When chef Neville Simpson Craw first encountered molten chocolate cake as a student in the mid-’90s at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he was enchanted. Call it love at first ooze.
Years later, soon after he became the head corporate chef at a Sandy Springs, Ga.-based Arby’s in 2004, he was trying to think of new dessert ideas for the casual restaurant chain. His team was fixated on the idea of adding a cupcake to the menu, but nothing was testing very well with consumers.
That’s when he remembered molten chocolate cake. He realized that the technique he’d learned in “Pastry and Baking” class — depositing a frozen cube of melted chocolate in the center of a flourless chocolate cake — was too labor-intensive for a chain with several thousand locations. But he was convinced that the warm, decadent dessert would appeal to customers looking for a sweet equivalent of Arby’s signature roast beef sandwiches, and he noticed that other chains (most famously, Chili’s) had successfully introduced molten chocolate cakes to their menu.
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