‘I want people to sit down and really have a moment with their chocolate’
When Tyler Shane bites into a piece of chocolate, all of her senses come alive to fully indulge in the experience. “Food, for me, is almost like a religious experience,” she said.
After spending seven years at Christopher Elbow Chocolates, the Kansas City chocolatier is venturing out on her own to share those intense feelings with other chocolate lovers in the community.
“I want people to sit down and really have a moment with their chocolate,” Shane said. “Use all of your senses. Feel a little sensual with it. Smell it and let it melt in your mouth.”
Shane decided to branch out after a successful collaboration in November with Café Corazón, a Latin coffee and yerba mate shop in Kansas City that opened in Westport in 2019 and is opening a second location in the Crossroads Arts District later this month.
The cafe celebrates the city’s Latinx and Indigenous culture by honoring coffee and yerba mate’s origins while engaging with local Latinx artisans. The symbolic mural on the building’s exterior, for example, was painted by muralists Isaac Tapia and Rodrigo Alvarez.
So when co-owner Miel Castagna-Herrera posted on Instagram in search of a chocolatier to give “cacao a voice” through a new collaboration, Shane was a perfect match.
“We work so hard to make all of our coffee drinks reflect parts of the world that the coffee is grown in,” Castagna-Herrera said. “We wanted to do the same with chocolate.”
Shane created two artisanal chocolate bars paying homage to her Spanish and Native American roots. Tapia and Alvarez designed the packaging art for the bars. The Mole Rojo bar has chili spices and nuts, while the Maíz bar was made with corn nuts.
The collaboration is already on its third batch of chocolates, keeping up with demand at the Westport cafe.
“We couldn’t choose a more perfect person and sometimes things are just meant to be,” Castagna-Herrera said. “Now we have all these ideas together.”
Next up, Shane is working on another special collection of bon bons for the cafe that will debut in time for Valentine’s Day. Branded under her own Tyler Shane name, she’s also creating a Latin Collection of nine pieces including Spanish flavors like chipotle apricot and dulce de leche, which will be available for pre-order ahead of the Feb. 14 holiday.
“I want to push the envelope, but I still want people to feel comfortable buying my product and be able to enjoy it,” Shane said.
Shane attended culinary school at Johnson County Community College before landing a position at Christopher Elbow Chocolates, where she said she learned everything she knows about the delicate dessert, she said. Over the years, chocolate has become second nature for her.
“It’s what I feel most comfortable with,” she said.
But her culinary experimentation doesn’t end with bon bons. Her husband, Garrett Heil, is a chef, and together they cook all sorts of decadent meals.
“Food is just 90 percent of our lives,” she said. “We’re always cooking together. I’m always buying weird ingredients and seeing what we can do with them.”
Most recently, she found duck eggs at the Overland Park Farmers’ Market and they served them over carbonara. Some of their kitchen adventures are documented on Shane’s blog, The Apprenticeship, which she created as an outlet for food writing.
Click here to follow Tyler Shane on Instagram.
More of Shane’s writing can be found through the Made in Kansas City Explore blog, where she interviews chefs. Her go-to conversation starter is asking each chef what they would choose for their last meal.
“Mine would definitely be my aunt’s tamales,” she said. “They’re just pockets of greasy goodness. I always try to emulate her whenever I make tamales and of course I can never feel like they’re just right like hers are.”
As she develops her business, education of the cacao bean’s Latin and Mesoamerica origins along with mindfulness will be a focal point of the chocolate, she said. She’s also developing a plan to curate yoga and chocolate experiences to pair with her work as a yoga teacher.
“Mesoamericans thought that chocolate could transport them to the other world and connect them to the divine, to god,” she said. “That’s what I want people to experience whenever they try my chocolates.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.