High school and college students can learn about business and entrepreneurship from the inside, and can build their professional networks, by touring successful large, small, and start-up businesses and meeting the owners or managers, through my immersive educational excursion program.
This combines my love of educating and of entrepreneurship. And of course there will be chocolate!
First new session: June 25 – 29, 2018, in Chicago.
“5 days, 5 field trips to businesses.
Meet successful entrepreneurs and managers, tour their companies, and learn their secrets, habits, and techniques.
Program created and led by entrepreneur, award winning instructor, and former Harvard lawyer Valerie Beck, who will share her business success roadmap involving networking, mentoring, and volunteering.
$900 per student, includes materials and lunches. Limited to 10 students, in high school or college. 10 am – 4 pm each day, except for 1 longer day with a longer field trip.
Apply by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with name, school, age, email address, why you want to participate in the program, and why you are interested in business.
Payment due upon acceptance, to hold your spot. Email with any questions.
A fun and educational week awaits our A-List Student Excursion participants!”
Click for the full webpage, which includes reviews from students.
by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Chocolate Broker
As soon as I saw the chocolates by Chocolatasm on Instagram, I knew they were something special. When I tasted them, I was impressed with their exquisite subtlety and delicate yet impactful flavor combinations. And when I spoke with the chocolatier behind the brand, I knew he was a true professional.
Chef/chocolatier Paul Kearins was born in London, worked as a pastry chef and chocolatier in Amsterdam, and now lives and creates in Blue Ridge, Georgia.
When I asked him how he develops his unique flavor combinations such as white chocolate with lime and muscovado sugar, or milk chocolate with honey and blueberries, or dark chocolate with lemon and Ethopian coffee, he told me that ever since childhood he’s had the ability to remember smells and to combine them in his mind with other smells.
His olfactory creativity plus his skills as a professional chef and chocolatier come together magnificently in his brand Chocolatasm.
To taste Chef Paul’s delicious creations is to experience a gentle and pure poetry of chocolate and other flavors. His chocolate doesn’t overwhelm, it delights. Chocolatasm is available at beloved upscale lunch spot and market Foodease inside Chicago’s Water Tower Place (a popular Chicago Chocolate Tours spot back when I operated the original Chocolate Tours as founder/CEO), and I’m thrilled to have brokered the relationship between such a special brand of artisan chocolate, and such a fabulous seller of artisan foods.
For a peek behind the scenes, enjoy this Chocolatasm video.
Keep eating chocolate!
Come see me on Instagram too! Your friend in chocolate,
When people ask me where to find bean-to-bar chocolate, or slavery-free / ethical chocolate, there’s a new store I now add to the list: Cocoa + Co. in Chicago.
People also often ask me for a good chocolate cafe or coffee shop in Chicago, and I add Cocoa + Co. to that list too.
And, when people ask me how to tell if a chocolate bar comes from ethical sources, I give them the answer – below.
But first, imagine a chocolate shop where you can support the community of fair trade and direct trade cacao growers, support the community of artisan chocolate makers and chefs, and enjoy your own community of friends while enjoying some of the finest chocolate brands in the world. Such are the glories at Cocoa + Co.!
Store owner Kim Hack carries some of my favorite bean-to-bar chocolate brands, such as Dick Taylor and Original Beans. I’ve also found new favorites through her, such as Marou and Omnom, which I’d followed on Instagram and finally tasted and fell in love with after buying them at Kim’s shop!
Kim also brings in fresh local pastry and bonbons, has space for private chocolate tasting parties, serves luscious drinking chocolate, and has a well-curated chocolate grocery and cookbook selection.
These are wonderful components of the community of chocolate, wouldn’t you agree!
Back to our question of how to tell if the chocolate bar in your hand comes from ethical sources: read the label for what it says, and for what it doesn’t say.
That is: look first for the origin. If you see a country or an estate of origin listed, chances are already high you’re holding a bar of ethical chocolate. Just as a bottle of wine or bag of coffee tells you what country or estate the product comes from, an ethical chocolate bar will tell you that too. The label might say Peru, or Madagascar, or the Camino Verde Estate in Ecuador which I visited last year, or another location, so that you’ll know the source of the cacao that went into making the chocolate.
