When Phillip Rix was a child, he liked to play in the kitchen. He was particularly fascinated by the fire in the stove. To distract him, his grandmother let him make biscuits. "I could mix in anything I wanted," he remembers. "They were often inedible."
Those early days in his grandmother's kitchen stuck with Rix and play a part in his online chocolate boutique, Chocistry. The name of the business, like those biscuits, is Rix' unique creation, a blend of chocolate, history, chemistry, and artistry.
Rix, a native Memphian, is 33. He works in sales. But, he says, he's always been driven by his imagination and a desire to create something and build it into a business that goes beyond a hobby.
Rix began working on Chocistry in 2007. While he thought about going to culinary school, he ultimately taught himself the ins and outs of chocolate-making through books and experimenting. He hand-rolled chocolate and piped ganache. He worked through the very temperamental process of tempering chocolate.
"Basically, I spent a lot of time teaching myself the foundations of chocolate," he says.
He also researched the masters, such as Jacques Torres, and familiarized himself with the products of companies such as Godiva and Barry Callebaut.
"I studied other chocolates, so I could deliberately do things they weren't," he says.
Rix filled notebook after notebook with his formulas and ideas, an endeavor that went beyond the chocolates. He painstakingly planned out everything, from the Chocistry name — which he Googled to make sure it was his alone — to how he presents himself: He goes by Phillip but in his correspondence he's P. Ashley Rix.
Chocistry offers a collection of 50 or so signature chocolates, truffles, caramels, and sweets. Rix had molds made for some of his chocolates, and he hand-paints them so that they are tiny pieces of art. (He's been asked, "Can I eat that?")
The mix of ingredients is, by design, eclectic. Among the offerings in the signature collection are the Smithsonian with blueberries and black pepper, the Wonder Woman with Bing cherry and pomegranate, and the Namaste with curry, cardamom, and coconut. Another of the signature chocolates is the Mama Jean, which is ganache mixed with sweet potato. The Mama Jean is in honor of his grandmother and the sweet potato pies she baked.
The truffles include the Pink with Rosé champagne, and one of the caramels is the Heart of Gold with Spanish saffron. The sweets collection is a selection of gourmet brownies as well as chocolate bacon.
Rix says he always keeps an eye out for new ingredients to test. A Ghost River beer, for example, recently had the gears in his head spinning. And when he was offered a sample of a young blue cheese at Whole Foods, he ended up taking home a wedge and creating a new chocolate, which he then served at a wine tasting. "It was a big hit," he says.
Initially, Rix envisioned his potential customers as mostly women. To his surprise, children and men too have taken to Chocistry's chocolates. He describes a scene at last year's Soup Sunday where he had a lot of male samplers. "'This is the best one. No, this one,'" he recalls them saying. "And they came back and back and back."