Growing up, Phillip Ashley Rix did not imagine a career in the food industry although he spent time with his grandmother in the kitchen in Memphis. Cooking was a big thing in his family.
In school, Rix studied chemistry although he had originally planned to go to medical school. In the end, he ended up in the business world, specifically in the logistics supply chain with consumer packaged goods.
However, in 2007, his career trajectory changed when he suddenly wanted to become a chocolatier and make chocolate for the rest of his life. His background in chemistry came in handy when he spent three years teaching himself to make chocolate, leading to the birth of Phillip Ashley Chocolates.
Rix came into the chocolate industry with his own signature. He infused his love for art to make beautiful chocolates. Like learning how to cook from his grandmother, he was exposed to Basquiat and Monet at a young age by his uncle, who was a professional painter and made art galleries.
His chocolates were recently shared at the Oscars. They are also consumed by celebrities like Morgan Freeman and some of America’s top CEOs. His chocolates are uniquely named, starting with his signature “Mama Jean,” a sweet potato-flavored dark chocolate ganache, and his recent 50-piece “Taste of America.”
He also has chocolate collections like Taste of Memphis, which pays homage to his hometown, and the inventive Soul Food Collection which features fried chicken, Kool-Aid, collard green, and macaroni & cheese flavored bonbons, according to Blac media.
“I wanted to manipulate chocolate and chemistry. I didn’t want to replicate anything that was out there. I wanted to know the science, and know the rules, so I could break them – mixing blue cheese and chocolate, to create a piece of art that’s almost a miniature dish; a flight of tastes in one thing, like fig jam and port,” Rix told Forbes.
Rix’s chocolate recently got a spot on Oprah’s coveted Favorite Things list in 2020. “The thing about this assortment of eight decadent, dark-chocolate cashew and milk-chocolate pecan turtles from Memphis chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix is that each one is nearly the size of a tortoise! Advise lucky recipients to quarter them,” Winfrey said at the time.
Touching on where he finds his inspiration, Rix, known as “The Real-Life Willy Wonka”, told Travel + Leisure, “I am in this perpetual state of observation. I am always looking, listening, smelling, and tasting, so I can learn and discover what is out there in the world that I can translate into chocolate.”