You can also look for a fair trade symbol, but there are multiple certifications and an ethical cacao farm may or may not have them.
Now look for what the label doesn’t say: if no origin is listed, you can be relatively sure the cocoa beans came from West Africa, which produces over 60% of the world’s chocolate, and which does so with a scarred supply chain often involving diseased cacao trees, poor flavor bulk cacao, and even child slave labor. This is the supply chain of the big chocolate manufacturers who sell in grocery stores and advertise on TV. And this is why I’m organizing a Chocolate Freedom Walk, to raise awareness of where our chocolate comes from, and to promote ethical chocolate with fun tastings and giveaways at my speaking engagements and along the route.
Ethical cacao is not only ethical, it tastes infinitely better, gives you various flavors such as earthy or fruity based on the soil (terroir) and the art of the chocolate maker, needs no artificial ingredients, and gives you the health benefits that you’ve heard about. And it includes you in the sweet chocolate community of growers, makers, and enjoyers, which you can also join at Cocoa + Co.
The first time I had French pastries in France was as a 19-year-old Harvard College senior studying abroad in Paris.
That trip put me on a mission to spread fine chocolate and pastry, led to my founding of the original Chocolate Tours in Chicago and beyond, and – after closing the chocolate tours earlier this year – still continues to inspire me as I speak and consult about chocolate.
Chef Peter Rios has opened a little bit of Paris in Chicago, with his new Alliance Patisserie. Pastry followers worldwide may know Chef Peter as the owner of Alliance Bakery, also in Chicago, known for innovative specialty cakes and more, or may know him through one of his many incarnations as pastry chef superstar.
Chef Peter told me it has always been his dream to open a shop focusing on French pastry, ever since he graduated from Kendall College and later studied with pastry giants such as the great Pierre Herme in Paris.
His dream came true, and Alliance Patisserie now helps the dreams of others come true, whether by sharing some of the best macarons or classic French pastries outside of Paris, or by serving as the romantic site of a marriage proposal, which I was thrilled and honored to facilitate for a lovely couple after a chocolate tasting I led for them in the shop!
Picture chocolate, pastry, fashion, jewelry, and more, under one roof.
Picture that roof over my favorite building in Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center (which was the main branch of the Chicago Public Library when I was a little girl).
That was the scene for the April edition of Dose Market, a dynamic marketplace that showcases chefs, designers, and makers of all stripes. The market was co-sponsored in April 2015 by the Lake FX conference for artists and entrepreneurs, which added an extra touch of excitement.
Add the fact that among the makers showcased were longtime chocolate friends, and soon-to-be-made chocolate friends, and of course I attended. I attended, I chocolate scouted, and I enjoyed.
What exactly is chocolate scouting? That’s my term for exploring the world and finding delicious chocolate and pastry. It’s something I’ve always done: on any trip to a new city, even as a child, I always wanted to find the best chocolate. That hasn’t changed, and I chocolate scout where I live and where I travel, for business and for pleasure.
Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center featured some exquisite and creative chocolate and pastry offerings from old friends…
by Valerie Beck, chocolate expert and Kendall College Adjunct Professor
In addition to being an entrepreneur, founding the original chocolate tours years ago, and today doing speaking engagements about chocolate, and consulting in the chocolate space, I love teaching at Kendall College because I can contribute to the amazing and energizing students, and because I can create applied learning experiences – not just lectures but activities and excursions for real-world learning.
I had the opportunity over spring break this year to create a series of 8 excursions for a cohort of French business majors studying abroad in Chicago from their school in Paris, the ESCE. Our theme was American Business Explorations, our classroom was the city of Chicago and beyond, and our focus was on networking, volunteering, and mentoring as crucial to success in American business success.
My friends and contacts opened their doors to welcome us and speak to us. We toured companies such as Google, had a private tour of a gallery with an international light artist, participated in a speed-mentoring event held by Business Journals, and heard from speakers ranging from entrepreneurs to non-profit founders to executives to yours truly (chocolate supply chain and chocolate tasting!).
