Valerie Beck bios and sizzle reel!

Hello!

Please click to watch my 3-minute “sizzle reel” video montage of TV segments, click here for my speaker’s one-sheet, and see below for my short and long bios. Thank you!

ABOUT

Chocolate expert and Harvard grad Valerie Beck is a chocolate industry entrepreneur, pioneer, and activist. Creator of the original chocolate tours, which she expanded to cities across the US with a team of 50, she is also a chocolate consultant, broker, and speaker, as well as a cheerful and engaging media personality.
She founded Chocolate Uplift to provide chocolate services to the trade, to the public, and to cacao growing nations.
Email chocolateuplift@gmail.com to inquire about booking Valerie for media appearances, seminars, or consulting projects. And follow her on Instagram at @chocolateuplift.
Here’s to “uplift through chocolate!”
Valerie Beck
Founder and CEO

Short bio – longer version follows

Chocolate expert Valerie Beck is a pioneering entrepreneur in chocolate and hospitality. Valerie created the original Chicago Chocolate Tours, which she expanded to 4 cities across the US, grew to 50 employees, and ran for 10 years, educating and entertaining tens of thousands of people about the history, health benefits, production, and selection of first-class chocolate. Valerie’s business Chocolate Uplift currently brokers and distributes chocolate made by craft artisan chocolate makers, and provides consulting services to cacao growers and chocolate makers, always with a focus on ethical chocolate and sustainability. In fact, her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious!

A Chicago native, Valerie graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After practicing law in Europe and the US, she founded the chocolate tours and Chocolate Uplift, and is also a popular speaker, writer, chocolate show judge, and media personality.

She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College and UCLA Extension, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations, and continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business Valerie’s Infinity Tutoring. 

Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can improve our mood and the world!

Longer bio

Valerie Beck, founder of Chocolate Uplift and of the original Chicago Chocolate Tours nationwide, also known as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, is a cheerful chocolate expert on TV and radio and in print, and has been profiled in multiple media outlets such as NBC, ABC, WGN TV, WGN Radio, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Chicago Business.

She is an upbeat and engaging speaker and blogger on all things chocolate. She speaks frequently on topics such as the history and health benefits of chocolate, such as in her presentation “What’s in Your Chocolate: Making Conscious Chocolate Choices,” where she teaches how to interpret labels to discern what’s really in your chocolate bar, and discusses her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, which are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious! She also speaks on business and motivational topics, with a chocolate twist, such as in her presentation on “The ABCs of Sweet Success: Attitude, Belief, Commitment.”

Her chocolate consulting work ranges from helping brands create and launch new chocolate bars, to helping cacao growing nations promote their products.

Valerie is also a popular judge at chocolate competitions such as the annual World of Chocolate event in Chicago, and at business plan and innovation competitions.

Valerie is a pioneer in the business of chocolate tourism and other chocolate services to the public, to the trade, and to cocoa growing nations. Chocolate Uplift is the umbrella for all of these offerings. Chocolate Uplift provides entertaining and educational services to the public including trips to chocolate festivals around the world, and chocolate wellness seminars. Chocolate Uplift also provides valuable services to the chocolate industry, such as consulting to chocolate brands particularly in the small-batch and fine chocolate categories, importing fair trade cocoa beans and chocolate baking discs directly from ethical sources, and arranging origin trips to cocoa farms for bean-to-bar chocolate makers and others. In addition, Valerie consults for cocoa growing nations such as Ecuador, to promote their ethical cacao and chocolate.

A Chicago native, Valerie created the first chocolate tours when she founded Chicago Chocolate Tours in 2005, to introduce chocolate lovers to small-batch chocolate shops and bakeries. With her team of “Choc Stars” she grew the business to become a well-known and award-winning tour company serving tens of thousands of chocolate lovers, with 50 employees, which opened in Philadelphia and Boston in 2009, and developed footprints in additional cities. In 2016, Valerie relaunched the business as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, with renewed focus on sustainable cacao and artisan chocolate.

Valerie invented the concept of the chocolate tour years earlier, when she was a 19-year-old Harvard College senior studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. She had been focused on chocolate since announcing at age 4 that she would drink milk only if it were chocolate. In Paris she fell in love with truly fine chocolate, and started taking her friends on informal excursions she developed to her favorite chocolate and pastry locations there and in Belgium.

Later, after graduating from Harvard Law School, Valerie practiced law in Chicago and Europe, and took the opportunity during her years in Europe to deepen her knowledge of chocolate and pastry.

