PHILADELPHIA GAY NEWS
Family Portraits There’s more than meets the naked eye when you delve into the alliterative Robert Randolph. On any given day, the affectionate confectioner can be found creating creamy concoctions for patrons of the Gayborhood as lead chocolatier at Naked Chocolate Café, 1317 Walnut St. — a job he loves, loves, loves. “I love having people come in to taste my creations, and I do like that people are calling me ‘Mr. Naked Chocolate.’” But Randolph, a Point Breeze native, is much more than just a sweet young thing. In his 30 years, he has been a dancer, actor, pastry chef, notary, realestate agent and published author. PGN: You are one creative guy! RR: [Laughs.] Yes, I come from a creative family. My mother runs a dance and performance school. I have ﬁve siblings — two sisters and three brothers — and we all performed together. PGN: Where did you go to school? RR: I attended the University of the Arts to study dance and then decided to branch out creatively and went to Community College of Philadelphia to study liberal arts and English literature. After that, I went to the University of
JUNE 5 - 11, 2009
Suzi Nash the Arts, where I graduated from their baking and pastry program.
mission: The center has helped thousands of kids.
PGN: How did you start cooking? RR: I was always in the kitchen, ever since I was a kid. I spent a lot of time there with my mother and grandmother and I learned a lot of their techniques, and then I started making my own barbecue sauce and roasting chicken and making the holiday meals. I liked to play around with food a lot, making batters or breaking open crabs, using my hands a lot.
PGN: And your father, is he a dancer? RR: [Laughs.] No, he’s an HVAC engineer. He’s the cofounder of the school, though. He and my mother started the center in 1984 with nothing but a vision and a lot of willpower. The motto they believe in is, “Children are the bridge to the future and we must be the support beams for the bridge.” The students all call him “Mr. Al.”
PGN: Tell me about your mother. RR: She’s an amazing person: I credit everything I am to her. She founded the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center. What’s amazing about the center is that it’s not just a dance school. The mission statement reads, in part: “To use the performing arts as a social action strategy that cultivates talent and revitalizes communities. Our goal is to help children and youth become not just better artists, but also better people and better community members. Our programs are geared toward building conﬁdence, self-esteem and discipline and cultivating citizenship.” She lives that
PGN: What did you like to do with your siblings? RR: Well, we were in rehearsal most of the time. We performed as a dance group originally called Positively to the Point. As soon as we ﬁnished schoolwork, we would have rehearsals pretty much six days a week.
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PGN: So you were like the dance version of the Partridge family. What were the beneﬁts of it? RR: Oh, we got to see the world! We’ve been to South America, Europe, Australia. I got to perform for Aborigines in Australia. At the time, it was eye-opening to see and hear so many different types of people — Asians and black people and white people all with Australian accents. It was the ﬁrst time I realized what a huge rainbow the world is. PGN: What types of dance did you perform? RR: We do, and did, quite a bit: everything from tap to African to hip-hop to modern jazz and ballet. PGN: And you’re an author? RR: Yes, I enjoy writing and am trying to pursue a career in ﬁction, in addition to my chocolate making. I have a book called, “My Sugar Daddy Ain’t So Sweet,” which was published in 2005 under my pen name, Robert Leslie. We sent out 2,000 copies and it sold out in two weeks. Unfortunately, the publishing company, like so many businesses recently, hit hard times and had to fold. PGN: Did you ever write a letter to Santa? RR: Yes, I wished and wished and wished for a Voltron set.
ROBERT RANDOLPH Photo: Suzi Nash
Voltrans were toys that were the precursors to Power Rangers or Transformers. I wrote to Santa and that year I got them, so it worked! PGN: How did you end up in chocolate? RR: It’s quite funny. My original desire was to go into pastries. I attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia to learn how to construct pastries. I needed to get credit in a course called Chocolates and Candy, but it wasn’t open at the time, so I was able to do an independent study and Tom Block, the owner of Naked Chocolate, offered to teach me about chocolate. I fell in love with it and, after graduation, I came to work with him. PGN: What makes working with chocolate interesting? RR: Chocolate can be ﬁckle. It works at its own pace and you need to work with it or it will work against you. Time is of the essence with this medium. There’s also something sexy about it because it’s slow and has a shine and can cover just about anything. PGN: What’s the wildest combo
you’ve made? RR: The most unusual is chocolate-covered bacon. People think it sounds awful, but it’s actually quite tasty because of the saltiness. They complement each other very well. PGN: If you could disappear for three days, where would you go? RR: I just returned from my disappearing act. I went to Paris. I love Paris in the springtime. Cheap wine, great cafés, lots of relaxation. PGN: Isn’t that a song? RR: “I Love Paris in the Springtime”? Yes, I like that song too. But I like the song “April in Paris” by Thelonious Monk even better. PGN: Favorite day of the week? RR: That would have to be Thursday, because it’s the precursor to the weekend. On Thursdays, you know that you only have one more day and then you’re good to go! PGN: If you could go back in time, what era would you choose to visit? RR: Circa Studio 54 in the ’70s. It seems like it was a lot of fun.
Published on Jun 4, 2009
Published on Jun 4, 2009
The Philadelphia Gay News covers news and entertainment serving the GLBT community in the greater Philadelphia region and beyond.