If there’s one man who knows how to give you a sugar high it’s Philip Ashley Rix.
Known as “The Real-Life Willy Wonka,” Rix, owner of Phillip Ashley Chocolates, is the man to see for all things sweet in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. And now, he’s the man to call for national chocolate needs thanks to his new special edition, 50-piece “Taste of America” collection featuring custom flavor profiles for each state that come with surprising blends like sweet potatoes, blue cheese, and bacon to name a few. Need proof that his chocolate is amazing? Oprah put it on her 2020 “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list.
“I am in this perpetual state of observation,” Rix told Travel + Leisure, about where he finds his sweet tooth inspiration. “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.”
His ultimate inspiration, however, remains his grandmother Jean, who he lovingly shadowed as a kid in her kitchen, tugging on her apron strings, asking questions as she cooked. But even with a childhood like that, Rix didn’t immediately make food his profession. He first toiled away in corporate marketing and sales, spending years dreaming about opening his own business. Finally, the chocolate idea hit him in 2007, and Phillip Ashley Chocolates was born. Quickly, he became the toast of the town, curating dining experiences at the James Beard House in New York City, and even creating confections for Hollywood A-listers at the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and more.
“I am truly honored that my work has garnered such attention,” he said. “I am even more appreciative of the people that find what I do worthy of their hard-earned money when they select our chocolates as gifts or simply for their own pleasure.”
Like any great creator, Rix says his travels have played a major role in his works because “the world is filled with such nuance and traveling allows me to seek out and uncover inspiration through the food, art, and especially the people of a particular place or region.” And now, those travels are playing out with his Taste of America creations.
“The Taste of America is my realization of a question I asked myself, ‘What does this country taste like?’ I am always trying to push myself and challenge my ability to craft unique flavor profiles in chocolate,” he says.
To Rix, Tennessee tastes like savory Memphis BBQ, Texas tastes like a bubbly Dr. Pepper, Indiana like sticky caramel popcorn, and New York tastes just like an ultra-moist Junior’s Cheesecake. Though delicious, this entire project is about more than just satisfying taste buds.
“Now felt like the right time for this collection because I wanted to show people that ‘patriotism’ is really and truly all about loving where you come from and contributing something cool, innovative, or impactful to society,” he says. “It is taking whatever it is you do and offering it to the people. I make chocolate and I wanted to showcase the amazing flavors that represent each state.”
He added, “My service to my country is giving someone that would never be able to travel to all 50 states an opportunity to ‘visit’ places through my chocolate. I also wanted to show that with all of our differences, in the end, we are all made of chocolate and in this box together.”
See more about the Taste of America set here.