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VIU dessert chefs stir up one-of-a-kind ‘Spindle Whorl’ chocolate recipe

University program partners with Cacao Barry Or Noir to create signature brand of chocolate
Ken Harper, Vancouver Island University baking instructor, displays the new exclusive VIU chocolate product, known as Spindle Whorl. (VIU photo)

A Vancouver Island University culinary program has combined Indigenous iconography and cocoa to weave a sweet treat.

VIU’s professional baking and pastry arts program has created and released Spindle Whorl, a signature chocolate product named after a weaving tool used by Coast Salish people and, according to a press release, was made available by the Cacao Barry Or Noir experience. It offers chefs the ability to tailor-make their own chocolate recipe from “the best cocoa beans from around the world,” the press release stated.

In the press release, Ken Harper, VIU instructor, said when he heard about Cacao Barry, he thought it would be a good promotional tool for the program. An integral part was devising a way for student involvement, he said. A student who had “a keen sense of taste to determine what the flavour palate of the chocolate would be” was needed and after a “blind taste-test competition,” Darian Zowtuck emerged as the winner, the press release said.

In January 2020, Harper and Zowtuck travelled to the Or Noir facility near Paris, the press release said, and developed the VIU chocolate product with assistance from experts. The process involved “tasting different combinations and paying attention to aspects such as bitterness, sweetness and fruitiness,” the press release said.

When coming up with a name, Harper sought advice from Geraldine Manson, VIU elder-in-residence, who suggested the spindle whorl, also a logo for Snuneymuxw First Nation.

“The spindle whorl is used to bring various wool strands together to weave something,” Manson said in the press release. “It was the bringing together of strands and using it as an example of students coming together to make something. Sharing what the spindle whorl represents is important. I see the students coming together to test flavours of chocolate to make an end product, just as a spindle whorl is used to make clothing and blankets, etc.”

Kristen Svendsen, a VIU graphic design graduate, created Spindle Whorl packaging and the chocolate will be available for sale online until Friday, Nov. 26, as 100-gram bars for $7 and 500g bags of wafers for $20. Harper did say it will be available at other locations in 2022, with details forthcoming.

“This is a one-shot deal and the only time this particular chocolate is ever going to be made,” said Harper in the press release. “We could tell the company to make this chocolate again, but my long-term goal is that we sell this chocolate and funds raised from this are put aside to repeat this experience.”

Cacao Barry has sponsored VIU’s baking program for close to eight years and donates 500 kilograms of chocolate every year, Harper said.

To order a Spindle Whorl bar or wafers, go to, click ‘Register’ and scroll down to select the items.

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