Sweet Talk: Meet Chocolatier Jonathan Grahm

Category: Drink

Meet Jonathan Grahm, the mastermind behind LA’s iconic chocolate brand — and our latest confectionary collaboration.

If Willy Wonka were to create a line of chocolates while listening to Empire of the Sun, something along the lines of Compartés’ Los Angeles, California-inspired electropop bars would play out. Hitting high notes of Animal Cookies Dark Chocolate, Cereal Bowl White Chocolate, and Strawberry Champagne, founder Jonathan Grahm blends childhood nostalgia and fashionable flavors into sweets with a sometimes-savory edge in his Brentwood kitchen.

And while Compartés’ contemporary chocolates may feel, at times, almost futuristic (that packaging!), the operation in fact dates back to the 1950s. The company was founded by the couple Mrs. and Mr. Compartés, the latter of whom was a songwriter with Grahm’s grandfather. “My family bought the business when I was 15, and it was a bit stagnated, having lost a lot of its former luster,” explains Grahm, whose parents let him jump in and experiment with chocolate flavors. “My first creation was Love Nuts, which I made when I was 19. It was featured as one of Food & Wine’s Top 99 Foods in America, and that sort of cemented my family allowing me to do more.” 

Without any business or culinary training, Grahm bought Compartés from his family at age 24, building his brand of bars and truffles “in unusual flavors, and decorating them with funky patterns and prints inspired by LA,” he says. “The chocolate bars, which were an extension to me, really, of the truffles and other products I had created [and the] designs [I had made] for the gift boxes the chocolate bars would come in, really came from me being a native Angeleno.... LA [was] really the inspiration for the packaging and the direction of the chocolates, mixing in interesting and fun ingredients from around Los Angeles.”

Grahm describes Compartés as himself in chocolate form, clearly flavored by the city in which he resides and his life experiences as a whole. “Chocolate and wine is such a classic combo, I'd say it’s the ultimate combo,” declares Grahm, so teaming up with LA-based Winc, another hip, artistically-minded company, felt like a natural fit. After the duo’s first wine-chocolate partnership (Winc’s sparkling red plus Compartés’s Salted Pretzel Dark Bar) sold out last year, a follow-up was imperative. Thus, the pair’s second partnership involves a sparkling white produced in Santa Barbara, California, following the Champagne method, plus a 73% dark chocolate bar stuffed with vanilla sea salt. Of his Winc collaboration, says Grahm, “What’s so great is that we developed the wine purposefully for this, so it pairs so well with the chocolate. We added this amazing vanilla salt, which sets off the wine so nicely, the two flavors really intermingle so well together.”