At the Table with Sam Ratto, Founder of Videri Chocolate Factory

videri chocolate factory, raleigh north carolina, sam ratto
Sam Ratto roasts cacao beans in-house at Videri Chocolate Factory. Photo by Steady Film

I’ll never forget meeting Sam Ratto outside of Slingshot Coffee Company’s old headquarters a year or so after I moved to Raleigh in 2013. His son, who was three years old at the time, stood on the bench in front of the cold brew factory and loudly and confidently sang Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”. I chatted with Sam for a few minutes and remember thinking how cool and kind he was. We both ran in Raleigh’s creative circle, so our paths crossed multiple times. But it wasn’t until I started working with CurEat that I really got to know Sam. He has been CurEat’s biggest supporter and cheerleader. If you know Sam, then you know that he is a true champion of good people doing good things.

During the pandemic, Sam has worked extremely hard to keep his business afloat while also donating chocolate to industry workers. He is doing what he can to keep a few people on payroll, even though he had to lay off some of his workforce like everyone in the food and beverage industry. I heard a deep exhaustion in his voice during our call, which he took while personally delivering chocolate door-to-door. Yet, I still heard the positive, fun energy in his voice that makes Sam who he is. So, pull up a chair to the table and learn more about this kind, cool chocolate maker.

Cocktails

  1. Most notable food memory? The smell of my grandmother’s house when I was a little kid. It smelled like meatballs and pasta. Always. She was German and she had to learn how to cook Italian food back in those days. If you married Italian man you had to learn to cook
  2. Most sought after dinner guest, living or not? I would say Andrew Ullom.
  3. If you were not doing what you were doing what would you be? I would hope to be a professional golfer. 
  4. Junk food vice? Bugles. 
  5. What restaurant do you most want to visit when we can safely do so? Some place far away because it means I can feel safe getting on a plane, knowing I can go there and back. I would go toSoba Noodle House that I visited when I was in Japan. 

Drinks

  1. What is your favorite food city that you have been to? Raleigh, NC 
  2. What city do you most want to visit that you have not been to when we can travel again? Genoa, Italy.
  3. What quality do you most look for in a vegetable? Color.
  4. What’s your greatest food extravagance? High quality, foreign cured meat.
  5. What/who do you listen to while cooking? Michael Kiwanuka

Breakfast and Lunch

  1. What has been your favorite meal that you’ve cooked during quarantine? Do you use a cookbook? And if so, which one is your favorite? The skirt steak quesadillas that Katie and I cooked from The Dude Diet cookbook. 
  2. Where would you love to cook a meal other than your home (or your restaurant)? At my mom’s house with my siblings around.
  3. What’s the most overrated ingredient? At this time, there is no overrated ingredient. I’m trying to think of something but I’ll honestly use anything that’s in my cupboard right now.
  4. If you had the chance to redo one meal/cocktail you’ve ever served? Last year’s Thanksgiving dinner with my family. We had a blast! I don’t even remember cooking it. It was just one of those wonderful experiences where you get around a bunch of people and cook. 
  5. If you were only allowed to keep one sense, what would it be?Smell. 

Dinner

  1. If you could bring back one deceased relative to cook for, who would it be and what would you cook for them? My grandfather Ratto. I would cook leek pasta and bake him a chocolate cake with my chocolate. 
  2. Biggest culinary/bartender inspiration? Why? I am inspired by anybody I believe in that has a good heart! Somebody cooks something and it’s delicious and they are a good person. That’s inspiring.          
  3. What book are you currently reading? A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader by Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s.
  4. What changes do you want to see happen in the food and beverage industry once restaurant doors can open again? Tiered paid structures so we all benefit from the workload. 
  5. Who has inspired you the most during this time? Anybody who had the courage to stay open and keep people on their payroll. 

Brunch

  1. How are you making the most of what was handed to us? By exercising, eating mindfully, and taking this time while the entire world has slowed down to look at how I am and how I operate a business. 
  2. How would doctor up store bought Ramen? On, that’s easy! Mash the ramen in the package first. Then you want to put a little bit of water in a frying pan and let it boil, put the season in, and then put the ramen in. As the ramen is soaking, put eggs in and make a pretty good omelet. 
  3. What imaginary figure would you most want to cook for? What would you serve? Willy Wonka. I would serve him a chewy salted caramel. 
  4. What would you tell your 20 year old self? Save your money. And, Budweiser is definitely going to make you fat.

Dessert

  1. What do you most value in your peers/team? Honesty, compassion, vulnerability and dedication to your friends and family.
  2. What’s your death row meal? I will never have a death row meal. I will never do something dumb enough to be put on death row. 
  3. What is your motto? The best way to thank chocolate is to eat it. 

Sam Ratto founded Videri Chocolate Factory in 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The name Videri comes from North Carolina’s state motto “[Esse] Qualm Videri”, which means to be rather than to seem. While Raleigh’s bean-to-bar chocolate factory remains closed to the public, you can order Videri chocolate online. We highly recommend.

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