At a mere 22 years of age, Jonathan Grahm is the visionary behind the culinary sensation, Compartes Chocolatier in Brentwood. Locals have known of Compartes Chocolates for years.
In its hey day, Frank Sinatra was a regular. The store, which is now located on Barrington south of San Vicente, was first on Montana and then in the Brentwood Country Mart for about 20 years where it was known simply as the neighborhood candy store. Through the years it changed hands. Five years ago, when Jonathan's family purchased the store, it had faded into obscurity. In the last three years Compartes Chocolates has seen a stunning transformation. It is back on the map with write-ups in national magazines and has celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman and Teri Hatcher coming through its doors. So how did the local candy store become one of America's top ten chocolatiers? The answer is Jonathan Grahm. When he was only 19 years old, his family turned the shop over to him. Comparte's was a fledgling business and Jonathan showed an interest. Frankly, the family thought there was nothing to lose. Within three years with no formal degrees in either business or culinary arts, Jonathan transformed the store into the success it is today.
Jonathan's secret, one might say, is part instinct and part chutzpa. He decided to keep in the old and bring in the new. "We are famous for chocolate dipped fruits with apricots and orange peels being our most popular," says Jonathan. "My addition to Compartes are the chocolate truffles and ganaches." The choice of truffles range from caramel to cactus, strawberry, papaya, mango, lemon, and homemade toffee. Don't be surprised to see a wasabi ginger truffle. Jonathan says he is influenced by many cultures, "I feel that chocolate is a very basic taste, it can vary from region to region, but why can't we do more fun stuff with it. Why do we limit ourselves to just chocolate with nuts, or chocolate with caramel?" he asks.
"My philosophy is the less ingredients the better." The chocolates are all made with 70 - 75% cocoa. Everything is made from scratch from marshmallow to peanut butter for the peanut butter cups. Each chocolate is hand dipped, hand cut, and each batch of chocolates takes three days to make. For those who don't do chocolate, Compartes carries its signature stuffed fruit, for example a fig, stuffed with another fig and a roasted almond.
During the day you can find Jonathan busy on all fronts, from preparing the caramel to overseeing the expansion of Compartes online business selling chocolates online all over the country. He proudly points to different parts of the shop, exclaiming, "would you believe 250,000 pounds of candy are made from this small kitchen?" He has a team of three helpers who are like family. The store was recently renovated. Jonathan resourcefully turned to the A & E reality show Designing Blind. The producers were at first reluctant to make changes because it was already a cute little shop, but Jonathan wouldn't take no for an answer, "I said to the producer, you don't understand, look at my chocolate, taste it and then let me tell you how this store should reflect me and what I'm doing." The result is a boutique chocolate store with a mom and pop feel. He encourages customers to sit and savor the chocolate in the indoor sitting areas and on the outside patio. Comparte's has just added to the menu homemade hot chocolate and he offers Elixir teas. Jonathan credits his refined palette and love of food to his mother, who took him around the world introducing him to the best chefs and different cuisines. He is not afraid to experiment and says, "I feel everything tastes better with chocolate anyway."
Jonathan says his proudest moment thus far is when he got a call informing him that the chocolates will be featured in Bon Appetit magazine. However Jonathan has many proud moments: as he pops a chocolate into his mouth, he savors it and says, "You need to try this."