Luba Lesychyn. Theft By Chocolate is Luba Lesychyn’s (le-si-shin) debut novel, though she has been amusing people with her writing since the age of eight. Her love of chocolate precedes this age and she has been in and out of chocolate rehab for most of her adult life. When not writing or looking for her next chocolate fix, Luba can be found in dance classes, trekking to remote waterfalls in the mountain rain forest in Puerto Rico, running through the streets of Paris or doing any other number of calorie-burning activities that help offset the calories consumed in her chocolate intake.
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LUBA LESYCHYN: Confessions of a Real Life Chocolativore
When I first developed the concept for my book Theft By Chocolate, I knew there was no shortage of chocolate addicts on this planet that might identify with lead character Kalena Boyko, a high functioning chocolate addict. But what I was less certain about was whether readers would be interested in a sassy museum mystery about a woman of a certain age looking for chocolate, love and an international art thief in all the wrong places. But, as it turns out, taking inspiration from my own embarrassing chocolate addiction and drawing from my more than twenty years of working in Canada’s largest museum has resulted in a story hitting a cord with readers.
As a writer, you expose a part of your psyche to the world that often leaves you vulnerable. But this is amplified a hundred-fold when characteristics of your protagonist are based so closely on your own life – particularly on one’s flaws. But I thought it worth the risk – surely, I was not the only person who had eaten an inappropriate number of pieces in a box of chocolates gifted to the office (“who ate all the chocolates?”). And certainly there were other people who have shuffled around papers in their workplace recycling bin so all the candy bar wrappers don’t remain visible at the top of the refuse pile. Over the years, I learned to laugh at my own sneaky antics, and it was time to invite the world to laugh along with me.
But my amusing chocolate escapades weren’t the only experiences in my life giving me the giggles. It seemed as if every time I turned a corner in Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, I encountered some hilarious new situation. Whether it was working with a world-renowned expert in their field who wore their clothing inside-out or watching a live crab being flung twenty feet in the air after a child stuck their hand in a crab tank during a public presentation, working in a museum was never dull.
But, so often museums are portrayed in books and film with a weighty sense of gravity and are the setting for murderous events and high tech heists. There’s no doubt that stakes are high in places that safeguard the world’s most valued treasures. But they can also be places of hijinks and hilarity, and that was the portrait I chose to paint in Theft By Chocolate. It was my intention to unlatch a very particular door, one that has rarely been opened, into what is normally perceived as a rarified world. To me, this side of museum life was so utterly endearing that it kept me in one spot for more than twenty years, and that in a society in which people change places of employment more frequently than they change their socks.
Theft By Chocolate is my first book and I can’t express the delight I experienced crafting the story about two of my personal obsessions, chocolate and museums. But I have also always adored a page-turning mystery or a clever museum heist tale. So it was with even greater pleasure that I was able to interweave a plot line based on a real-life and never-solved theft that took place at the Royal Ontario Museum in the 1980s. What was particularly surprising was that this theft was perpetrated with such ingenuity and simplicity that it shocked the security industry around the world and led to global changes in corporate and cultural security technology.
So just how was this heist carried out? Well, that’s where I am going to leave the blog readers hanging. You’ll have to pick up a copy of Theft By Chocolate to learn about the intriguing and ingenious circumstances. Although chocolate may not have been involved in the true-to-life theft, that didn’t prevent me from entwining the delectable substance into my own fictional rendering!
CHOCOLATE ORANGE CHEESECAKE
One of my favorite combinations is chocolate and orange. Mix these two ingredients into a cheesecake and you have perfection. The
secret to the creamiest cheesecake ever is to use organics. They make
the biggest difference in this kind of textured dessert.
1 1/3 cups crushed chocolate wafers
1/3 cup melted butter
look for a pre-made chocolate crust in places like Whole Foods - you
may end up with left-over filling if using a pre-made one)
1 pound softened cream cheese (try using a lower fat organic option)
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp orange juice concentrate
2 tbsp orange liqueur
6 oz semisweet chocolate
1 oz bitter chocolate
2 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
(the recipe calls for 2 tbsp icing sugar, but I omit it)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare crust, combine crushed wafers and melted butter and press into a 9-inch spring-form pan.
3. Bake five minutes and cool.
To make filling, combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, orange juice
concentrate and orange liqueur in a bowl and beat until smooth.
Melt semi-sweet and bitter chocolate in the top of a double boiler set
over hot water. Add to cheese mixture, beating until smooth.
6. Add eggs and beat five minutes.
7. Pour mixture into crust and bake 35 to 40 minutes.
8. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then chill about two hours.
9. To make topping, beat whipping cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread or pipe over chilled cake.
10. Chill one hour before serving.
Serves 10 to 12 (or in my case 1!)
Theft By Chocolate:
Chocolate addict Kalena Boyko wasn’t prepared for this. Heading to work at Canada’s largest museum as an administrator, she hopes for quiet and uninterrupted access to her secret chocolate stash. Instead she’s assigned to manage the high-profile Treasures of the Maya exhibition with her loathed former boss, Richard Pritchard.
With no warning, her life is capsized and propelled into warp speed as she stumbles across an insider plot that could jeopardize the exhibit and the reputation of the museum.
After hearing about a recent botched theft at the museum and an unsolved jewel heist in the past from security guard and amateur sleuth Marco Zeffirelli, Kalena becomes suspicious of Richard and is convinced he’s planning to sabotage the Treasures of the Maya exhibition.
Her suspicions, and the appearance of the mysterious but charming Geoffrey Ogden from the London office, don’t help her concentration. The Treasures of the Maya seems cursed as problem after problem arises, including the disappearance of the world’s oldest piece of chocolate, the signature object in the exhibit.
Theft By Chocolate is inspired by a real-life and never-solved heist at a Canadian museum in the 1980s.