Chocolate star Norman Love has a name that goes with branding like honey pairs with milk. It flows across the jewel-box deco that houses his brilliantly hued creations and the glazed frontage of his four Florida chocolate salons. It adorns the workshop where his team of artisan chefs dress tens of thousands of chocolates in seductive swirls, stripes and freckles in glistening cocoa butter every day.
Yet Love’s journey into his passion was a combination of instinct and circumstance, powered by talent and dedication. Culinary school was not for him. Instead, he leapfrogged his way from a high-school job at a Swenson’s ice-cream parlor to the giddy heights of executive pastry chef for The Ritz-Carlton, by way of France, Florida and St. Louis.
The Accidental Entrepreneur
“At The Ritz-Carlton, I oversaw all the pastry and baking operations, opening 30 resort pastry kitchens across the globe,” Love recalls. “That’s where I learned to strive for excellence every day, to never compromise quality and integrity, and to always put the customer first.”
Strangely, Love never planned on becoming a chocolatier.
When he first left The Ritz-Carlton for the world of independent work, his game plan was to move into TV production. Chocolates were a small side business to supplement his income. Then USA Today recommended his postcard-pretty confections for Valentine’s Day. The phone started ringing and never stopped.
Yet, whether it’s sourcing his ultra-premium cacao from estates across the globe, tracking down the perfect lemon or exploring international flavor pairings, the legacy of his hotel career stays with him.
“I enjoyed traveling thousands of miles during my time with Ritz,” Love notes. “It was the greatest accelerated growth opportunity in my career: really exploring my craft and expanding my talents.”
More Than Meets the Eye
Pennsylvania-born but a Florida native, Love creates undiluted eye candy. After all, the maestro emphasizes, Americans eat with their eyes first.
He also deploys a specifically American flavor palette in his chocolates, be that the humble PB&J or the timeless key lime pie in his Norman Love Confections.
“I like classic, identifiable and well-balanced flavor combinations made from the freshest ingredients,” he says. “Caramels are a good example: It’s about creating a simple combination that’s executed perfectly.”
Yet for Love, classicism means structure, not limitation. You can expect as much colorful, sexy and decadent variety in a Norman Love chocolate box as you would in a Pierre Hermé macaron selection—although, just as with Hermé, avant garde is very far from random.
“I’m a big believer that sweet and salty need to be perfectly balanced,” Love says. “The salt accentuates flavor and reduces sweetness.”
And, while you’ll find the taste of American childhood sprinkled like stardust across Love’s luscious confections, the internationalism he learned while catering for Ritz-Carlton’s global audience stays with him.
Love draws on culinary cultures around the globe to create startling duets, such as a yuzu citrus jam with a white chocolate mango ganache.
Returning to chocolate’s pre-Colombian roots, he pairs dark chocolate with jalapeño peppers for an intense spicy-sweet hit that forces a smile even as it tingles on the tongue.
Impressively, more than 15 years after Love said farewell to The Ritz-Carlton that professional relationship endures.