Get into the kitchen at The Ritz-Carlton with Bar Cocoa’s Cocoa Lab

If Cupid’s arrows aren’t enough to get your sweetheart’s attention on Valentine’s Day, Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte has you covered.

They’ll have plenty of their signature macarons on hand as well as to-die-for Red Velvet Domes with chocolate hearts and other treats available of course. Though for six lucky pastry-trainees this past Saturday’s Cocoa Lab was our chance to create amorous treats with our own hands.

The Ritz’s head pastry chef, Heidi Kabath, prepared a special “Romantic Sweet Treats” session of the monthly Cocoa Labs at the hotel and led me along with five new friends in a hands-on experience crafting four desserts certain to have our sweeties swooning.

Heidi Kabath

In our morning session we created Pomegranate Poached Pears, Lady Baltimore Cake, Grand Marnier Truffles and Chocolate Chili Soufflé with Vanilla Anglaise.


“We’re the only Ritz-Carlton with a monthly Cocoa Lab,” said Kabath, who noted the hotel has been offering the monthly cooking classes for several years. “They are very popular and we attract both hotel guests and locals. The classes are also fun for small groups, mothers and daughters, and couples. We limit the group to six so everyone can enjoy an intimate, personal experience.”


Cocoa Labs are scheduled quarterly. Each session includes personalized instruction in preparation of signature treats (including plenty to take home), coffee and pastries, a Bar Cocoa apron, customized recipe book and validated parking.

Kabath is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University and served for 10 years at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island before coming to Charlotte in 2014.

Her command of the kitchen is apparent as she moves effortlessly among her charges sharing techniques such as the finer elements of creaming butter and sugar, explaining the “soft ball stage” of properly heated sugar for our cooked meringue frosting, and how to get chocolate truffles to set just right.

Gregory and Catherine Pepin, originally from Paris, France, and now residing in Jacksonville, Fla., were visiting Charlotte for a weekend get-a-way and thought a pastry class would be fun.


“I saw this on the hotel activities list and jumped at the opportunity to learn from an expert,” said Catherine.

“I’m more into the eating aspect of the class than the cooking,” admitted Gregory, who despite his protestations proved to be a skilled cake baker.

Students should prepare to have fun, be amazed at their behind-the-scenes experience in the vast Ritz kitchen, and take home not just new-found knowledge but lots of their creations to fill the fridge at home.


Look for these upcoming spring sessions:

Favorites from The Punch Room

Providing the first chance to recreate sophisticated best-sellers from The Punch Room menu, this workshop will feature two multi-step plated desserts: S’mores Torte, created with hand-made graham cracker and milk chocolate mousse and yogurt mint panna cotta with hand-blended granola and roasted pineapple.

When: Saturday, March 19, 8:30 a.m.-noon 

Elegant Springtime Desserts

Spring brunch is refreshingly elevated with these enticing desserts: Honey Carrot Cake with Candied Carrots, Blueberry Lemon Tarts, Cheesecake Mousse with Strawberries and Rhubarb, and Rosemary Apricot Scones.

When: Saturday, April 9, 8:30 a.m.-noon

Photos: Michael Solender