The best part of working on the articles in any issue of American Lifestyle magazine is undoubtedly the people we meet: our editorial staff has had the pleasure of getting to know and becoming friends with such an amazing group of talented people who never cease to inspire.
Although frequent communication tends to slow down once the article process is over due to busy schedules and the distance between us, there are a handful of contributors who manage to stay in touch over the years. Our dear friend Jonathan Grahm of Compartes Chocolatier is one of those contributors.
We met Jonathan way back in 2005 when we interviewed him for an article in Issue 8, and have continued to follow his development and success ever since. So when it came time to indulge in another sweet treats article for the fast-approaching holiday season, we thought it would be fun to put a where-is-he-now spin to the article and revisit with Jonathan in his Los Angeles-based shop.
It didn’t take long to figure out Compartes Chocolatier’s number one priority—their customers. When a customer would walk into the nostalgic shop in LA’s Brentwood neighborhood, the young chocolatier on the other end of the line would politely excuse himself from the phone in order to turn full attention on his customers. At just twenty-one years old, Jonathan Grahm may be the youngest chocolatier in the country, but his graciousness and manners go beyond his years. Compartes Chocolatier carved its niche in the upscale neighborhood in 1950, with six flavors of truffles created by Mrs. Compartes herself. Grahm’s family bought the shop eight years ago, and still uses some of the old recipes handwritten on notecards. After noticing Jonathan take a big interest in the chocolate making process, his grandmother and father handed him the reins. He describes chocolate making as a science, “with temperatures and mixing. I burnt my fair share of English toffees and went home crying. But eventually, I perfected it.”
With Grahm’s passion for experimenting, the truffle flavors now total fifty, from an original six. Like a true artist, Grahm craves individuality, and his truffles showcase the depth of his creativity. “Everyone does espresso,” he explains. “I wanted to do something different, so I thought, what about tiramisu?” He draws inspiration from his life, his travels, and his curious mind. Tamarind truffles were the result of memories of summer camp in Venezuela. Exotic flavors like Aztec spice, jasmine (with real flower petals!), rosewater, passion fruit, coconut cream dream, and juicy mango, are encased in dark chocolate ganache and decorated with original designs by Jonathan. The Aztec spice truffles feature a hand-painted fire graphic with colored cocoa butter. Despite the changing times, Compartes has held tightly to the authentic chocolate-making process, using machinery from the 1950s. Grahm stirs the heavenly liquid in an antique copper kettle, using a stick that matches the height of the petite chocolatier. The nouveau chocolates are hand-cut, hand-dipped, and hand-decorated with a lot of love.
Proving he has a sense of humor to go along with his big heart, Jonathan sings the praises of the antioxidants in chocolate, and explains, “It’s a myth that chocolate makes you fat. I’m five-foot-eight-inches, 120 pounds, and I eat chocolate all day.” Humor, heart, and a great metabolism, apparently.
The personalized service and artisan approach to chocolate-making, not to mention the decadent selection of truffles, dipped fruit, and cocoa covered nuts, has many celebrities hooked on Compartes. Stars like Terri Hatcher, Nicolette Sheridan, Jay Leno, and Nicole Kidman call ahead and request their “special mix.” The ever ambitious Grahm also made gift bags for the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Judging by the generous box of complimentary chocolate he sent us, Jonathan makes all of his customers feel equally special.
A custom-made walk up counter, exploding with chocolate, greets customers when they enter the shop, and one can hear the frequent question, “Jonathan, what’s the newest truffle?” A wood and glass case lines one wall, showcasing the individual beauty of the chocolate dipped fruits, hand-decorated truffles, and other confections it houses. Bags of love nuts in hues of lilac, turquoise, red, and canary add color to the white store. The hand roasted cashews, almonds, pecans, macadamias, and hazelnuts are a little bit sweet and savory, and dusted with brut cocoa.
Compartes offers other escapes to dessert heaven such as mint chocolate, vanilla cream, and rocky road fudge, airy chocolate dipped marshmallows, and their famed chocolate dipped fruit, imported from Australia.
A patio out front, bordered by cheerful blooms, is the ideal sitting area for customers to enjoy their chocolate or refreshing gelato, also offered at Compartes. The store is connected directly to the factory portion, which houses a small kitchen equipped with an old-fashioned antique copper candy kettle, oven, and industrial mixer. In the dipping room are three chocolate kettles, spinning chocolate round and round, waiting for scrumptious confections to be dipped into them. This magical room is viewable from the street, and passersby can watch Jonathan and company hand-dip chocolate creations.
Enthusiasm and pride in his chocolatey career pours out of Jonathan—in his creativity, his ambitions for the store, and his contagious optimism. This store is not only bursting with delectable confections, it’s full of heart.