Published on 1/29/21


Chef Erika Jensen

I love the creative outlet pastry, chocolate and dessert creation provides.  Not only is this world aesthetically pleasing, but it also allows the creators to pour a piece of themselves into each bite.  I love to be challenged and to continually learn, and chocolate gives me the opportunity to never be complacent or bored in my industry.


What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?

I love the creative outlet pastry, chocolate and dessert creation provides.  Not only is this world aesthetically pleasing, but it also allows the creators to pour a piece of themselves into each bite.  I love to be challenged and to continually learn, and chocolate gives me the opportunity to never be complacent or bored in my industry.

Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

Looking to the “greats” in our field is always fun.  Whether you see an image online, or you have the pleasure of tasting something new and different, it gives you the motivation to continually elevate yourself to recreate the surprise and delight you felt with your own experience. 

When I’m not reading or researching on my own, I look back to my own memories of childhood, everything back then had a rose-toned feeling of innocence and purity of happiness.  No desire for social media likes, no reason to outdo a competitor, you just enjoyed that piece of pie or cupcake because the person who made it for you really just loved you for you.

Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?

Oh my goodness.  That’s tough.  My first big inspiration in the chocolate world was Burdick Chocolates.  I was able to do a workshop with their head chocolatier, Michael Klug, and he, and the whole team, was so passionate about the art of chocolate, the purity of motives to really give customers an authentic gastronomy experience.  As for the Burdicks, with Larry and Paula being a husband/wife team growing their business, it really mirrored what I wanted to build with my husband Bradley.  If Michael hadn’t given me tough love and a reality check with what I wanted to build, I don’t think I would have ever had the guts as a young newlywed to get a credit card, buy a plane ticket, and spend time overseas. 

Speaking of overseas….Patrick Roger.  Oh. My. Lanta.  A particular bon bon he made is the only one (so far) that has literally stopped me in my tracks.  I was enjoying (and dissecting) a box on the streets of Paris, and I had to stop walking, just to focus all my brain activity on figuring out what I just experienced.  It was that good :)

Outside my love for Paris, and my fond memories of the Burdicks, my central inspiration in all I do is my late Grandma Hesvik.  A farmer’s wife, she loved to show love through food, and my desire to gift that passion to everyone around me stays with me and grounds me on a daily basis.

How is your team responding to the new realities of the world during and eventually post-COVID-19?

Our business is a hybrid shop, selling chocolate, specialty espresso drinks and authentic hot chocolates.  Luckily, we had just opened a drive-thru to help with the drinks portion of our business model, and that ended up saving us with the ability to sell chocolate boxes, gourmet apples, popcorn and brownies through the window, as well as drinks, when we all were shut down.  During the shut-down, it allowed us the opportunity to re-strategize and optimize our social media engagements and focus on re-building a more comprehensive StoryBrand website with more products available to ship nationwide.

What Social Responsibility/Community initiative are you the most proud of taking part in?

We participate in local fundraisers to invest our time and resources to build up our community, and hope someday to create a foundation to give children opportunities to learn about the culinary industry through mentorship and classes.  Like a big brothers/big sisters program…with chocolate. :)

What are your hopes for the future of the world of food and pastry?

To elevate the roles of everyone involved.  You’re not “just a line cook” or “prep guy”….you are someone involved in a historically relevant and amazing community of people who have been feeding the souls and bellies of humans for hundreds of years.  You are history in the making, and you provide outlets of enjoyment and memory-making moments with everything you prepare.  This industry deserves respect, recognition and red-carpet treatment, and I hope our politics and social causes can see what we provide, not just as a hot meal or cold drink, but a supply chain of activity that reaches far beyond the kitchen.

What should the role of the food/pastry industry be in the community? The world? The environment?

I think I answered that in the question above ;0) But in terms of environment, working our way to be sustainable with low carbon footprints and working within nature and with our growers to harmoniously provide for our patrons while respecting the ground it comes from and the people who cultivate it.

What is your earliest dessert memory?

Chocolate Chip Cookies. Grandma made cookies with vanilla pudding mix as her secret ingredient, and you could always find some on the counter, or hidden in the freezer, in her re-used tub of Country Crock.  (Way to go Grandma! Re-using something that would be considered waste.  What a pioneer) *ha ha ha*

If you could pass one bit of insight down to a chef just getting their start, what would it be?

Check your motivations….not everyone will find notoriety in this field, and that’s ok. Find what you love best, find someone who does it best, and then get to be their best friend.  Then someday hopefully you’ll be the best, and you’ll inspire someone to continue in your footsteps.

What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?

Getting to know others in your field, feeling loved by Valrhona, that really does mean so much!  As we know, this industry can be very tough, and mentally exhausting…and if you’re a small business owner on top of that, it can be very, very lonely.  Cercle V connects you to others who love what you love, and I’ve never felt more proud to be a part of something than I do now that I’m connected with Valrhona.

When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?

First heard about Valrhona when I was at a restaurant and it was “name-dropped” on the menu featuring  a Guanaja flourless chocolate cake.  And I was like “ooooooooooo you fancy” :) 

Then I saw all the big name chocolate shops using Valrhona and I thought….. “Maybe someday, I’ll grow up and be cool enough to be like them”. Then I met my rep Rehanna, and she told me all about the culture of the company, the pillars, the product excellence it embodies, and I couldn’t handle it…I had to join that family, and I did.  It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.



Nickname? Era

Celsius or Fahrenheit?  Normal life - Fahrenheit,  Chocolate life - Celsius

Favorite Valrhona Chocolate?  Itakuja

Favorite restaurant? Table 128

Favorite flavor pairing with chocolate? I love working with our local breweries, wineries and cideries  (theme…alcohol) :)

Go to snack? Protein bar if I’m being responsible, snickerdoodle scone (right out of the oven) if I’m not

Coffee or Tea? Coffee

Favorite kitchen tool?  My Valrhona bowl

Who do you follow on social media? Kriss Harvey

Favorite type of dessert to make? To eat? 

To make: bread pudding….usually with some sort of chocolate….always with a sweet and buttery liquor sauce 

To eat: anything with multiple textures and a real purpose behind the plating