A proud Venezeulan native with a background in the culinary arts, it was almost inevitable that chef-turned-chocolatier Danielle Centeno would champion her homeland’s cacao. But that’s not the only thing she’s serving at the helm of Escazú Artisan Chocolates in Durham, North Carolina. Centeno is enamored of all high-quality chocolate, sourcing beans from Central and South America, with just a glint of hometown pride at the quality of her Venezeulan beans.
It’s not just pride that drives her talent. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, with professional experience in both savory and pastry kitchens, Centeno approaches the full richness of cacao with an open mind—and palate. The result is a richer product, showcasing the spectrum of flavors native to the cacao bean.
And she creates that product in tandem with chocolate maker Hallot Parson. As Chocolatier at Escazú, Centeno uses century-old recipes and cacao beans that have been carefully, thoughtfully, and (most importantly) personally sourced from Central and South America. Not only does she craft her own chocolate, she’s actually scaled her tools to fit her exact specifications, converting conventional chocolatier equipment to fit Escazú's small-scale, hands-on, incredibly satisfying chocolate making.