Jonathan Grahm in his redesigned shop.
Though born into the Bonny Doon family, Jonathan Grahm didn’t pursue dessert winemaking—only desserts. “Go figure,” he shrugs. For the prodigious proprietor of 62-year-old Compartes in Brentwood, chocolate is all he has known since he took over the store at 21 and began to produce ganache truffles. Colorful designs adorn each: flamingos on pear-cheese; argyle patterns on toasted pine-nut; lime-green chevrons on lemongrass. His divine caramels and exotic bars are all influenced by art, fashion and travel, whether the shocking neon gradient of Venice Beach at sunset, Día de los Muertos skulls or Peruvian forests. He lives, eats and sleeps chocolate; a journal by his bedside even logs flavor combinations from his dreams.
Seems those visions have been embraced; now 28, the Angeleno has been listed in this year’s Forbes 30-under-30 for Food and Beverage—surrounded by bigwigs like Flour + Water’s Thomas McNaughton. Yet, he insists, “I stay in my own lane. I don’t want to be everywhere.” So where is he? Crafting gifts for Chloé and Diesel, and at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, where he painted Beatrice Wood’s iconic stick-figure sketch onto salted treats to fête a recent retrospective.
This month, a shop in Japan will join seven recent openings and 100 future pop-ups in the country. The wunderkind will also unveil a handsome redesign of his L.A. chocolate tasting salon. There, 34 new indulgences are now stunningly displayed against black-and-white ikat tiling. What’s more, a second kitchen means he’ll launch nationwide. “I get goose bumps thinking about my bars at The Plaza Hotel,” he says. And until he realizes his fantasy of retiring to a cacao plantation in Kauai, a new office, complete with hammock, will do. 912 S. Barrington Ave., L.A., 310-826-3380; compartes.com.
[C Menu, November 2012]