“One thing about the food industry,” says North Fork Chocolate Company owner Chef Steven Amaral, “you learn at a young age ‘tuck and roll.’ We are on the edge as chefs, managing insanity. At any given moment, a fastball can turn into a slider.”
Such an outlook has been key for Amaral’s evolving and pivoting during the pandemic. He has continued to create his astounding chocolates—many made in combination with local wine, spirits, fruits, herbs—and even just opened a new waffle bar at the Aquebogue shop, his devotion to local and innovative flair front-and-center. “We have this savory waffle going on with herbs from our garden, some wild garlic chive, chèvre, smoked Bay View Farm corn, crimson pineapple sage flowers, and drizzle on fig balsamic courtesy of Vines and Branches in Greenport.”
Throughout it all, Amaral has kept creativity at the fore, in his chocolates, his paintings and his unique assessment and appreciation of the world around him.
We were concerned, as was the planet, when the news broke of the “shut down” that we would be closed indefinitely. A week into COVID, Ann, my partner, received news that chocolate was essential! Aaaah, hallelujah! We started window service, home delivery, curbside pickup, online ordering, Door Dash. I think I overheard Ann on the line with Tesla to see if they had anyone on Mars yet and if chocolates were okay in an antigravity situation—!#%-ing SpaceX delivery?Many businesses and families weren’t as fortunate, and my heart is truly saddened by all of the stories out there—it’s so important nowadays to have empathy and compassion for everyone, and love.
What has been inspiring as of late is nature. It seems that I’ve come much more in tune with nature—not hiking trails to find it, but it seems like it has been searching me out. For example, each morning around 7 there is a mocking bird that sings its heart out, perched atop the neighbor’s weathervane. My grandfather had a mockingbird sit on his weathervane each morning at his farm. He would tell me, ‘My friend is here to sing for me!’
On the Power of Pairing Local…
Fortunately, combining ingredients with chocolate is a blast….I search through local crafters’ and farmers’ social media for what’s in the moment. What is super important is considering the effort it takes to be a farmer. Whether or not you ever hoed a couple long-ass rows of potatoes, tossed a field’s worth of bushel bags of corn on the back of a flat bed or hand-harvested a couple acres of Cabernet Franc, it’s the idea of supporting the farming community and the local economy.
On His Other Creative Canvas…
I started painting in 1995. At the time I was a corporate chef in Hawaii and did a side hustle carving ice sculptures for corporate clients and resorts along the Wailea beach strip. I met a very dear friend, Piero Resta, a native of Florence, Italy—his studio was in up-country Haiku Maui. He was setting up an event, a triathlon to the summit of Haleakala, and he had painted a promotional poster for it. We decided to collaborate on an ice sculpture for the buffet, and I mentioned to him I had a burning desire to paint on canvas but had no idea how to release the energy.
He gave me the number for his acupuncturist, and said I should have her open my seven gates—and be sure to go twice. Piero called, asked if I had gone, and a week later he brought a roll of linen, wooden stretchers and a starter kit of brushes and golden paints. I would wake up in the middle of the night from a dream and go to the garage and paint it!
On what the East End needs right now…
On a selfish level, a stop light at our driveway. For our beloved East End community: LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!
Visit North Fork Chocolate Company at 740 Main Rd, Aquebogue, and at northforkchocolate.com.
This story first appeared on danspapers.com
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