You don’t have to look far to find chocolate makers who see their work as equal parts passion and craft—a science to be explored, continuously perfected. Cincinnati-based Maverick Chocolate Co. has attracted national attention for their bean-to-bar approach, gaining quick accolades from the International Chocolate Awards.
Albeit impressive, that’s not the most interesting thing about Maverick. Hints of the story behind the bar can be gleaned from the packaging of their chocolate. You’ll note illustrations of revolutionary flying contraptions throughout aviation history—mavericks in their own time. As you move your fingers across the fastener on the packaging, the words “remove before flight” appear across the pull tab.
Founder Paul Picton spent the lion’s share of his career working as a mechanical engineer in the aviation industry for GE, Delta, and Mercedes-Benz. He traveled often and found a sweet way to connect with his family upon returning—with chocolate. About 5 years ago, he decided that it was time to reinvent his career and dreams of chocolate making surfaced. “I knew it was time for a change,” he says. “I quickly learned that not all craft chocolate is equal … It’s relatively simple to make [chocolate], but it’s very hard to perfect.” As an engineer, it’s clear that the quest for perfection is a big part of the fun for Paul. His evolution to a food entrepreneur has offered the opportunity to draw upon the talents of his family, like his son Ben Picton, who heads up sales and marketing at Maverick. Together, they are adding a new spin to the classic comfort of chocolate. “It’s not just candy,” tells Paul, calling attention to the devil in the detail.
Maverick’s stunning new chocolate-making facility located in Cincinnati’s Rookwood Commons area is an off-shoot from its original Findlay Market shop. Cocoa beans are roasted, ground, and then tempered on impressive brushed steel equipment from Italy. Paul describes how tempering the chocolate just right brings about changes to its innate crystal structure, resulting in that beautiful shine and snap by natural means—no artificial additives and the ingredients are kept simple.
“We are mavericks in chocolate-making,” Paul says. With that said, we are excited that such chocolate makers are locally based in our own backyard.
6 More Chocolatiers to Adore, by Todd Templin
Dorothy Lane Market Chocolate Bars by Ghyslain
Union City, IN • ghyslain.com
Here at DLM, we love great food and sometimes a collaboration is just natural as it is with our dear friend, Master Chef Ghyslain Maurais … who also loves great food! Together, we’ve created a line of chocolate bars that are beautifully made, affordable, and the perfect accompaniment to nearly any occasion. Available in Dark, Milk, Sea Salt Almond, Artisan Dark Milk, Hazelnut, and Sea Salt Caramel, these are meant to be nibbled at your desk mid-day, post meal for a decadent dessert, or paired with the perfect wine for a tasty treat.
Le chocolate des Français
France • lechocolatdesfrancais.fr/en/
We love this French company that brings to life a whimsical fun side with their vibrant packaging. They’re dedicated to making super high quality chocolates from pure cocoa butter, sustainably farmed beans from Ecuador and Peru, and French ingredients that are 100% natural, without palm oil or preservatives! With labels that remind one slightly of an Andy Warhol collection, these chocolates are delicious, fun, and make one simply smile.
MilkBoy Swiss Chocolates
Switzerland • milkboy.com
The milk from the famed herds that graze high in the Alps each summer is the base for these bars. High quality ingredients, including top-notch cocoa beans from some of the world’s best sustainable sources, make these chocolate bars some of our favorites!
Olive & Sinclair
Nashville, TN • oliveandsinclair.com
Working within an old grocery store turned chocolate factory, Olive & Sinclair is Tennessee’s first and only bean-to-bar chocolate company. They begin their chocolate making process by stone-grinding cacao, using melangeurs (stone mills) from the early 1900s, then adding only pure cane brown sugar. They call it Southern Artisan Chocolate™. From Buttermilk White Chocolate to 75% Cacao, their chocolates are nothing short of exquisite.
San Francisco, CA • charleschocolates.com
Charles Chocolates’ founder Chuck Siegel is self-taught in the art of chocolate making. His passion has driven the dedication of the company to create some of the best handmade chocolate, all crafted with the finest ingredients. This attention to detail has given Charles Chocolates a glowing reputation in the world of small batch artisan chocolates.
K + M Chocolate
Napa, CA • kellermannichocolate.com
If there was ever a superstar duo to team up to make decadent tasting chocolate, it is this team: Thomas Keller, the famed chef and owner of Napa Valley’s The French Laundry, and Armando Manni, the owner of Manni Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Chi Bui, the chocolatier who oversees production of the chocolate, helps with the unique production methodology where a small amount of heart-healthy Manni Extra-Virgin Olive Oil infuses the bean-to-bar chocolate with its signature texture while boosting antioxidant properties.
Equal Exchange Fairly Traded Co-op
Cleveland, OH and other locations • equalexchange.coop
Since their start, Equal Exchange’s mission has been to empower small farmer co-ops that use sustainable agriculture. Using that same vision, they source the organic cocoa and sugar used in their chocolate bars directly from small farmer co-ops in Latin America. Each blissful bite is silky, smooth decadence.