" Robert Campbell makes chocolate in the dining room of his small Venezuelan restaurant, Sazon. After dinner, you'll find him preparing one of his 20 drinking chocolates, and preaching the gospel of cacao as a fix for energy, nutrition and libido. In Philadelphia, he's known as the chocolate alchemist. "What I'm holding are the cocoa beans from Peru, these are Oro Verde," Campbell said. 'These have a nice reddish hue to them, they're nice and healthy." Cocoa comes from cacao, a tree that produces pods full of beans that are fermented, dried and ground up. The flavor of chocolate changes depending on the genes of the cacao, the environment where the tree grows, the way farmers process their beans, and the artistry of the chocolatier. Campbell's chocolate is low in sugar and intense in flavor. "My style of chocolate is more like bourbon, more like scotch, more rum," he said. After tasting a piece, Campbell said: "Feel that kind of little stripe of sharpness? That scares people. I love it." Artisan chocolate makers like Campbell use heirloom cacao; they call it fine flavor chocolate. ... Theobroma cacao, the tree's botanical name, only grows in a relatively narrow band around the world: 15 to 20 degrees latitude north and south of the Equator. ... "
Newsworks | February 2, 2017 | Catalin Jaramillo
" Robert Campbell (aka ‘The Chocolate Alchemist’) and his inspired drinking chocolates were featured in the February 2011 issue of Dessert Professional. Now he is making chocolate in his glass enclosed, temperature controlled choco-studio located in the Venezuelan restaurant Sazon that he co-owns with his wife (and chef) Judith. The Chocolate Alchemist bars are crafted from fine cacao sourced from plantations in Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Robert sweetens his bars with coconut sugar, unrefined dark brown sugar, and local maple syrup. Coincidentally, Sazon is located on the same block as Milton Hershey’s first store in Philadelphia, PA. "
Dessert Professional Magazine | May 20, 2016
" Meeting Robert Campbell aka Chocolate Alchemist in Philadelphia was one of the highlights of my “37 Chocolates” challenge ... Unlike industrial chocolate, craft chocolate carried the soul of its maker ... I started looking at how a chocolate-maker infused her or his chocolate with her or his personality ... my interest shifted from bars to makers. For instance, I’m drawn to the worlds of ... Chocolate Alchemist from Philadelphia (best hot chocolate EVER) ... I do seem to gravitate toward the work of lesser known, unapologetic makers with a strong passion for their craft ... Making chocolate is both a craft and art and the art part is what appeals to me. That means there is no ranking, no top 3, and I hope you’ll be inspired to go and find the chocolate that will speak to you. "
Learn more about the 37 Chocolate Challenge
37 Chocolates | February 2, 2016 | Estelle Tracy
Top Chocolate Shops in Philadelphia
Judith Suzarra-Campbell and Robert F. Campbell Jr. are the culinary duo behind Sazon, a Venezuelan BYOB and chocolate shop in Northern Liberties. While Judith is busy serving up gluten-free dishes made with family recipes, Robert is in the front of the restaurant in his chocolate shop by the bar. Known as the Chocolate Alchemist, Robert uses only the finest ingredients in his gourmet house-made truffles and hot chocolate. Free of any gluten, wax, refined sugar, artificial colors, soy or preservatives and made with ingredients such as free-range local dairy and fresh, fair-trade cacao beans, these delicious treats practically seem like health food compared to candy you’d typically find on the market. Choose from 12 different gourmet truffle varieties, including vegan options, and don’t forget to try one on the many unique hot chocolate drinks while you’re there.