Her awards include Influential Woman in Business from the Daily Herald Business Ledger, and Top 100 Woman Owned Businesses from the Philadelphia Business Journal. She has mentored many other entrepreneurs through Women’s Innovation Network – WIN, the Chicago City Treasurer’s small business program, and through private consulting.  

Her philanthropy of choice for her business is CARE, which helps women and families around the world exit poverty through entrepreneurship. Valerie is also exploring and creating projects such as her Chocolate Freedom Walk to help children forced into slave labor on the West African cacao farms that produce the bulk of the world’s chocolate, while she promotes fair trade and socially responsible chocolate. She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College and UCLA Extension, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations. Valerie continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business Valerie’s Infinity Tutoring. 

Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can change everything from our mood, to the world!

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

IG: @chocolateuplift

Limited Engagement: Chicago Chocolate Tours and Tastings

Hello there!
Limited engagement: I’m doing a few Chicago Chocolate Tours and seated chocolate tastings!
(Click for the story of how I started the original chocolate tours, a long time ago! And click here for a video montage from the old tour days!)
I miss you, and won’t this be a fun and tasty way to celebrate the holidays and new year! This is just from December 17 through January 6, and after that we’ll see!
You’re the first to know: I might have some Los Angeles dates after that; let me know if you’re interested!
hannahs
Here are the links:
Seated chocolate tastings – a fun, fascinating, and delicious tour without leaving your seat –
Walking tours to chocolate shops – a new Belgian chocolate shop is on board along with our old favorites –
tour at hendrickx
I welcome your thoughts or questions, and hope to see you there!
Thank you – onward and upward!
Your friend in chocolate,
Valerie
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Valerie Beck
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Sustainable Craft Chocolate Distribution, Talks, Tastings

@chocolateuplift 

 

Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

We’re back, in secret beta pre-launch, and I’m excited!

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Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours: we’re back, with classic and new elements, including a new name!

I founded the original chocolate tours in Chicago in 2005, from an idea I started in Paris before that at age 19 while studying abroad and enjoying fine French chocolate.

After 2005, I grew the tour business across the US, and closed the doors of the business around 8 years later.

Then I went on a journey; really two journeys: I went even closer to the source of cacao by working with cacao growing nations, bean-to-bar chocolate makers, and others along the chocolate supply chain, as a volunteer, broker, and consultant. In addition, I deepened my inner journey through meditation.

Meditation and cacao!

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Haiti cacao, Haiti chocolate: experience the forefront of chocolate trends on Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours.

Now, the timing is right to reopen the tour business I love so much, with a new name, and some new elements.

Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours provides “Uplift Through Chocolate” to customers, vendors, social justice partners, and team members, with elegance, ethics, and enthusiasm. And we do it with delicious chocolate and pastry, through an entertaining and enlightening experience!

Beta schedule for August 2016:

*Wednesdays 2 pm, Geneva IL route
*Thursdays 2 pm, Chicago Loop route
*Fridays 2 pm, Chicago Gold Coast route
*Saturdays 2 pm, NYC Hell’s Kitchen route

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Real chocolate, really beautiful environments, real social justice: for every ticket sold, we’re buying a meal for a child in a rescue center for kids who’ve escaped the child labor cacao farms in West Africa that the big chocolate brands use.

Buy a ticket for $50 at paypal.me/chocolateuplift, specifying your chosen day and location, and receive details. Plus: experience delicious innovations and surprises on the tours during beta season.

I’m incredibly excited to invite you on this journey!

Thank you for your business and belief!

Your friend in chocolate,
Valerie

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Join me for a magical experience on Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours! Photo: The Uplifted.     Uplift Through Chocolate!

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Sweet Travel: Our 2015 Chocolate Uplift Travel Club Destinations

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

Here's to sweet takeoffs and landings in 2015 and beyond!
Here’s to sweet takeoffs and landings in 2015 and beyond!

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 chocolateuplift@gmail.com to book or with questions, and here’s to sweet travel!

2015 Chocolate Uplift Travel Club Destinations

At a previous Miami Chocolate Festival: brigadeiros (Brazilian truffles) by Samba Gourmet
At a previous Miami Chocolate Festival: brigadeiros (Brazilian truffles) by Samba Gourmet

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 chocolates
At Migone Chocolates in Florence

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.

View from my room at the Surfcomber Hotel, Miami Beach
View from my room at the Surfcomber Hotel, Miami Beach

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.

On last year's Beverly Hills Bakery Tour
At Le Mervetty on last year’s Beverly Hills Bakery Tour

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.

At our private tasting with Chef Santosh at Co.Co.Sala last year in DC
At our private tasting with Chef Santosh at Co.Co.Sala last year in DC

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.

