nature, using more natural ways of pest control and planting. The cacao I am using right now is Wildcrafted and Heirloom from Ecuador. It has the most incredible flavour profiles! I often have people ask if there is liquer in my truffles. There is no liquer; because my chocolate is raw and feremented before drying, this is where the fruitiness of the chocolate comes out, sometimes resulting in a liquer or wine taste.
Sarah Velasco: How is your chocolate different from other brands?
Stacey Burgess: Live On Chocolate is different because we hand temper our raw chocolate, keeping the temperature under 115 degrees, and also make small batches at a time. The idea is to make fine tasting chocolate, that just happens to be vegan, and just happen to have many health benefits. We don't always advertise it as being vegan - saying it is 'dark' and 'dairy-free' will attract the non-vegans. These are the customers we would like to reach as well as the vegans. I find the word 'vegan' can scare non-vegans away.
Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about your power puddings and maple sweetened chocolate bars?
Stacey Burgess: I developed Power Puddings for myself initially so that I would have a quick, grab'n'go snack to keep my energy up. I ride my bike everywhere, and on my days off will go on group rides 100km + so I need to make sure I have enough energy through the foods I am eating. Power Puddings are a rich, yet light and easy snack to eat, topped with superfoods. I have had so much amazing feedback from people who love these for many reasons! Great for kids, adults, and I have had many people tell me they have taken the puddings to family members who have been ill, unable to eat much - but they loved the puddings! I love that I can help nourish people in this way!
The maple sweetened chocolate bars are my most artistic chocolates, which I developed last fall. I wanted to incorporate as many local ingredients as possible into my business - and the Maple and Birch Syrups I use are from 2hrs North of Toronto. Plus, maple and chocolate = heaven!!! I also sprinkle hempseeds on the bars, which are local, 1.5hrs NE of Toronto. The strawberries and flowers are also local, and hand dried by me! The line of maple sweetened bars are called "Buncha Crazy Hippies" a fun spin on incorporating my chocolate with hippies sterotypes (granola, maple syrup and hempseeds)
Sarah Velasco: What are common misconceptions when it comes to chocolate?
Stacey Burgess: I will talk more about 'vegan chocolate' as I believe the majority of people are afraid of the word vegan (as mentioned above) because they might have had a bad experience with something that was vegan before. For the most part, I do not advertise my chocolate to be 'vegan' for this reason. I want everybody to love and enjoy my chocolate, as much as I do! And to feel great about it because it doesn't harm the animals, or farmers in the process. A lot of people also do not realize that chocolate comes from a tree - it is a fruit. And the processing and labour necessary to create a finished chocolate (from seed-bar) is a HUGE process! There are at least 12 steps before a chocolate bar or truffle is completely finished!
Sarah Velasco: If you had to choose one piece of chocolate what would it be and why?
Stacey Burgess: Treehugger Bar all the way!! The Birch syrup creates the most incredible depth in the chocolate that I have ever tasted. I can't get enough of that bar right now! Anytime I make a batch, I 'accidentally' break a few.....oops, that's ok - I'll eat them! :)