Raquel Choa inspired more than 150 students from Guam Community College’s postsecondary Culinary Arts program and the college’s career and technical education ProStart and Marketing programs from George Washington High School on March 9, according to a news release.
Slight and slender, Choa looks more like a model than a chef who pounds cacao beans to make world-famous chocolate paste, but in the words of freshman GCC Culinary Arts student Jiara Albert, “How she pounded her chocolate — the energy, her power — that’s inspiring.”
She also told students about her humble beginnings in a mountain barangay in Balamban, Cebu, the Philippines.
“My grandmother told me, ‘Just close your eyes,’” Choa told the roomful of students. Whether it was crossing a river to go to school or dealing with cacao, she said her grandmother inspired her to use her senses.
“Just feel it,” Choa said.
Choa was on island to help celebrate National Women’s Month and International Women’s Day on March 11.
The mother of eight brought her 15-year-old daughter Hanna with her, who she affectionately calls her protégé. When asked how her mom figured out that Hanna had “the touch,” the teenager replied, “She just knows.” Hanna is one of five siblings who work at their mother’s companies.
Raquel Choa is president and founder of Ralfe Gourmet, The Chocolate Chamber and Casa de Cacao in the Philippines. She is one of the world’s most renowned tablea makers (she reportedly prefers the term “tablea” over “chocolatier”). According to the Tablea Chocolate Café website, tabléas, or tableyas, are pure cacao beans that are dried, roasted, ground and then formed into tablets traditionally used in the Philippines to make hot chocolate.
Samson Babac, a sophomore in the GWHS ProStart program, said he was impressed with “the way she started from the beginning, and how she has made her business growth and go worldwide.”
“We are very grateful to Ms. Choa for sharing her incredible story with our students, many of whom are of Filipino descent,” said Norman Aguilar, GCC Tourism & Hospitality Department chairman.
Raquel Choa, chocolate maker from the Philippines, gives a traditional chocolate-making demonstration at Guam Community College on March 9. Sabrina Monteverde and Mark Scott/PDN