About to sample fresh cacao in Ecuador
About to sample fresh cacao in Ecuador

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
Sweet home Chicago

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.

Sweet Savannah (photo: Visit Savannah)
Sweet Savannah (photo: Visit Savannah)

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.

Presentation of the original Boston Cream Pie
Presentation of the original Boston Cream Pie, on a previous Boston trip

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.

Rome
Rome

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.

Behind the scenes at Mast Brothers Chocolate
Behind the scenes at Mast Brothers Chocolate

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.

Grilled chocolate croissants for brunch (photo: Cao Chocolates)
Grilled chocolate croissants for brunch (photo: Cao Chocolates)

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.

Cheers from Miami!
Cheers from Miami!

See you soon – onward and upward!

~ Valerie

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

From Harvard to Paris to Chocolate Uplift

From Harvard to Paris to Chocolate Uplift

By Valerie Beck, founder of Chicago Chocolate Tours and Chocolate Uplift

November 2014 marks the 9th anniversary of my chocolate services business. The dream that led me here started more years ago than that, when I was in college. Here’s the essay I wrote for my college reunion book this coming spring, describing the chain of events.

Quincy House at Harvard, where I woke up with a special dream
Quincy House at Harvard, where I woke up with a special dream

One day toward the end of our junior year at Harvard, I woke up thinking of Paris. The thought stayed with me, indeed it permeated me, and I decided to spend the next semester in Paris.

As you’ll recall, studying abroad wasn’t common in those days. My roommates had no reason to expect I’d abandon them. Professors raised an eyebrow when signing a form stating that my Sorbonne courses would give me the same credit as Harvard courses. No one knew what to make of my announcement that I was going to study in Paris. I didn’t know what to make of it either. I loved being at Harvard. I only knew that Paris was calling, and I had to answer.

Debauve et Gallais, the Paris chocolate shop where I tasted the bonbon that changed my life
Debauve et Gallais, the Paris chocolate shop where I tasted the bonbon that changed my life

My semester in Paris was transformative. I loved the lifestyle, the history, my classes, the soft lavender early morning air, and the chocolate. Above all, the chocolate. I had been a chocolate maniac all my life: at age four I declared to my mother that the only way I was going to drink milk was if it were chocolate.

I can still taste in my mind the first piece of fine French chocolate I had during my semester in Paris. I had gone “chocolate scouting” – as normal a thing for me to do as finding my classes, the bookstores, and the Seine – and I selected a square of ganache at the great French chocolate house Debauve et Gallais. The richness, power, and purity of flavor in that tiny, perfect bonbon made me determined to enjoy chocolate of exalted quality for the rest of my life, and to take others with me on the journey of fine chocolate.

I began immediately. I asked a few Sorbonne friends if they wanted to come with me and sample the best chocolate and pastries in Paris. They looked at me for a moment as though I had invited them on a tour of paradise, which in fact I had. They said yes, and off we went on the first chocolate tour that I created. I didn’t call it a tour, or imagine that I would grow the concept into an international chocolate tourism and chocolate services business. I was simply sharing my passion.

Pralinette Chocolates Bruges
Pralinette Chocolates Bruges

After we had eaten our way through the truffles and chocolate croissants of Paris, I decided we needed to go to Belgium and do the same thing. And we did. We celebrated my 20th birthday in the glorious chocolate shops of Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges and Ghent, during a weekend in December of our senior year. Thus took place the first chocolate travel club trip that I created; I didn’t imagine that there would be more.

Today, after a not atypical career diversion into the practice of law, and some additional time in the chocolate and pastry centers of Europe, my passion, mission, and career are one: “uplift through chocolate.” I founded a business 9 years ago which was the first chocolate tour company, then I expanded into multiple cities, and now the company has grown to provide chocolate services such as tours, travel, and “Eat Chocolate, Be Skinny” wellness seminars for the chocolate-loving public, and consulting and importing for professional chefs and chocolatiers as well as for cocoa-growing and chocolate-producing nations.

The next step is to continue the current chocolate revolution by ending the child slave labor practices and other monstrous abuses that occur behind 70% of the world’s chocolate, and by replacing slavery chocolate with delicious fair trade chocolate for the public and culinary professionals. Chocolate can uplift chocolate lovers, chocolate workers, cocoa growing nations, and the planet. For irregularly-timed posts chronicling some of this journey, you can join me on my blog at http://www.chocolateuplift.com.

As a 19-year-old Harvard senior in Paris, where I created the first chocolate tour
As a 19-year-old Harvard senior in Paris, where I created the first chocolate tour

I’m grateful it all flowed from a thought I woke up with when we were at Harvard.