From an early age, food — especially desserts — played a major role in the life of Katrina Markoff, founder and chocolatier of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, an esteemed partner of Malibu Beach Inn.

“I’m Macedonian, and food was always the center of everything we did: gatherings, marriages, funerals, birthdays — everything was centered around the food,” she says. “I was also the middle child, and actually really quiet, and I would make desserts to break the ice.”

Before discovering her calling as a chocolatier, Markoff studied chemistry and psychology at Vanderbilt University, then moved to Paris to attend culinary school. Eventually, she followed her passion to Spain and worked in the kitchen of a chef who prioritized experimentation and creativity rather than rigidity and hierarchy, like so many chefs she had encountered in Paris.

“It was an experience, an art — he had a deeper philosophy of how you approach things, and he shared that with me,” she says. “I think that was the first time I really understood that food can be a true experience.”

Following a whirlwind travel stint that took her around the world, Markoff returned to the U.S. with the realization that she no longer wanted to be a chef. Not sure what her next steps would be, she went to work for her uncle at his home furnishings store in Dallas. It was there where her uncle asked her to research what food items sold best in the fourth quarter, and fate struck. 

“I found chocolate — tons and tons and tons of chocolate,” Markoff says. “But nothing that I would want to eat.” 

As she kept digging into the complex world of chocolate, Markoff came across the history of cacao, specifically its use by the Mayans as a sacred medicinal plant. “I remember thinking, ‘this might be the most powerful food on the planet!'” she recalls. “Mayans believed it was food to open the heart and the mind to connect with the above and to connect with people near you — to open yourself, and love yourself, and be able to love other people. From there, I was hooked.”

While most chocolate confections today are a far cry from the “bitter tonic” of the Mayans, Markoff still sought to recapture some of that original magic when she founded Vosges Haut-Chocolat in 1998. “I wanted to make something that had a true soul, a true meaning and reason, and ultimately to create a true experience that is transformative,” she says.

To create that experience for her customers, Markoff has dedicated her career to developing the possibilities of cacao as well as other best-in-class ingredients, such as the hazelnuts from Piedmonte, Italy she uses. By seeking out ingredients that have been raised and harvested by individuals who see their value and truly care for them, Markoff says each of her chocolates impart that same positive energy.

“It really is an essence, a sort of energy with food that comes from how well-cared for it is,” she explains. “It goes beyond just having bragging rights about using these hazelnuts, or whatever. It’s what drives me to create products: that ability to create something that brings a person closer to their own essence. “

Ultimately, that’s the goal of each and every chocolate she crafts: to give the consumer a true experience through taste, smell, sight, texture — even sound. To achieve this, Markoff offers the following meditation: Close your eyes, and take three deep breaths. Open your eyes; touch a chocolate. What do you see? Smell? What do you hear when the chocolate breaks as you bite it? And then, of course, what does it taste like? By engaging all your senses, you’ll open yourself up to much more than the immediate satisfaction of eating a truffle.

“What I believe is that when you do tastings like that, you ultimately get in contact with your sixth sense, which is your intuition,” Markoff says. “And when you’re able to connect with your essence strongly enough, then you’re able to connect to the divine knowledge that we are born with — our heart intelligence and consciousness.”

The best way to embark on this sensorial adventure: Vosges’ limited-edition Bastet Sacred Hi-Vibe Chocolate Collection. Named after the Egyptian goddess, the exquisite 35-piece assortment features intricate gems such as the eponymous Bastet truffle, delicately concocted with fraise de bois strawberry, Egyptian pomegranate, pink-hued white chocolate, and raspberry. Then there’s the Aten, a true celebration of Egyptian alchemy: organic donkey milk, raw honey, Bronte pistachios, and 85% cacao dark chocolate. 

“Cleopatra used to bathe in donkey’s milk for her skin, and it’s actually the healthiest dairy,” Markoff explains. “It’s medicinal; Hippocrates would say that it was one of the perfect healing foods.”

Making the Bastet collection even more unique is Markoff’s use of all-natural, plant-based ingredients to craft the different truffles’ coloring. It’s the first time Vosges has released chocolates without toppings, leaving each creation to fully display its beauty, one thoughtful taste and bite at a time.