Chocolatier Blue Expands to Santana Row
In California, local, fresh, seasonally shifting ingredients aren’t exceptions, they’re expected. The ethos of the everyday exceptional draws food craftspeople and artisans from around the world, and it drew Chris Blue here to start Chocolatier Blue, which he launched in Berkeley and recently debuted in Silicon Valley with his seventh and newest location, on Santana Row.
The focus on seasonality was a “major factor in moving here” says Blue. To Blue, and his fiancée and business partner, Jessica Steeve, the focus on local isn’t something one discusses, they just do it. “We wouldn’t think of doing anything else,” he says.
Blue moved from Chicago, where he attended pastry school and then worked for, and learned from, Charlie Trotter as the chocolate maker. “The Charlie Trotter philosophy is that if you use the best ingredients you don’t have to alter the food,” says Blue. “And it’s easier. You can rest on your ingredients and sleep well at night knowing you’re doing the best you can do.”
While Blue spent time at a variety of kitchens doing pastry work, and specifically chocolate, he decided to strike out on his own to harvest the local bounty during his first, and only, working day at a big hotel. “I sent someone for jam and they came back wheeling a 55-gallon jam drum.” That was enough to move Blue right out the door.
Blue decided to chase a career in chocolate making, but “nobody really has a job for this,” he says, “so the only option was to open our own store.” The move to the Bay Area was key because “we wanted a closer connection to better ingredients. A huge motivating factor was the year-round availability of incredible produce,” he says.
While Blue offers some items year-round, like caramel fills and hazelnuts, the heart of his creativity is the 12 to 15 new flavors he creates each season, resulting in five new collections a year. Unlike many producers who make filled chocolates with flavorings or frozen purées, Blue hunts farmers markets and great produce shops looking for the best of the current crop.
Blue hand-selects seasonal ingredients and roasts and processes them himself. “We just can’t do that anywhere else,” he says. It’s “another great reason to be here: You’re forced to change. If you go to the market to pick your produce, it forces you to be better. When things come in and out of season we’re forced to switch by nature.”
The current fall seasonal collection, just released, includes: Sweet Potato Casserole, which brings the fall immediately to mind with flavors of pumpkin pie to start and of mincemeat to finish; Poached Pear, which has the gentle mouthfeel of a fresh, ripe pear and the pleasant mildness of the fall fruit; and Cranberry with Sage, which channels Mom’s stovetop cranberry sauce with just a hint of the savory herb.