The experiences were meaningful to the students, who wrote blog posts at www.parischicagosafari.blogspot.com. The experiences were also meaningful to me in ways I hadn’t expected: I connected more deeply with some of my friends and contacts, thought more intently about the themes I built the course around, and got to see Chicago and American business through the eyes of my bright and perceptive students. See our posts online, including my tie-it-all-together post at the top showing the theme of each excursion, where we went, and links to our hosts.
As the saying goes: “school is never out for the pro.”
I’m excited to speak to the Batavia Women in Business group, outside of Chicago, on the “ABCs of Sweet Success,” and excited about the corresponding article in The Chicago Tribune about my speaking engagements and rebranding to Chocolate Uplift!
Click here for info on booking me for a Chocolate Wellness talk or business talk, or contact me at email@example.com.
Chocolate is naturally healthy, unless we add junk to it. Chocolate is made from the cacao bean, which is the seed of the fruit of the cacao tree. Cacao is a superfood, because of it is rich in nutrients and benefits. For example:
Cacao has more antioxidants than blueberries, green tea, or red wine.
Cacao is the highest source of plant-based iron.
Cacao is one of the highest sources of magnesium.
Cacao has more calcium than milk.
Cacao is a natural mood booster.
Of course, to receive these benefits, you want to eat artisan chocolate, not commercial chocolate. This is because commercial chocolate has been processed which removes nutrients, and because commercial chocolate usually contains added negatives such as pesticides, artificial ingredients, soy lecithin, and high amounts of sugar. In addition, commercial chocolate is often farmed in ways that harm the workers; abominations such as child slave labor are common on West African cocoa farms, which produce the bulk of the world’s commercial chocolate.
How can you make sure you’re eating chocolate that aligns with your health wishes and your moral code? Read the label! For example, you can look for chocolate bars with just 2 ingredients: cacao and sugar (plus any inclusions such as fruit or nuts). You can also look for chocolate bars with the country or estate of origin on the label, such as South American or other non-West African countries.
We go into more detail in my seminars, such as talking about:
the #1 ingredient to avoid in chocolate,
when to eat chocolate so that you maximize your health benefits,
how to incorporate raw cocoa beans into delicious meals and snacks, and
Click for info on and tickets for my next Chocolate Wellness seminar open to the public, at Kendall College in Chicago, on Saturday, February 7, at 11 am. Samples are included in all of my speaking engagements! Click here.
Or book a private seminar for your corporate, association, or other group. Again, samples are included! Click for details.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime for more info.
And, here’s a sneak preview of my new still-under-construction site, which will also house info on my Chocolate Wellness seminars. The site is a mock-up and will ultimately be brought under the Chocolate Uplift domain, but here you go for now!
Sweet Travel: Our 2015 Chocolate Uplift Travel Club Destinations
by Valerie Beck, chocolate expert, culinary travel pioneer, and founder of the one and only Chocolate Uplift Travel Club
Happy new year!
Have you made your 2015 travel plans yet?
Let’s make them sweeter: travel with me to one or more of the below destinations, where I’ll open my address book of friends and contacts I’ve made throughout my chocolatey career, and will take you behind the scenes to visit top chocolatiers and chefs. We’ll experience the local culture the way the local style-setters do, and we’ll enjoy the best in food, fashion, art, and of course chocolate.
A few of the trips have 2 packages to choose from: all-inclusive, or a la carte. The double-package trips are Miami in January, LA in March, DC in April, Charleston and Savannah over Memorial Day weekend, Boston in May, and NYC over Veteran’s Day weekend.
And, you can vote on where you think our Labor Day and Columbus Day trips should go!
Scroll down for dates and destinations, contact me at email@example.com to book or with questions, and here’s to sweet travel!
2015 Chocolate Uplift Travel Club Destinations
Miami Chocolate Festival, Miami, Florida. Friday 1/23 – Sunday 1/25: Miami Chocolate Festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Package 1: $2,000 includes hotel, meals, excursions, Chocolate Festival, meet-and-greets with select chocolatiers at the Festival. Package 2: $100 includes meet-and-greets at the Festival.
