Michael & Richard Antonorsi, Class of 84 & 85

However, once they left the La Jolla bubble, the duo resisted the corporate pull of their studies and left for their home country of Venezuela to pursue personal business ventures. One dot-com bust and a couple years of individual soul-searching later, the two reunited in Encinitas to found Chuao Chocolatier: a gourmet confectionary company with a knack for unpredictable flavor combos.

At first, the siblings ran a modest candy boutique, testing out recipes and flavors to gauge their product’s popularity. Richard used the smarts he picked up in his dot-com days to manage the company’s business logistics, while Michael drew from his Parisian cooking education to come up with a couple eclectic concoctions.

Michael’s first successful flavor was Spicy Maya — a bow to an ancient Mayan hot-chocolate recipe that used pasilla chile and cayenne pepper. It opened the floodgates to a slew of other odd combos: chocolate pods filled with passion fruit-infused caramel; bonbons flavored with goat cheese and fruity brandy; and the Firecracker — a salty dark-chocolate bar filled with pop rocks and chipotle.

“All your senses are engaged,” Michael said in an interview with This Week at UCSD. “That’s entertainment.”

To ground his vast collection of complimentary flavors, Michael always uses Venezuelan cacao seeds to make Chuao chocolate. In fact, the Antonorsi brothers’ family grew the plant themselves on a farm called Augustana in Rio Caribe back in the day. In honor of their roots, the brothers partnered with nonprofit organizations to teach cacao-growing techniques in isolated areas of Venezuela.

On top of succeeding in their altruistic endeavors, the Antonorsi brothers collected about $2.5 million in sales in 2008, earning mention on several Food Network cooking shows and publications like Time and Newsweek. They’ve also partnered with a number of high-end cafes and grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Ralphs.

In another homage to their beginnings, the Antonorsi brothers’ chocolates are sold at Perks and the Sunshine Store. You can also stop by the Chuao boutique in Westfield UTC to try a spicy Mayan hot chocolate — if for no other reason than, as Michael put it, “chocolate makes you happy.”

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