Chocolate comes in an array of shapes, sizes and flavors, ranging from the dark, organic fair-trade bar to a sinful milk-chocolate bonbon oozing gooey caramel. And often times, the treats are so beautiful, they look more like works of art than snacks.
Behind the decadence of boutique-style chocolates are passionate artisans who craft luscious sweets and satisfy cravings—and sometimes give the word “chocolate” new meaning.
Here are some contemporary chocolatiers who prove there's no limit to what can be done with cacao.
Maggie Louise Confections
Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Maggie Louise Callahan kindled her creative side when she opened her namesake shop in Austin, Texas. The Le Cordon Bleu alum is known for her handmade, gourmet chocolates, many featuring colorful, whimsical designs influenced by everything from a well-curated interior to the glam of Old Hollywood. The brand specializes in gift items such as the Ultimate Beauty Bag, containing chocolate lipsticks and kisses and irresistible hand-painted confections adorned with pithy phrases like “Love You a Latte” and “Let’s Do Brunch.”
While roaming the streets on a trip to the city of Oaxaca in Mexico, Catherine Goulet was inspired by small workshops making chocolate from cacao beans. Spurred by the idea of crafting chocolate in Montreal, she visited plantations around the world for a year, eventually establishing Avanaa in the city’s Villeray neighborhood. She imports cacao from small family farms in Central and South America, fostering direct trade and sustainable agriculture. One of eight chocolate makers in Canada using the bean-to-bar approach—an 11-step process that includes harvesting, drying, roasting, and molding—Goulet produces chocolate sprinkled with fresh Arabica coffee, coconut-milk vegan chocolate, and a variety of gift packs. Her top pick at the moment is the Zorzal 70% bar: “The flavor profile is so rich with exotic fruit aromas, spices, and more,” she says. “It’s a real journey when you eat it.”
Jonathan Grahm is the vision behind this stylish Los Angeles–based chocolate empire, epitomizing the city’s hip art, culture, and fashion scenes. One of the youngest chocolatiers in the U.S., he took over Compartes when he was just 21 and purchased the company at age 24, adding his panache and that quintessential L.A. flair. Of all the company’s chocolate delights, Grahm’s award-winning ganache-filled truffles are the most sought after. They are handmade and taste as delicious as they look. The Nostalgia Collection, an assortment of classics, offers chocolate-dipped pretzels, Oreos, and grahams all in one delightful package.
“Each piece we make is like a piece of art, handcrafted with love,” says Meghan Ryan, owner, chocolatier, and professionally trained chef. Beautifully designed bonbons, sea salt caramels, Champagne truffles, and other luxury chocolates are available to purchase online and through her lab and retail shop on Chicago’s North Side. Adorned with the city’s architectural icons, Veruca’s Chicago Box Gourmet Chocolate Collection pays tribute to the Goose Island Beer Company, Metropolis Coffee, Ann Sather, and Wrigley, all based in Chicago.
John & Kira’s
Honey-caramel chocolates decorated like bees, crunchy toffees, and chocolate-covered peanut-butter candies are a small representation of what this couple-owned company sells in its online shop. John and Kira Doyle support growers in their hometown of Philadelphia, using produce from urban school gardens and local farms. Their ganache-filled confections consist of a flavored cream and Valrhona chocolate emulsion coated in a waterfall of chocolate. S’mores & Caramel Marshmallow Heaven—the duo’s deconstructed s’more—combines layers of caramel, graham cracker, and milk- and dark-chocolate goodness.
Enthusiasm, drive, and a penchant for chocolate have led Maribel Lieberman down the path to sweet success. The Honduran native uses cacao harvested in the Americas paired with fresh fruit and other ingredients, such as English lavender, Puerto Rican rum, and Tahitian vanilla. The nine-piece New York Ganache Collection—consisting of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other NYC landmarks—celebrates the Big Apple. Lieberman opened her first MarieBelle shop in 2001 in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and she has since expanded to Brooklyn and Japan, with more stores in the works.