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Switching careers, the following local women turned to chocolate.
They all share a passion for the product, and derive satisfaction in delivering delight.
Bethesda Chocolates, Heather Giuli
Photo by Skip Brown
The milk chocolate-colored building on Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda is eye candy for what lies inside: caramels, turtles, pretzel bars, barks, raspberry bites and more. Opened in late 2016, Bethesda Chocolates is owned by Heather Giuli, a former Capitol Hill legislative assistant who’s also a wife, mother and lifelong chocoholic. Now that her kids are older, the Bethesda resident says she has more time to “pursue other passions,” namely making chocolate—which she learned from a chocolatier in Virginia Beach. “Who doesn’t love chocolate?” Giuli says. “It feels like a gift every day to work with it.”
8003 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda | 240-483-0877
Chouquette, Sarah Dwyer
It was when she was buying $500 shoes that Sarah Dwyer knew something was wrong. “You can always tell a person who’s unhappy in their job because they have great shoes,” says the former Bethesda banker. “You want something in your life that you like.” For Dwyer, that meant quitting work and attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before launching Chouquette in 2010. Her company has since grown to include 10 part-time staff members (including some with developmental and physical disabilities), and her chocolate-covered caramels topped with local and seasonal designs are sold in about 70 stores throughout the mid-Atlantic region, including the White House Historical Association gift shop. “Selling certificates of deposits never made me as happy as selling $15 boxes of chocolate,” Dwyer says.
Chocolatier’s Palette, Jill Sandler
Photo by Laura Chase McGehee
As the one-woman show behind The Chocolatier’s Palette, Jill Sandler of North Bethesda gets to enjoy making fudge while being the creative director, as well. That’s resulted in more than 80 unique flavor combinations and seasonal specialties, including blueberry lavender, pistachio cardamom rosewater, strawberry balsamic, tomato basil, spiced mango and more. After years of giving the treats to friends and family, Sandler—who used to moonlight as a singer with a band, and currently works part time for the federal government—created her company in 2014. It was a good move. “I could talk about my fudge all day…so I must be in the right career,” she says.
Available at Central Farm Markets (Bethesda, Pike and Mosaic), at the NIH Community Market and online at thechocolatierspalette.com.
Dear Coco, Rachelle Ferneau
Photo by Laura Chase McGehee
One of the best things about owning your own company is being able to tailor your products toward things you’re passionate about, says Rachelle Ferneau, whose specifications call for handcrafted chocolates that are vegan-friendly, gluten-free and kosher, contain certified organic and non-GMO ingredients, and come in recyclable packaging. “We eat cleanly and avoid artificial ingredients at home,” says Ferneau, a Potomac resident who worked in human resources administration in her native California before relocating to the Washington, D.C., area in 1999. A self-taught pastry chef, Ferneau was making kosher, dairy-free baked goods, but switched to chocolate in 2012, enamored with its versatility and eager to make it accessible to people with food allergies and other dietary needs.
Available at Williams-Sonoma and Balducci’s stores, as well as other shops nationwide, and online at dearcoco.com.
Zivaara, Puja Satiani
In making the shift from law to confections, attorney Puja Satiani studied like she was taking the (chocolate) bar exam. The Silver Spring resident enrolled in the pastry program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg and trained at L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat in southeastern France and the Chocolate Academy in Chicago. She visited cacao production in the Dominican Republic, and stayed at a cacao farm in the jungles of Belize. And now as a chocolatier, she’s spreading the word. “The focus [of Zivaara] is to help people understand what cacao is and what it can be used for,” she says. That means chocolates with unusual sweet and savory combinations, products such as cacao nib rub and cacao nib brittle, and even skin care items such as cocoa butter lip balm and chocolate orange body oil.
Available at select stores in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Potomac, and online at zivaara.com.
Contributing Editor Carole Sugarman lives in Chevy Chase and is a member of the Montgomery County Food Council, an independent nonprofit organization that works to improve the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of the county's food system.