Two days before the cracked windshield, scoring a primo parking spot right in front of my hosts' home.
Two days before the crack, scoring a primo parking spot right in front of my hosts’ San Francisco home.

I noticed it when I pulled off Highway 5 at the Mt. Shasta vista point. I was looking through the windshield trying to make sense of the bare mountaintop (where’s the snow?) when it popped out at me. My eyes saw it, but my brain tried to excuse it away. Maybe it’s just a wet strand of something stuck to the windshield and the glinting sun is making it look like a crack. No, it is a crack. About three inches long on the driver’s side, a little bit of dread already seeping through.

Some people think it takes courage to go off on a solo two-month cross-country drive armed with only an idea and a pretty flimsy itinerary.  Denial is a more apt description. What could go wrong? I got my flu shot, installed my car organizers, had my tires checked.  That damned crack in the windshield also cracked my thin veneer of smugness. If this could happen, what else?

As I got back onto the highway and continued toward Portland for my interview with Jessie and Aubrey of Cacao, I watched the three-inch crack grow with each mile until it was directly in my line of site.  With no windshield repair shop along this highway, there was no avoiding it.

Not one to let a crack pass without squeezing out the metaphor, I thought about the “cracked windshields” of some of the people I had interviewed during the past week for Red, White & Chocolate.

  • David Menkes decided to follow his passion for chocolate making and ultimately created Letterpress Chocolate when his graphic design job was outsourced to Asia.
  • Jean-Marie Auboine filled a void and became chocolatier to 80% of the Las Vegas Strip hotels when his plan to help open the Fontainebleau resort fell through during the 2008 economic crash.
  • Paul Edward, with poverty nipping at his heels, went from washing dishes in a bakery to becoming a pastry chef for major hotels and then working for a leading chocolate company, ultimately developing his own line of colored cocoa butter that spawned Chef Rubber, a thriving business that supplies pastry chefs, chocolate makers and chocolatiers all over the U.S.

I’ll be sharing their stories and more over the next two months as I travel around the country exploring the people, companies and dynamics molding the US chocolate experience. But for now, my destination is Seattle for the Chocolate Makers Unconference and the NW Chocolate Festival. I’ll be looking for more inspiration.  More metaphors. And, a windshield repair shop!