MEET OUR MASTER CHOCOLATIER, AMY JO!
If someone would have told me after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School, that I would become a Certified Master Chocolatier Entrepreneur, I would have replied with “Who, me…ya right, I’m not the creative type!” My sole focus during my twenties and early thirties was climbing the corporate ladder of Fortune 50 companies. With much drive, a strong work ethic, long hours, and over one million airline miles traveled, I was at the top of my game in the commercial real estate finance lending world. Little did I know, this success was at the sacrifice of my true life passion.
In 2008 my beloved cousin, Sheri, lost her battle to Ovarian Cancer at the age of 37. While Sheri’s passing was devastating, personally, it provided clarity as to what really is important in life. Her loss made me think hard about what I wanted in my one life, what would make me happy? I found myself asking a life- changing question, “what would I do if I could start all over?” I found that my passion would free me of the analytical, structured self I had created for all these years and help me become the creative entrepreneur I am today. This self-discovery was the launch into pairing my Italian heritage with the wonderful world of fine chocolate.
Being half Sicilian (Valenza is my maiden name), I grew up making Italian cookies from 100+ year old family recipes, holiday chocolate covered cherries, and turtles. I found myself struggling with: "How can I marry these artisan trades?" Answer: "Become a Chocolatier!" In 2011, I completed my Professional Chocolatier Certification through Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Vancouver, Canada and completed an internship at the fabulous CocoaNymph artisan chocolate shop. I have had the honor of training with Chef Chocolatier Patrick Peeters, a past member of Godiva’s Research and Development team in Belgium and a distinguished US Ambassador for Barry Callebaut.
In September 2013, I traveled back to my homeland of Italy to complete the Ecole Chocolat Master Chocolatier Certification. I dove head first into the Italian chocolate culture of Roma, Firenza, Milano, Torino, and Lecco (Lake Como). The program was comprised of intensive hands-on training at the ICAM Choco Scuola (largest Italian chocolate maker) to visiting world renowned Italian chocolatiers in their cioccolateria and laboratories.
I have put Valenza Chocolatier on the map with accolades such as two time Six Star Grand Master Award for Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America by the International Chocolate Salon, three time LA Chocolate Salon Best In Show, a Silver Award Winner in the International Chocolate Awards Americas, 2017 Good Food Awards Winner, and the Orange County Register’s #1 pick for 2015 “Best Of” OC - Chocolatier. My most humbling honor is my organically growing, loyal customer base. It is because of them I am able to fulfill my passion and I will be forever grateful.
I invite you to join my chocolate journey! Learn more about my Italian inspired artisan chocolates and confections business, exciting news, ordering information, gift ideas and more by signing up for the monthly eNewsletter. If you need a daily dose of chocolate goodness, go to my Facebook and Instagram sites! Thank you for the opportunity to share my chocolate passion with you!