Chocolatier Profile: Daniel Herskovic, Mayana Chocolate

Renowned chocolatier Daniel Herskovic began his career in chocolate when he started making truffles as take-home gifts for clients.

“I spent a lot of time as a caterer and private chef,” says Herskovic. “I would do multi-course dinner parties and wanted to create a gift for guests to take home, so I made them boxes of truffles. When I was first starting out, they were huge, like golf balls. Then I started to really learn about my craft, and studied with some of the best chocolatiers in the United States and France. I really loved it.”

Daniel got his start in Chicago, then made the move to pastoral Spooner, WI. He’s added to his repertoire too. In addition to bonbons and truffles, he crafts adult candy bars geared to the sophisticated palate. At Cocoa + Co., we carry all four of his bars and are thrilled to welcome his newest flavor this week! Mayan Spice has thick layers of caramel and chocolate-chili ganache on top of a crispy tortilla chip crust—all enrobed in rich dark chocolate. Can’t wait!

Quick Note: you can catch Herskovic in Chicago at Cocoa + Co. in July. We’re hoping he’ll share his upcoming fall collection of bonbons if we’re on our best behavior.

Here’s more from our recent talk with Herskovic…
Q&A With Daniel Herskovic

You Got Your Start In Chicago?
Back then I rented a shared space and started our lines of bonbons and candy bars. Then, in 2013, we got the opportunity to move to northern Wisconsin. We’re about eight hours north of Chicago in Spooner. Now, we have our own little factory in this rural community. It’s really nice up here. It’s not quite as touristy as some Wisconsin towns. We’re surrounded by farms and there is zero traffic when I go to work, just the occasional deer or bear.

Why Chocolate?
Chocolate became an obsession. It’s an ingredient that lots of chefs are afraid of. It’s a temperamental product. I also like how chocolate is similar to wine in terms of terroir, the way in which a region influences what the wine tastes like. It’s the same with chocolate. It takes a lifetime to really master it. When I was renting space at the bakery during the summer months I would have to wake up at 1 a.m. and head to work because the temperature of the room had to be at a certain level. Chocolate needs to be made in a very controlled environment.

Your Chocolate Influences?
I studied with Norman Love, Andrew Shotts, and two French chocolatiers: Franck Kestener and Christophe Morel. From Christophe Morel, I learned a lot about making a good caramel that stands up on its own, which is not an easy thing to nail. The caramel in our candy bars is really top notch. I also learned about working with really dark chocolate, how to balance it so that people who don’t think they like it end up doing so. Norman Love is known for being very artistic with chocolate decoration-wise. I learned a lot about aesthetics with him. From Franck Kestener I learned more about production and, with Andrew Shotts, I learned more about American taste. A lot of people knock Americans as not being sophisticated but we are, we just like certain things. Americans love peanut butter and chocolate, and so do I, whereas the French love chestnuts and chocolate, which we don’t as much.

Tell Us About Your Candy Bars
Our candy bars are really different than most any other chocolate bars on the shelf. Ours are candy bars as opposed to chocolate bars. You get beautiful caramel in each of them. We have our Kitchen Sink Bar, which has peanut butter, pretzel, fleur de sel caramel, and dark chocolate. I love our Fix Bar, a beautiful shortbread with that really nice caramel and dark chocolate. If I need a snack at the gas station, I want a Twix bar, so it’s kind of a play on that but a hundred times better. The buttery shortbread melts in your mouth when you eat it, along with a thick layer of salted caramel and a nice enrobing of dark chocolate.

We also have a bacon bar that’s been very, very popular, Heavens To Bacon. It has bacon, potato chips, smoked almonds, caramel, and dark chocolate. It’s a three-layer bar and we put bacon in two of the three layers. We’re coming out with a new bar called Mayan Spice, made with spicy, dark chocolate ganache with ancho chili, cinnamon, Mexican vanilla bean, and dark chocolate. It’s really creamy and wonderful. The first layer is ganache, second layer is our salted caramel, and the bottom layer is a tortilla chip crunch. We mix the tortilla chips with peanut butter, spices, and milk chocolate. It’s really nice. I love it.

One Thing You Really Love About Making Chocolate?
I just love watching our chocolate and our confections getting that final coat of chocolate. I think lots of things are better when they are covered in chocolate. I’m mesmerized when I watch something being enrobed in chocolate.

Adele Spencer
Adele Spencer