WHEN WE first met chocolatier Adam Turoni in 2012, he had just opened his eponymous sweet shop on Broughton Street.
A starry-eyed protégé of James Beard Award winners Peter Greweling and Alice Waters, the 22 year-old had developed his own unique recipes and hoped to transform his small wholesale business into a sustainable retail venture.
- Photo by Jon Waits
It took all of about a week for Chocolat by Adam Turoni to become one of the busiest stores on the west end. Shoppers loved the charming cloister of antique curio cabinets, stocked with enchanting confections like tiny fig-shaped cognac truffles and almond bark dusted in 24K gold.
Its young proprietor stayed late into the night, replenishing the shelves and experimenting with new combinations of form and flavor to delight his customers.
Now at a seasoned 26, Turoni employs a staff of ten, has opened another shop on Bull Street and achieved national recognition for his delicious innovations.
There are still stars in his eyes, but that may be because they’re reflecting the sparks coming from the blowtorch in his hand.
Fire and chocolate don’t normally go together very well, but testing the limits of chemistry and physics has always been Turoni’s passion. The CIA-trained chef still spends his nights working out how to bring his “impossible” ideas to the table, and he’s wielding the torch for a truffle version of crème brûlée.
“It’s the science that makes it so much fun,” he says, cheerfully offering that it took weeks to develop a way to make a crisp, caramelized shell without ending up with a messy puddle.
“Now, stand back,” he warns with a playful grin as he flicks the switch, lowering the flame towards a marble slab counter holding several dozen spiral-shaped candies, already glittering with crystalline sugar.
Each batch has been submerged in a bath of simple syrup for an entire day to allow the tiny sparkles to form, and they shine like diamonds as the blaze kisses the tops of the truffles.
It’s this kind of fearless experimentation that has earned Turoni accolades and awards, including Connect’s 2015 Best of Savannah. Visit Savannah brought him to New York last year to showcase local tastemakers to national magazine editors, and Southern Living featured his Savannah Bee Company Honeycomb Chocolate Bar in its 2015 “Best of the South” issue.
This month brings the most prestigious honor yet: Turoni has been named one of the Top Ten Chocolatiers of North America by Dessert Professional magazine, the leading trade publication for culinary insiders.
“It’s like Vogue for the dessert industry,” he explains excitedly.
“Being recognized like this by my own industry just blows me away. It’s the biggest achievement I can imagine.”
- Photo by Jon Waits
He and business partner Alexandra Trujillo de Taylor will travel to New York again this week to accept his award at the Institute of Culinary Education, and he’ll have to pack his blowtorch: He has been asked to create his crème brûlée truffles in person for Dessert Professional editor-in-chief Matthew Stevens, who demanded to know what made Turoni’s creations so special when they met at the Visit Savannah event last year.
“I told him I try to apply the traditional techniques and modern technologies in new ways to create layers and flavor in a single piece of chocolate,” says Turoni. “We shipped him some samples, and I guess he was impressed.”
Savannahians can taste the champion confections for $3.50 a piece at Chocolat by Adam Turoni’s Bull Street store, which opened in August. The former silver boutique next door to Gallery Espresso “has always been my dream location,” says Turoni. “When it opened up, we jumped.”
As at its sister shop on Broughton, the delectable wares are presented in a fanciful setting that offers as much a feast for the eyes as it does the palate.
Applying her signature unorthodox elegance, Trujillo de Taylor has created a magical backdrop of antique books and vintage typewriters that extends the theme of a whimsical Southern mansion.
“We call Broughton Street the dining room, and this is the library,” says the fur-clad designer, pointing out that the custom made trays have been fabricated to look like wooden card catalog drawers and that the treats are arranged alphabetically.
Popular favorites like bacon-flecked pralines are available on the shelves, though the Bull Street locale also carries exclusive pleasures like the aforementioned crème brûlée buttons, strawberries ‘n’ cream truffles (braised homemade jam enrobed in white chocolate) and the delightfully boozy Golden Bailey’s Truffle.
The slightly different inventories gives people a reason to visit both shops.
“We think of both locations as two rooms in the same house, and one can go from one to the next with a sense of discovery,” continues Trujillo de Taylor with an elegant wave.
“Everyone is invited to tour the House of Chocolat by Adam Turoni!”
- Photo by Jon Waits
The shop is a sumptuous addition to the Bull Street corridor, which broadens the downtown shopping district and gives visitors a more nuanced experience of the city.
“There are so many distinctive pockets of Savannah, and people want to explore them,” muses Turoni. “There is more foot traffic here every day.”
While he and Trujillo de Taylor won’t discount adding another room or two to their maison de chocolat—perhaps even in Charleston—Turoni plans to spend the latter part of his 20s in this bright kitchen at its marble counters, coming up with new ways to use hazelnut gianduja spread and constructing tiny topiary trees made of pistachio paste.
“I want to keep combining everything I’ve learned in my culinary education to make things no one has ever seen or tasted before,” he says, carefully adjusting the torch’s flame.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”