There’s more to life than chocolate, but not right now. — Author Unknown

“I could give up chocolate but I’m not a quitter”. That certainly applies to these Rogue Valley chefs who test, play and create with it to the delight of their guests. Now in honor of the upcoming Oregon Chocolate Festival, we explore the endless opportunities of chocolate. Here, a few of the several accomplished chefs participating in the festivals’ dueling dessert competition reveal how they like to treat the bar, from forgiving ganache to memorable cakes…and more. Also participating this year is Chef Andrew Will from Public House Ashland. He is presenting a Chocolate Ganache with Eucalyptus, Burnt Honey and Olives.

Terra Sharp, Pastry Chef, Neuman Hotel Group, Lark’s Home Kitchen Cuisine, Ashland, OR

Terra Sharp

“My favorite thing to do with chocolate is making chocolate ganache, which is why I chose to do that today with you. There only two ingredients….chocolate and heavy cream. It’s all about temperature when you bring cream up to heat, but not boiling, pouring it over chocolate pieces, and very very slowly blending it with a whisk. It’s even possible to make ganache using alternative milks, like soy, almond and coconut. I love how versatile it is. It can be used for so many different things, like layering a cake, frosting, whipping. drizzling and glazing. You can even make truffles with it.”

Harlan Brooks, Chef de Cuisine, Peerless Restaurant and Bar, Ashland, OR

Harlan Brooks

“I think chocolate needs to be thoughtfully employed to express its potential. Cocoa’s familiar complexity is a brilliant companion to many otherwise wayward dessert ingredients (i.e. chili peppers or avocado). Chocolate is exciting, yet at the same time, it has the ability to bring a meal to a serene closing. Honestly, I see chocolate as just one of many ways to a good dish, and I can be partial at times to using it in ice cream and frozen mousse preparations.”

Sumar Waggoner, Pastry Chef, Porter’s Restaurant and Bar, Medford, OR

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“My favorite thing about chocolate … Or, my favorite thing with it … Is german chocolate cake. My grandfather was German and he passed away about 10 years ago, and my favorite memories are of eating German chocolate cake with him. It was his favorite, and so I find different ways to vary it and just think of him when I make it. Now, when I bake a beer-infused German chocolate cake, I’m sitting here thinking, “Yep. Grandpa’s in Old Country.” That’s chocolate for me.”

Chef Serena Fultz, Liquid Assets Wine Bar, Ashland, OR

Serena Fultz. Liquid Assets

“I have never been a big fan of super sweet desserts. When I cook with chocolate, I always try to take an approach which is more savory.  It is easy to forget that without salt, we would be unable to recognize sweet. All desserts can benefit from a touch of salt or acid, especially chocolate.  I love to pair it with lemon or balsamic or an earthy element to bring out its depth of flavor and versatility.”

Image credits: Harlan Brooks, Peerless Restaurant; Terra Sharp and Sumar Waggone, The Local Dish; Serena Fultz, Joseph Linaschke