CBS Philly | February 4, 2014
" Robert Campbell, the "Chocolate Alchemist," makes 27 different kinds of drinking chocolate at Sazon, a Venezuelan restaurant he runs with his wife at 10th and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia. Campbell says he developed his love for "true, real, dark chocolate" when he was living in Germany as a kid, stealing money out of his father's pockets to buy chocolate at a neighborhood shop. It is Campbell's contention that patrons of his confectionery know that giving gifts on Valentine's Day goes beyond getting someone a box of chocolate — that "they know the chemical benefits of cacao," and buying one of his truffles will likely mean they're going to "get lucky that night." He says chocolate doesn't need to be dressed up; the quality can shine through in other ways. "Most people do not like really dark chocolate, but that's changing," said Campbell. "This town didn't know good beer or good wine 20 years ago. They still don't know chocolate. They're starting to know. I'm fighting the good fight. I'm not in it for profit. I'm in it for the love of it. "
Newsworks | February 15, 2013 | Shai Ben-Yaacov
" This little Venezuelan joint is in a shady ‘hood, but don’t overlook it. Regulars like the food, but they really rave about the thick, not-too-sweet Clasico hot chocolate. What’s more, there’s an entire menu of hot chocolate concoctions (like the Calabaza King, made with pumpkin, pecan, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon, mmm!) to choose from! "
CBS Philly | January 27, 2012
The Chocolate Alchemist
" Robert Campbell is wild about chocolate. He developed his devotion to cacao during his time as a semi-professional mountain biker in Venezuela. He was obsessed with consuming many of nature’s energy foods, and chocolate was his secret weapon.
A few years later, Robert returned to his home state of Pennsylvania with Judith, his Venezuelan bride, to open Sazon Restaurant in Philadelphia. Chef Judith runs the kitchen, and Robert’s domain is the front of the house. While Judith created daily meals of fine, authentic Venezuelan fare, Robert longed for his own culinary identity, yet did not want to tread on Judith’s turf. His solution was to launch a chocolate laboratory and store within the restaurant.
Today, Robert serves a year-round revolving menu of more than twenty varieties of hot chocolate, along with his unique chocolate truffles. His chocolate workshop is housed behind the bar at Sazon (in the front of the house, of course), and during off hours he can be found there concocting and testing new recipes. Robert is very proud, and very proprietary, about his recipes, so we were thrilled when he agreed to share four of his creations with the readers of Dessert Professional. Enjoy these hot chocolate and truffle recipes (one traditional and one the Sazon way for each) along with the images of Robert, Judith, and the edible delights that make Sazon Restaurant a unique destination for chocolate aficionados. "
Dessert Professional Magazine | February 2011
" While Robert Campbell and wife Judith Suzarra-Campbell specialize in home-style Venezuelan cooking at Sazon, Campbell says his hot chocolates are his most inspired creations, drawing equally from a love for both the old and new worlds. "I am the king of hot chocolate in Philadelphia," he says. "I have tried all of the popular hot chocolate places in the city with horrible disappointment ... I am hungry for someone to challenge me." There are over a dozen exotic varieties, for which Campbell chips directly off blocks of pure cacao. La Cuaima is a tart variety with cinnamon and three kinds of chilies mixed right in; the sweeter, exceptional Calabaza King brings together pumpkin-infused chocolate. "
Citypaper | December 2007
Axis of Asado
" Sazon greets customers with South American hospitality, Latin art, and incredibly rich cuisine. The husband and wife duo that owns the restaurant, Bob Campbell and Judy Suzarra-Campbell, hail from Philadelphia and Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, respectively. Their personalities balance each other ... Bob is like the rich and spicy chocolate caliente drink he brews from imported European and South American cacao. For dessert, the "bitchiest" hot chocolate in town ... fittingly, the thick mousse-like drink was bittersweet at first, followed by a spicy three chile kick and a strong cinnamon aftertaste. This BYO represents ... an oasis of Venezuelan culture. It's food fit for a dictator - even Chávez would be proud. "
34th Street Magazine | February 22, 2007 | Eliza Rothstein
A Kiss of Venezuela
" The milky hot chocolate was extraordinarily luscious... "
The Philadelphia Inquirer | January 23, 2005 | Rick Nichols