Fábia Ribeiro – The Chocolate Story at WOW
In this interview, Fábia Ribeiro describes her work as a Workshop Developer at The Chocolate Story, her responsibilities for the Vinte Vinte Chocolate Academy and her work as an Official Vinte Vinte Taster.
What do you do?
I develop and manage the operation of the chocolate tastings and workshops of The Chocolate Story Museum (WOW: The Cultural District) and the internal training in the area.
I am responsible for Vinte Vinte Chocolate Academy, a training project in chocolate that began last year with training courses for EHTP (School of Hospitality and Tourism of Porto) and will present classes for the general public this year.
As a member of the company’s chocolate-tasting panel, I contribute to the selection of cacao and the development of our chocolates, either for the development of new products or for the quality control of existing ones.
How did you get into the industry?
When I started working at WOW in 2020, I began as a museum assistant at The Chocolate Story because my background is in Archaeology and Tourism Animation. During our training in chocolate with Pedro Araújo (Vinte Vinte Chocolate Master and Creator/The Chocolate Story Curator/WOW Director), I enjoyed all the tastings so much, had so much fun and discovered and learned so much about chocolate and cacao that I instantly fell in love with the job. I was always a chocolate lover but never thought of working in the area. After that, Pedro selected me to be one of the workshop guides of the museum and, lastly, to become a taster for Vinte Vinte.
What food memory from your childhood or travels stands out?
There are a lot of good ones. My granny was a wonderful cook, and I loved her dishes. But one of the oldest and happiest memories are the cakes I helped my aunt do every Sunday for afternoon tea. She has a talent for baking, and I used to love her marble cake. I loved to help her break the chocolate, beat the cake’s dough, and taste it raw.
What is the best/ worst part of your job?
I love everything that has to do with chocolate and cacao education and with working as a taster. From the design of tastings and activities, that involves thinking and projecting about how we can create memorable experiences here at The Chocolate Story and, at the same time, teach the public something about chocolate and its senses. But I also love training teams, developing and applying my sensory and intuitive tools in chocolate and cocoa tasting and discovering new aromas, flavours, and textures that we can work with.
The part I like the least is the bureaucracy in managing stocks or preparing tastings.
One of Fábia Ribeiro’s favourite food and beverage pairings?
Chocolate and beer are amazing together.
What is one of the craziest things you have seen behind the scenes?
Once, I did a Chocolate & Wine pairing for a group of more than twenty people. Most of them were drunk at some point, and we were only on the third wine/chocolate tasting out of five …
The perfect day off would be…
In nature, inspiring all the freshness and energy of the land as well as the surrounding aromas and sounds.
A day in the life of Fábia Ribeiro is …
… arrive, check out the emails and agenda for the day, prepare what I need for the working day (and the subsequent events on the Workshop Agenda) and develop the work during the day, whatever needs to be done (management of stocks, tastings, visits, training, Vinte Vinte Chocolate Academy and so on).
What does Fábia Ribeiro do for fun?
Listen to a LOT of music, watch series and movies, go for a ride, mostly spend time in nature, be with my friends…
What would you like guests to know about Vinte Vinte?
Vinte Vinte produces chocolate for everyone and from everyone, of all types, for all tastes. We make chocolate based on synergies, such as bean-to-bar chocolate, by working with Fine and Flavor cacao beans, the tastiest and most aromatic beans, of the best genetics and farm practices, cultivated in farms that have a positive impact on the environment and local communities.
Our partner company in Holland helps us select which beans are the best to import. At our factory, the tasting panel and quality department select, again, the best beans and pursue the I&D work, ensuring the quality of the ingredients throughout the chocolate-making process so that our customers may taste what nature gives best.
However, it is in the hands of our chocolate makers that magic happens. By following the recipe developed by our master chocolate maker, they transform the cacao seeds into chocolate, without making it lose its essence.
At the forefront are the shop and café assistants and the workshop guides. They are the warmest people and put the biggest effort into providing what our visitors need to ensure a fantastic experience at our Museum, Café, and Shop.
How have you grown in your profession? What are your key learnings from your start in the industry until now? Any misconceptions?
We all evolve in some way. I started as a museum assistant and am now a Chocolate Taster and Educator, something I have grown into without being in the plans. I improved my communication skills and emotional intelligence – two important key factors to become a better person and professional. The chocolate taster aspect also enhanced my sense of smell and taste – now I can enjoy more deeply chocolate and food, in general. I had no idea what a chocolate taster was and what it involved, so I had to study a lot about cacao.
What do you want people to know about being a Chocolate Workshop Developer as a profession?
It is more challenging than it seems! There are a lot of steps involved in developing a chocolate workshop, not just tasting. You must think, ‘What is the workshop’s focus, and what do you want people to achieve,’ so that you can develop a structure to help you achieve that goal.
What is your view on the Chocolate scene in Porto?
Many new artisanal chocolate brands are popping up that are not afraid to experiment with new ingredients. These are exciting times for chocolate lovers!
What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?
We are currently working with a company that collects and transforms bean husks into soil fertilizer. Still, this social responsibility is always inherent to the brand. By carefully choosing the cacao plantations we work with and implementing new ways of consuming our products, such as the refill boxes. This allows the consumers to buy the pack of the desired item. When it is finished, they can purchase the refill, avoiding waste and overproduction of packaging.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
In October, WOW is hosting the second European edition of Chocolat Festival. For this event, we celebrate chocolate, terroir, and origins. It is, most importantly, a meeting point between experts and lovers whose language is chocolate.