D’Mitri R. Agnes didn’t have a culinary background at all when he started his company, Alchemy Confections Co. In fact, he was studying law at Harvard, and was supposed to start an internship at a magistrate court in the East Mountains for the summer. Instead, he spent the summer making lollipops and cookies.
“My niece was graduating in May, and I made her some cookies for her graduation party. And the people who tried them said, ‘These are great. You should sell these.’” It was all the encouragement he needed. In the following week he made a website and found a kitchen to cook in, and then was selling his treats within a month.
He was able to secure kitchen space at The Mixing Bowl, the culinary incubator at the South Valley Economic Development Center. The organization, which is also home to other small culinary endeavors like N.M. Prickly Pear Jelly, provides business resources and guidance to entrepreneurs in the South Valley. With their help, Agnes built his business from scratch in the span of a couple months.
He had other help, too. For the venture he brought on his friend Jessica Romero, an Albuquerque native who also wasn’t originally on a culinary path—she was studying psychology and secondary education at UNM. Then, when her father got married, he asked her to make the wedding cake. She agreed, and dived into learning to bake. “I started looking at it as a way to be creative, and I really fell in love with it,” she said. “I enjoy taking a thing that’s common and tweaking it into something fantastic.” True to her word, she made a chocolate orange cake with rosemary frosting for the wedding. “I love to use herbs in my sweets” she said, grinning. “It’s unexpected.”
And so are the desserts Romero and Agnes are making now. From their many-colored quartz point lollipops in flavors like strawberry-basil and horchata de chufa to their piñon and marigold cookies, the two self-taught gourmets create sweets that are unlike anything our city has seen. They use exotic ingredients and unlikely flavor combinations to craft desserts that taste—and look—delectable, like their cookies topped with edible pearls and whole pansies.
Their brownies are made with 64 percent manjari dark chocolate, and dusted with dark, fragrant Pakistani rose petals that instantly elevate the rich dessert into something beautiful. As Romero has said, their takes on classics always benefit from a little twist of newness. Nothing is taken for granted or done halfway at Alchemy Confections Co. Each of their treats is a work of art.
The visual aspect is a big part of the creative appeal to Agnes and Romero. Agnes believes that food should be "bright, tactile, alive with flavor,"—and if it’s undeniably Instagrammable to boot, that’s a plus. “Everybody’s looking for that thing that they can post a pretty picture of. It’s almost a competitive thing,” he says. And he’s skilled at this particular kind of competition: The social media feeds from Alchemy are filled with stylish, mouthwatering photos of their work.
It’s a marketing strategy that seems to really work for them. After only two months in business (and a handful of pretty Instagram posts), Alchemy got its first retail contract with Spur Line Supply Co., the highly curated concept shop that recently opened its doors in the Sawmill district.
Thus far, the only ways to get your hands on some Alchemy Confections Co. treats is at Spur Line or by ordering through their website (which also offers delivery in the Albuquerque area). But Agnes has big plans for the future of the business: Pop-up shops in Boston, Los Angeles and Southampton are in the works. He also hopes to partner with more Albuquerque cafés and businesses to sell his treats locally.
Until then, check out alchemyconfectionsco.com to browse their full menu, or follow them on Instagram at @alchemyconfectionsco. You’ll quickly discover that all of Alchemy’s treats look almost too good to eat. Almost.