Celebrity Chefs of South Florida: Valerie Herskowitz of the Chocolate Spectrum

In April, the Palm Beaches will gain yet another fabulous place to dine and enjoy amazing drinks, as the Chocolate Spectrum Boutique and Academy (thechocolatespectrum.com) is set to open during National Autism Month at 6725 West Indiantown Road, Suite 38 in the Jupiter West Plaza at I 95 and Indiantown Road, Jupiter, Fla.  The store will offer artisan chocolates and will have a chocolate café which will serve gourmet chocolate-inspired pastries, beverages and coffees, made in part by adults with Autism and special needs. 

Recently, Palm Beach Happening spent a few moments with owner Valerie Herskowitz, who is both a pastry chef and a veteran speech pathologist, as well as mother to her adult son, who has severe Autism. She told us a bit more about the restaurant, her culinary ambitions, and more!

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How did you get started in the food industry? I always had an interest in candy, baking and cake decorating. Not chocolate so much specifically. However, I was always working and didn’t have the time to pursue those interests. In 2010, I started working part-time, and decided to take some cake decorating courses. Then, I sought out a private pastry chef, who I worked with for two years, to learn the pastry arts. During that time, I developed an interest in chocolate, and took the courses to become certified as a Chocolatier. At the same time, my son, Blake, who has severe autism, was nearing the end of his school career. He was spending a great deal of time with me in the kitchen as I practiced new-found skills. Once he graduated in 2013, I was unable to find any program for him to attend during the day. So, I realized it was incumbent upon me to design some sort of purposeful activity for him. That’s how The Chocolate Spectrum was born. Later on, we extended the program to other adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Can you tell us a little more about your Restaurant? It’s not a restaurant per say, but a chocolate production facility with retail in the front as well as a chocolate café, where customers can purchase special beverages and chocolate-inspired pastries.

What is your philosophy on cooking? The philosophy for our shop is that we use the finest ingredients.

Of all the dishes on the current menu, which is your favorite? I love our Chocolate Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

Are you enjoying your time in South Florida? I’m a native!! Born in Miami

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in fine dining? I am not necessarily a foodie, but I do like fine dining.

What is the funniest thing to happen to you in your cooking career? The funniest thing came from my crew here. One of the guys said that when you do something wrong at The Chocolate Spectrum, you are “in Truffle.” That crew is now known as The Trufflemakers!

I know that many restaurants in South Florida now focus on using more local cuisine. What foods are you planning on highlighting this season? For the spring, our truffle selection will include berry-inspired flavors as they are now in season.

More and more chefs in the Palm Beaches have become involved in cooking contests featured on the Food Network. Do you have any interest in that? Not at this time. Though it may be fun to do our own cooking contest in our shop

What new and exciting plans do you have for your restaurant? For the past 3 years, we have been producing out of my home. So the big news is that we are opening our first shop in Jupiter this spring!! That’s the big excitement.

The Chocolate Spectrum Boutique and Academy will hold weekly chocolate-making classes for children and adults, including those with special needs and those without.  In addition, the store will offer private parties, mom’s night out, dad’s night out, middle school and high school chocolatier classes, team building experiences, and field trips.

 

For adults with Autism and other developmental disabilities, The Chocolate Spectrum Academy will offer a formal 12 month Chocolate, Pastry, Barista and Restaurant Services Vocational Training Program where students can learn about chocolate production, baking and beverage preparation.  This direct instruction and apprenticeship program may lead to employment with The Chocolate Spectrum Boutique.

The gourmet chocolate is available online at thechocolatespectrum.com and will be available at The Chocolate Spectrum Boutique and Academy beginning in April.  For more information, visit www.thechocolatespectrum.com, email [email protected] or call 954-980-0134.

Palm Beach Happening would like to Chef Herskowitz for taking the time to share a bit more of her story with us.

If you’re a local chef whose cuisine matches up to the best out there, we’d love to talk to you. Contact us and perhaps you can be the next celebrity chef!