Food & Wine // 7 min Read

Eye Candy

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Written and photography by: Allison Lane

In a city whose story continues to unfold and evolve with every passing day, Adam Turoni is working hard to pen his own chapter in Savannah’s storied history books.

A darling of the chocolate industry, Turoni’s journey began more than two decades ago as a young boy, baking cookies with his grandmother. A memory as sweet as homemade frosting, Turoni’s unrelenting passion for baking is a tribute to the special bond between a grandmother and her grandson. “It came from a very loving place,” Turoni says. “I grew up with it, and I didn’t know anything different.”

“But I was also very realistic. I knew [baking] was my goal, and I knew what I needed to do it, so I was always very pragmatic.”

This practical mindset would come to serve Turoni well over the years, especially as he sought to convince his mother, an ER nurse with a by-the-book mindset, that he wanted to work in a kitchen and that she should help support him in this dream. Turoni addressed his mother’s hesitations about a future in the culinary arts field head-on, and whether it was the determination in his eyes or one pragmatic personality recognizing another, she came around to the idea and helped Turoni secure his first job in a kitchen where he worked to wash dishes.

An apprentice program at his high school further cemented his passion for the culinary arts and eventually led Turoni to a spot at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. After finding his niche in chocolate in the last year of school, Turoni felt the pull of Savannah and made the move official following graduation. “That’s kind of my mentality about a lot of things. I’d rather fail but fail forward. And so why not? I packed up my car the day after graduation, drove down here, and I’ve been here ever since.”

And this, folks, is where our story starts to really get interesting. A decision by 19-year-old Adam Turoni to attend a dinner party led to a chance encounter between our main character and what would come to be one of the leading ladies in his life.

Enter Alexandra Trujillo de Taylor, co-founder and vice president of Chocolat by Adam Turoni. The dramatic fig and cognac truffle to Turoni’s sweet and fiery crème brûlée, Trujillo de Taylor was instantly drawn to Adam the moment she met him. “The passion and drive that he had ignited a passion in me to get involved and start something together.”

Turoni fondly recalls going to Trujillo de Taylor’s house where the two would have tea and chat, noting, “I didn’t know how to get here to this point, so we would just sit and talk.” These teas led to lunches where Turoni and Trujillo de Taylor, seated side by side in a circular booth at Gryphon, would hash out the future company and their plans.

Today, Trujillo de Taylor handles the business side of Chocolat by Adam Turoni, allowing Turoni the freedom to focus on his art and the story he’s working to create. This partnership has allowed them to continue to flourish since opening Chocolat by Adam Turoni and their first retail store in 2011.

Now, boasting a flourishing e-commerce site, an achievement Turoni attributes to Trujillo de Taylor’s foresight, and a second Savannah location just off Chippewa Square, the pair has doubled down on the consumer experience and continues to redefine what it means to be a chocolatier.

Their two locations, the original Chocolate Dining Room (323 W. Broughton Street) and the newer Chocolate Library (236 Bull Street), are testaments to Turoni and Trujillo de Taylor’s exacting attention to detail and their shared commitment to creating unique experiences for their patrons.

“For me, [my goal] is to have your attention for as long as I’ve asked for it when you’re in my store,” Turoni says. “I think that’s saying something, especially when we’re so distracted day to day. If I can grab your attention and have it for those moments that you’re in my store, that’s a good goal.”

Trujillo de Taylor underscores this focus on capturing the consumer’s attention, “It’s all visual. It starts from the outside of the street being drawn in by wondering, ‘What is this store?’ to then looking at the chocolate and being like, ‘What is this?’ I can’t tell you how many people at the very beginning say, ‘What is this? Is it soap?’”

Turoni laughs, recounting the confusion his stores occasionally create, “At the Library, we get asked, ‘Do y’all sell the books?’”

Inside their first store, the Chocolate Dining Room, an interior outfitted in antique candelabras, china, and sterling flatware instantly envelops patrons. A saturated green faux grass floor anchors the opulent interior, where a chandelier intertwined with butterflies hangs over a French banquet table laden with packaged goods. Beside it, a floor-to-ceiling china cabinet is home to individual truffle chocolates in rich reds, greens, browns, and whites.

And unlike most chocolatiers who display their confections behind a glass case with a prominently placed name card, Chocolat believes in drawing patrons in with their eyes first.

“Traditionally, you go into a chocolate shop and you point at what you want. It’s one cityscape of shades of brown and an average of two or three shapes, and what catches you is the description. Oh, this one has this or that,” Trujillo de Taylor says. “Ours are completely different. Before you even read what’s in it, you look at it, and you say, ‘Oh gosh, that’s incredible.’”

Incredible indeed. Inside the china cabinet, green and white mini-Versailles pistachio topiary truffles, initially designed for the Savannah Garden Society’s 50th anniversary, sit in neat, straight lines, reminiscent of a classic French garden. A dehydrated matcha genoise crumb sits atop a white chocolate and pistachio combination, and after one bite, it’s easy to imagine a young Marie Antoinette finding delight in a similar treat.

When it comes to creating the flavors, Turoni laughs and says that’s the easy part, “That just comes naturally. I don’t have to work at that, or if I am, it doesn’t feel like work.

“Sometimes, I find an inspiring or delicious flavor I want to try. Then sometimes I’ll go to the museum and I see something really inspiring artistically or a texture somewhere. In fashion, they’ll sew it on the dress like this, and I think, oh my gosh, I could do the same thing but with chocolate and kind of carry over that composition.”

A corkboard wall serves as the landing spot for all of Turoni’s ideas, allowing him to organize his thoughts and further underscoring how important the visual aspect is to this talented chocolatier. “I can see the full picture of all of those separate things in my head and be able to connect them all very easily. That’s the way my brain works the best; I have to have everything out.”

Only a few blocks away at their second location, the Chocolate Library, the trademark faux grass floor and Dior gray walls persist, but instead of a showstopping French banquet table, patrons find themselves amid floor-to-ceiling bookcases overflowing with antique leather-bound encyclopedias and novels. Within the glass cases, confections such as the “Let Them Eat Cake” truffle and “Dark Chocolate Silk Filled Bullets” easily catch the eyes (and appetites) of consumers.

“We all have those experiences when we shop, and we just connect to a brand mind,” Turoni says. “When I go to the Paris Market, for instance, it just inspires me. The experience is so beautiful, and they’re doing something so different. It’s amazing to see that our brand is doing that for people.”

Guided by Turoni’s artisanship, Trujillo de Taylor’s knack for business, and the pair’s shared dedication to their patrons’ experience, Chocolat by Adam Turoni remains a darling of the chocolate world, promising to delight new and returning customers alike. And while the next chapters of Adam’s story remain to be penned, there is, without a doubt, a large group of supporters waiting to see how his story unfolds. •

Read the original story in the Spring / Summer edition of the bluff.

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