Steven Lambeth's obsession with chocolate began as a romantic rebound.
About two years ago, Lambeth was working through a particularly rough breakup with a woman who had loved chocolate. After the split, he began to eat his feelings, picking one of her favorite foods as a tribute to the person he'd lost.
"I fell in love with this woman who loved chocolate," Lambeth remembers. "But I still didn't eat it. It wasn't until after we broke up that I started dumping chocolate into the big, gaping hole she left."
When Lambeth finally started, he couldn't stop. He began craving chocolate to the point where he was spending more money on it than on actual meals. Lambeth knew the lifestyle wasn't sustainable, either for his physical or financial health.
"That's when I decided to start making chocolate myself," he remembers, "instead of curtailing my consumption."
The idea had been for Lambeth, a private chef by trade, to make only what he intended to eat, but he started sharing his creations with family and friends. He soon learned there was a market for this new hobby—vegan, largely raw confections made by hand and flavored by an unlikely assortment of additions. He uses only organic ingredients to create uncanny chocolate flavors, plus a blend of herbs, spices and flowers to give his confections very specific roles. Rather than push the limits of cocoa darkness or truffles that cram caramel or booze into tiny spaces, Lambeth is attempting to differentiate himself in the Triangle's increasingly crowded chocolate scene with a near new-age approach to flavor and functionality.
And it appears to be working: The upstart chocolatier now makes three standard flavors of bars (and has just launched his first holiday bar) and sells them throughout the Triangle in spots like the Saxapahaw General Store and Carrboro's Oasis Cafe. His two-year-old company, Raw Chocolate for the Soul, hopes to expand into larger grocery chains next year and perhaps hire a full-time employee, too. For now, though, he does it all alone, fitting for someone who describes chocolate making as his "spiritual journey." His creations reflect his own personality and ideology.
"This endeavor to create chocolate has been a part of my own journey and spiritual path," says Lambeth. "And I hope whoever eats it also feels that support."