Career Feature: The Sweet Life of A Chocolatier
There are many ways a career can be a rewarding adventure, but few are as sweet as a job spent around chocolate. This Valentine’s Day, WorldStrides caught up with chocolatier Tim Gearhart to get a taste of how sweet his job really is.
Tim Gearhart didn’t start his career in the food industry making candy. As a teenager, he worked in the kitchen of a casual fine dining restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then tried several types of food jobs before joining the United States Marine Corps as a cook. It was there, he says, that he learned the consistency and attention to detail that eventually led him down his current path. He left the Marines to pursue a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, focused on baking and pastries.
After graduating, Gearhart traveled the world. He landed jobs at small town luxury hotels, guest ranges in the Midwest, and even at a 1,000-year-old castle! “The greatest thing about cooking,” Gearhart explains, “is you can go anywhere and master the craft of that specific region, then share your passion for food with people from other regions throughout the world.”
Eventually, his travels led him back to his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia to pursue an opportunity to be a pastry chef. In the early 1990s, Gearhart met “one of the biggest influences on his life”, a Charlottesville restaurant owner named Bill Hamilton. He convinced Gearhart to take the pastry job, and then later helped him start his own chocolate shop, Gearharts Chocolates. After twelve years, Gearhart now owns two shops and his chocolates are available in more than fifty Virginia stores. He doesn’t think he would be where he is today if it weren’t for meeting Hamilton and following his father’s advice: “Surround yourself with the best people that do your craft.”
Particularly on Valentine’s Day, Gearhart says he enjoys seeing people waiting in line for his chocolates. “It’s times like these that I think, ‘Wow! All of these people are going to open our chocolates and feel appreciated.’ It’s great to know that we can be a part of this special occasion.”
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