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LA Compartés Chocolatier, Chef-Owner-Japanese Superstar, Jon Grahm

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(Gerry Furth-Sides) Jon Grahm used to exuberantly snag visitors to his booth at events to sample  his family’s Brentwood candy store wares – and even had tasting parties there with his uncle’s wines when  first learning the business.  I know I was there. Have times ever changed.

Jon remains just as delightfully generous and enthusiastic after learning the business, purchasing his parents store and taking over.  And he “took over” spectacularly.   Along the way he became a superstar in Japan, discriminating connoisseurs of refined, lush food.

This fall, Jonathan opened his new flagship boutique shop,Compartés Chocolatier, in Century City Westfield Shopping Center,  Grahm enlisted international superstar interior designer Kelly Wearstler to fashion the location to fit in with the grand names of fashion neighboring him.   After all, the talented Grahm’s creations have been called, “The Prada of Chocolate.”

Grahm and Wearstler designed every detail of the gem of a space with the art deco feel of Old Vienna brought up to date.  From the loco to the  custom shelves light fixtures and  arched-ceiling, the feel is luxury, intensified with blue green walls, Italian marble, and gleaming antique brass. Known for what appears to be “50’s formica” style, this is, in my  opinion, Wearstler’s best work to date.

And this is also  not that many years away from Jon’s college graduation.  Grahm went to Beverly Hills High, then majored in political science at UCLA before becoming  a full-time chocolate maker at Compartés at the age of 21.    When his parents wanted to close the shop, Jon bought it after working almost 10 years in 2010.  He rebranded and expanded, and the business burst like firework across the sky.

In 2014 he won a chocolate competition in Tokyo against dozens of European contenders.  He trained immediate superstar status.  And soon Grahm has eight permanent Tokyo stores and one in Shanghai. During annual pre-Valentine’s Day tours inf Japan,  100 Compartés pop-up shops openfor the holiday in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Hiroshima, Nagoya and Kobe.

He seemed to have a legacy to follow.  Compartés Chocolatier has been handcrafting chocolate since 1950 in small batches in Los Angeles California. Using locally sourced ingredients and the best chocolate from around the globe creating chocolate “as art.”

His parents also had a highly successful import-export business.  Randall Grahm, his uncle started the acclaimed Bonny Doon Vineyards.  And Randall’s mom, Jon’s grandmother, Ruth Grahm catapulted sales in early Bonny Doon days by knocking on every restaurant door in L.A. with a grocery bag of bottles.

Jon Grahm and his proud dad at the opening of the Century City new store.

A self-taught chocolatier, Grahm himself specializes in more esoteric and very delicate forms of chocolate. He has become known for his ganaches that combine fruit and spice, which he calls “three-dimensional” in exotic flavors such as  blackberry sage and pineapple habañero. For Valentine’s Day special flavors might include raspberry rose, strawberry Champagne and  huckleberry rhubarb.

The potato chip bar proves Jon’s whimsical nature and versatility.

Though he altered the name of the company slightly by moving the apostrophe in Comparte’s over to become an accent on the “e”, Grahm also stays true to the nostalgic, partly in honor of Compartés’ roots as a 1950s chocolate shop.  One mainstay is the chocolate-dipped strawberry. “Everybody loves them, too,” he reports.

Even the servers were in a good mood. And the champagne with the chocolates was a perfect pairing. The chocolates seems to be dense, light and have a variety of textures in them from fruits and nuts.

For the story of how the chocolate is made, please see:

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Gerry Furth-Sides

Gerry Furth-Sides

Content Editor/Columnist

Photo-journalist Gerry Furth-Sides has been covering the ethnic and American culinary scene in California since it first came into prominence 25 years ago.