Florence Sweet & Chic, Florence, Italy. Wednesday 2/11 – Tuesday 2/17: Florence Artisanal Chocolate Festival, and Ferragamo Fashion & Shoes. Encompasses Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. Package: $3,200 includes hotel, meals, excursions, Festival, meet-and-greets at the Festival, tour of the Salvatore Ferragamo headquarters and museum.
SOBEWFF: Celebrity Chefs on the Beach, Miami, Florida. Friday 2/20 – Sunday 2/22. South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Package: $3,000 includes hotel, meals, excursions.
Turner and Truffles, Los Angeles, California. Friday 3/20 – Sunday 3/22. J.M.W. Turner exhibit at the Getty Museum, and our own Beverly Hills Bakery Tour created by Valerie Beck. Package 1: $2,200 includes hotel, meals, excursions, private tour of Turner exhibit, Beverly Hills Bakery Tour. Package 2: $120 includes private tour of Turner exhibit, and Beverly Hills Bakery Tour.
Cherry Blossoms and Chocolate, Washington, DC. Friday 4/10 – Sunday 4/12. National Cherry Blossom Festival, and Chef’s Dinner. Package 1: $2,350 includes hotel, meals, excursions, private Chef’s Dinner and chocolate tasting with a celebrity pastry chef. Package 2: $150 includes Chef’s Dinner and chocolate tasting.
Cacao Origin Trip, Quito and other points in Ecuador, South America. Friday 5/1 – Tuesday 5/5. Cocoa Farms and Capitol City of Enchanting Ecuador. Fly to Quito through Miami or Houston. Package: $2,500 includes hotels, meals, excursions, private tours of cocoa farms, meet-and-greets with cocoa farm owners and chocolate makers.
Sweet Home Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Friday 5/15 – Sunday 5/17. National Restaurant Association Show additional activities including the original Chicago Chocolate Tour created by Valerie Beck. Book your own Show and hotel arrangements. Package: $150 includes private Chef’s Dinner, and Chicago Chocolate Tour.
Memorial Day Weekend in the Sweet South, Charleston, North Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. Friday 5/22 – Monday 5/25. Two sweet and chic cities. Package 1: $3,000 includes hotels, meals, excursions, private tastings with pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Package 2: $200 includes private tastings with pastry chefs and chocolatiers.
Boston Sweet, Boston, Massachusetts. Friday 5/29 – Sunday 5/31. Sweet springtime, including the original Boston Chocolate Walking Tour created by Valerie Beck. Package 1: $2,750 includes hotel, meals, excursions, private tasting of the original Boston Cream Pie, Chocolate Tour. Package 2: $200 includes private tasting of the original Boston Cream Pie, Chocolate Tour.
Sweet Labor Day Weekend, destination tbd, cast your vote! Friday 9/4 – Monday 9/7.
Sweet Columbus Day Weekend, destination tbd, cast your vote! Friday 10/9 – Monday 10/12.
Eurochocolate: Italy Sweet and Chic, Perugia, Pisa, and Rome, Italy. Friday 10/6 – Friday 10/23. Eurochocolate Festival in Perugia, Italian cashmere, artisan chocolate of Pisa and Chocolate Valley, Roman chocolate and gelato. Package: $6,300 includes hotels, meals, excursions, Festival, private tour of an artisan chocolate manufactory, private tour of a cashmere manufactory, meet-and-greets, Rome’s oldest chocolate shop, Roman gelato tour, Italian fashion visits.
The Big Truffle: NYC Veteran’s Day Weekend, New York, New York. Friday 11/6 – Tuesday 11/10. Chocolate, art, fashion, and a parade, in New York City, including our own New York Pastry Paradise Tour created by Valerie Beck. Package 1: $3,300 includes hotel, meals, excursions, private tour of a chocolate manufactory, Pastry Paradise Tour, fashion and style excursion, museum visit with VIP status, Veteran’s Day parade viewing. Package 2: $300 includes chocolate manufactory tour, New York Pastry Paradise Tour, fashion and style excursion, museum visit.
Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami, Florida. Friday 12/4 – Sunday 12/6. Art Basel Miami Beach Festival, including our own sweet and chic excursions. Package: $2,800 includes hotel, meals, excursions, art festival, gallery parties, our own chocolate brunch, our own macaron tasting.