Katrina Markoff

Chocolatier, Entrepreneur

Chicago

Entrepreneur and chocolate whiz Katrina Markoff is the founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a luxury line of chocolates. Her culinary journey began when she left the United States for Paris, specifically Le Cordon Bleu. She then traveled the globe seeking different food experiences, from El Bulli in Spain to Southeast Asian street food. Markoff returned home and soon opened her first chocolate boutique in Chicago. Her luxury chocolates combine unusual ingredients (spices, flowers, roots, herbs) from all over the world; she has boutiques in New York, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, as well as an agro-tourism center in Belize. Wild Ophelia, her lower-priced line of fine chocolates, launched in 2011.

  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite Chicago attractions?

    I love taking people to Devon Street because I love the variety of shops and restaurants. You can go to India Sari Palace to get saris or you can get henna done or fresh coconut or fresh pomegranate juice. What’s special about Chicago is all of its really cool ethnic pockets, and I love to take people to see that. On Broadway and Argyle Street, there’s a place [Ba Le] that sells Vietnamese sandwiches. Those sandwiches are amazing.
     
    Lake Michigan is really nice; it always seems to be a bit crowded. It’s really nice if you go south of the city center where it’s beautiful and there’s less density of people.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What does Katrina Markoff like to bring home from her travels?

    I’m always bringing back ingredients. I also like bringing back some kind of object of art whether it’s pottery or a painting. Our stores have a lot of different eclectic items in them. When I was in Turkey I had artisans hand-paint designs on nine different Turkish vases. I have some in New York and some in the Beverly Hills boutique. I try to bring back whatever I think is culturally interesting about the area I’m visiting and it often ends as an object of art in one of the stores.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    Where does Katrina Markoff shop when traveling?

    I just try to find information from the concierge at the hotel. Who the most significant artist in the area? Where is the best place for local crafts? Whether it’s ceramics or paintings or rugs, fabrics, linens — whatever the area is known for, I find it out. And I find out where the best food markets are, too. Who is making beer? Is there anyone making wine? Is there anyone making cheese? I just try to find out who is the best at making what.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite things to do in Chicago?

    I love taking people to Devon Street because I love the variety of shops and restaurants. You can go to India Sari Palace to get saris or you can get henna done or fresh coconut or fresh pomegranate juice. What’s special about Chicago is all of its really cool ethnic pockets, and I love to take people to see that. On Broadway and Argyle Street, there’s a place [Ba Le] that sells Vietnamese sandwiches. Those sandwiches are amazing.
     
    Lake Michigan is really nice; it always seems to be a bit crowded. It’s really nice if you go south of the city center where it’s beautiful and there’s less density of people.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite bars in Chicago?

    I love Maude’s Liquor Bar in the West Loop. I love being in that cool space and I love that violet cocktail they make. I also like sitting at RL [inside the Ralph Lauren store] at the bar off Michigan Avenue. It’s a very skinny bar, but I love being in that environment. And I love Ralph Lauren. His sort of lifestyle and the environment that he creates is so classic and chic and beautiful and library-esque.
     
    It’s not like you’re going to get a great drink, but it is fun to go to Green Mill. I like that whole Chicago-Al Capone feeling at Green Mill. I think Sepia has good drinks. I don’t want to eat there but I like their drinks.

    The California Clipper is this rockabilly bar on California, pretty west of downtown. It’s so fun; it’s a whole other world. Everybody dresses up and it’s a cool, old bar and that’s actually a really classic old place. It’s like old Chicago — you’re not going to get good scotch or whatever you want to drink, but it’s a fun environment and it’s got live music.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What made Katrina Markoff want to create an agro-tourism center in Belize?

    We partnered up with a group called Belcampo to do the center; it’s attached to an ecolodge in Belize. We’re planting 3,000 acres of Mayan heritage varietals of cacao, some of the best beans you can plant. It’s very rare that you actually plant your own varietals and that you get to graft what you want to produce. And on top of that, it’s open to the public so you can come down and do a one-day or a five-day professional class with me on how to make chocolate.
     
    If you’re interested in getting into the chocolate business, or if you’re just a foodie hobbyist, you can go down there and really learn the process of fermenting. There’s also this huge garden with all heritage Mayan fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. The garden feeds the restaurant in the hotel — it’s just a really cool project.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What is Katrina Markoff’s new chocolate line Wild Ophelia all about?

    It’s basically what I’m calling an American road trip through chocolate. It’s bringing together chocolate and the local farmer’s movement that’s been popular for some time. We’re working with different food artisans and esteemed farms that are doing really great things. The line named after this girl Ophelia who I kind of made up as a spirited younger sister to Vosges — younger and maybe a little bit louder. There’s definitely a female aspect to her voice. She’s animated, and I think she’ll be a really good positive role model for women and young girls because I don’t think they have too many. It’s all kind of an interesting play on animation and chocolate and sustainable agriculture. And it has a strong soul and sort of a bigger purpose.
     
    Wild Ophelia is meant to compete with Ghirardelli and Lindt in the premium chocolate space for mass because I didn’t want to put Vosges in that range. I wanted to keep Vosges more precious so I decided to launch this new brand. So we’re telling a strong flavor story that’s rooted in America.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What is Katrina Markoff’s new chocolate line Wild Ophelia all about?

    It’s basically what I’m calling an American road trip through chocolate. It’s bringing together chocolate and the local farmer’s movement that’s been popular for some time. We’re working with different food artisans and esteemed farms that are doing really great things. The line named after this girl Ophelia who I kind of made up as a spirited younger sister to Vosges — younger and maybe a little bit louder. There’s definitely a female aspect to her voice. She’s animated, and I think she’ll be a really good positive role model for women and young girls because I don’t think they have too many. It’s all kind of an interesting play on animation and chocolate and sustainable agriculture. And it has a strong soul and sort of a bigger purpose.
     
