Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe

Born in Caracas, Venezuela 1964
Chef, Entrepeneur, Artist and Chocolatier

Ambassador of the Venezuelan cacao and chocolate

Founder of La Paninoteka, an emblematic restaurant in Caracas that merged culinary research with Venezuelan arts –paintings, music, poetry, photography, fashion and theatre. As an artist, she have created culinary installations, exhibitions and theatre play projects that has been shown at museums, galleries, parks in Venezuela and Colombia, Argentina, Japan, US, Spain, England and Italy.

She has been restaurateur of, at least, 15 coffee shops and restaurants in Caracas; places that reflect her commitment for the Venezuelan culture. Precisely, this inner sense for her country awaked her passion for cacao, an ancestral fruit that narrates Venezuelan history before the pre-Hispanic culture.

Di Giacobbe completed specialized courses of bonbons at Theobroma, Japan and Belgium. She is founder KAKAO Bombones de Venezuela, a chocolate lab and store to offer “gastronomic universes” covered with a delicate skin of 100% Venezuelan cacao.

Tireless researcher and author of the books “Cacao and Chocolate in Venezuela” and “Venezuelan Bombons: 25 Recipes”, she has been invited to schools, conventions and internationals fair trades as a speaker in conferences, workshops and chocolate tastings alongside Chivas 18, Argentinian wines and Venezuelan rums.

She can be recognized as Venezuelan Cacao Ambassador in International fair trades and colleges such as Cioccolató, Torino (2011), Eurochocolate (2012), Perugia, Istituto d´ Istruzione Superiore V. Crocetti – V. Cerulli (2011-12), Mistura 2013 (Peru) and the Araya Group, Houston.

She is the Mastermind behind Cacao de Origen, a Project to enhanced and promote the Venezuelan cacao tradition alongside with cacao producers, chocolatiers and Experts. A 360˚ experience to preserve the vast Diversity of Venezuelan cacao and to produce uniques chocolates products form bean to bar.

Recently Maria was named one of the top 20 finalists of the Basque Culinary World Prize. The Basque Culinary World Prize is an award for chefs around the world whose projects have improved society through gastronomy.

Maria has built a whole chain of education, entrepreneurship and economic development around Venezuelan cacao. With Kakao and Cacao de Origen, she supports local producers with the resources they need to improve their product. She also helps women to get the necessary training and tools to become chocolate entrepreneurs themselves.

Cacao de Origen

from Bean to Bar

The 13.000 cocoa producers in Venezuela inhabit rural areas and live in high poverty levels. This situation is related to the low production of their farms (250kg/ hectare) and with the fact that the traditional view of cocoa production in Venezuela has not considered a crop management with agro-ecological practices, more consistent with a model of sustainable development that guarantees the replacement of the use of agrochemicals.

Additionally, the organizational weaknesses have had a significant effect on the processes of commercialization, access to resources and /or assistance from public and private entities. One of the most obvious effects of this is the presence of intermediary buyers who use these weaknesses to buy the production of individual producers at lower prices.

Another aspect is the low capacity of farmers to add value through the production of derivatives and the non-existent alliances which should be based on a criteria of shared value with companies that use cocoa as their main consumable.

Attending all the situations related to the problem comprehensively, will allow an improvement in the production, will strengthen alliances among the private sector and the producers, and with this, improve the income and the life quality of the cocoa producers of Venezuela. In order to do this, the key strategies will be linked to capacity building, alliances and marketing.

Cacao de Origen has formed a group of allies such as Fundación Tierra Viva (FTV) non profit organization with over 15 years on cocoa production in Aragua and Carabobo, incorporating ecological practices, providing technical assistance for the pruning and for the soil protection, promoting the production of derivatives and the commercialization of these through fair trade practices.

Also, Cacao de Origen made a joint venture with Kakao Bombones Venezolanos to add value to the production and to improve the price of the grain. Their expertise as a chocolate makers will help us to install an educational lab, to make chocolates with international standards to put on the market. Each tablet will be numbered as a limited edition item, specifying the place of origin, producer, year, harvest date, and will have the signatures of the master chocolatier and the producer, as well as the endorsement from FTV and Kakao. The sales of these tablets will generate an additional income to the producers, since a percentage of the net income will be destined to each one of them.