American Made Since 2010

Sarah Dwyer

Bethesda, Maryland
Using real ingredients, and European methods, I create soft full-flavored caramels to cover in chocolate and decorate with original designs.

Tell us about your business.

I wanted to be a chocolatier since I was 2, opening my mom's box of chocolates and searching for chocolate covered caramels. I spent a year in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu and rediscovered my passion for caramels. My first caramel was a traditional vanilla sea salt, cooking my caramel much longer and darker for an almost burnt taste. Then striving for a less sweet caramel, I added balsamic vinegar to my next batch... it was a hit. The Balsamic Caramel is now my signature flavor, and started me on the path of other savory additions: Candied Bacon with Maple Syrup Caramel, reminiscent of my favorite breakfast; Rosemary Lemon, inspired by a day following Van Gogh's steps in Arles, France; and Old Bay Caramel, made as joke for a seafood festival, addictively weird. Chouquette has three meanings: little cabbage; a term of endearment, 'sweetie;' and a small baked treat, French children pick them up on their walk home from school. The simplicity and whimsy inspired me.

What makes your business stand out?

Chouquette is fun, not stuffy, we love making chocolates, and it shows. We sample freely, we want people to try our chocolates, fall in love, and want to buy them for themselves and their friends. We want to be a part of their weddings, birthdays, and events. A little taste helps us there. I work closely with a graphic designer, who helps me ensure my chocolates are as pretty as they are delicious. She is instrumental in working with custom chocolate clients, from evoking a swing theme for a 75 birthday party to creating the perfect crab for the Old Bay caramel. Chouquette allows our guests to pick their own individual chocolates, but we also curate collections for them. Our Classic Collection contains: Vanilla Sea Salt, Balsamic, Raspberry, Coffee and Hazelnut Caramels; it's perfect for a hostess gift. And with a box of 5 costing just $12.50, we think it is an affordable, local, elegant way to say 'thank you.'

What's the best business advice you've received?

"A little bit of nastiness goes a long way in a small business." When I am tired of the 'snackers' taking advantage of the free samples, or cold at an outside market, I remember to treat the next person cheerfully. I love this job, and my clients make it possible.

Mark Your Calendar

  • Nominations
    June 3–Aug. 29, 2014

    Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.

  • Judging
    June 23–Sept. 8, 2014

    Judges will select finalists throughout this period.

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  • Online Voting
    Sept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014

    Vote for your favorite American makers.

    See the finalists
  • Winners Announced
    Oct. 17, 2014

    2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.

    See past Award Winners
  • American Made Event
    Nov. 7–8, 2014

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