    Wild Ophelia is meant to compete with Ghirardelli and Lindt in the premium chocolate space for mass because I didn’t want to put Vosges in that range. I wanted to keep Vosges more precious so I decided to launch this new brand. So we’re telling a strong flavor story that’s rooted in America.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite bars and lounges in Chicago?

    I love Maude’s Liquor Bar in the West Loop. I love being in that cool space and I love that violet cocktail they make. I also like sitting at RL [inside the Ralph Lauren store] at the bar off Michigan Avenue. It’s a very skinny bar, but I love being in that environment. And I love Ralph Lauren. His sort of lifestyle and the environment that he creates is so classic and chic and beautiful and library-esque.
     
    It’s not like you’re going to get a great drink, but it is fun to go to Green Mill. I like that whole Chicago-Al Capone feeling at Green Mill. I think Sepia has good drinks. I don’t want to eat there but I like their drinks.

    The California Clipper is this rockabilly bar on California, pretty west of downtown. It’s so fun; it’s a whole other world. Everybody dresses up and it’s a cool, old bar and that’s actually a really classic old place. It’s like old Chicago — you’re not going to get good scotch or whatever you want to drink, but it’s a fun environment and it’s got live music.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite bars and lounges in Chicago?

    I love Maude’s Liquor Bar in the West Loop. I love being in that cool space and I love that violet cocktail they make. I also like sitting at RL [inside the Ralph Lauren store] at the bar off Michigan Avenue. It’s a very skinny bar, but I love being in that environment. And I love Ralph Lauren. His sort of lifestyle and the environment that he creates is so classic and chic and beautiful and library-esque.
     
    It’s not like you’re going to get a great drink, but it is fun to go to Green Mill. I like that whole Chicago-Al Capone feeling at Green Mill. I think Sepia has good drinks. I don’t want to eat there but I like their drinks.

    The California Clipper is this rockabilly bar on California, pretty west of downtown. It’s so fun; it’s a whole other world. Everybody dresses up and it’s a cool, old bar and that’s actually a really classic old place. It’s like old Chicago — you’re not going to get good scotch or whatever you want to drink, but it’s a fun environment and it’s got live music.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite bars and lounges in Chicago?

    I love Maude’s Liquor Bar in the West Loop. I love being in that cool space and I love that violet cocktail they make. I also like sitting at RL [inside the Ralph Lauren store] at the bar off Michigan Avenue. It’s a very skinny bar, but I love being in that environment. And I love Ralph Lauren. His sort of lifestyle and the environment that he creates is so classic and chic and beautiful and library-esque.
     
    It’s not like you’re going to get a great drink, but it is fun to go to Green Mill. I like that whole Chicago-Al Capone feeling at Green Mill. I think Sepia has good drinks. I don’t want to eat there but I like their drinks.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite Chicago hotels?

    I think Public is awesome. It has really great rooms, it’s a beautiful place and they have a funky little room service. I really like it. If you’re going to do something really nice then go for The Peninsula — I like it the best. Whenever we have people come into town and we want them to be close to the office, we have them stay at Ruby Room. Ruby Room is kind of a cute, quirky little spot. It’s great if you don’t need full service and you just kind of want to be in the Wicker Park area.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What are Katrina Markoff’s favorite Chicago restaurants?

    I like GT Fish & Oyster in River North a lot. There’s also this Peruvian restaurant that is really amazing. It’s a divey place called Machu Picchu. It’s on Ashland Avenue and it is delicious. It’s not a chichi spot, but it’s really good. They have the hottest green sauce — you can’t even dip a single tine of your fork in there it’s so hot. And they have this beef and potato dish. It’s fried and it’s mashed potatoes on the outside and meat in the center and they put it on these red onions which they must soak in lime juice for two days or something — you don’t get any of that citrus taste but you get that crunchy cold.
     
    I still love Avec, the restaurant in the West Loop. It just feels really comfortable and casual and fun and cool. There are not a lot of places like that. Some places are a little too fancy or a bit too overdone. The small size helps because it feels intimate and cozy.
     
    I like Floriole Café & Bakery in Lincoln Park for a little tea and pastry — they have great bread and pastries there. I like Irazú, a Costa Rican place in Bucktown. They do interesting shakes. They have one with oatmeal — it’s like an oatmeal milkshake with cinnamon in it and as long as they don’t make it too sweet it is amazing.
     
    I love the pizza at Spacca Napoli Pizzeria — it’s on Sunnyside and Ravenswood. It’s like the chef went to Naples and learned how to make the pizza the way they do. In Naples the pizza is super soft and you can’t really pick it up with one hand. And he makes it like that. If you like that sort of doughy texture, it’s really yummy.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What does Katrina Markoff recommend for visitors in her hometown Chicago?

    I love taking people to Devon Street because I love the variety of shops and restaurants. You can go to India Sari Palace to get saris or you can get henna done or fresh coconut or fresh pomegranate juice. What’s special about Chicago is all of its really cool ethnic pockets, and I love to take people to see that. On Broadway and Argyle Street, there’s a place [Ba Le] that sells Vietnamese sandwiches. Those sandwiches are amazing.
     
    Lake Michigan is really nice; it always seems to be a bit crowded. It’s really nice if you go south of the city center where it’s beautiful and there’s less density of people.
  • On September 27, 2012
    Katrina Markoff answered the question: Katrina Markoff

    What does Katrina Markoff wear when traveling?

    I wear a lot of skirts. I usually wear skirts and a tank and a little jacket or throw. I’m really anti-sun, so I wear big hats. I always have long earrings. I like long earrings and jewelry and stuff like that, long and flowy kind of stuff. And a little lip gloss and mascara.