Woodinville chocolatier Julie Berg never thought she stood much of a chance of her confections winning any kind of big competition.
“I’ve just kind of watched, and have seen that people were winning these awards,” Berg said. “… Partly, I thought, I’m not going to win anything because they’ll read about me, and go, ‘she’s just a one-person shop.’”
But this spring, the owner of Wellington Chocolates, LLC decided to take the leap and submit to the International Chocolate Salon 2021 Spicy Chocolate Awards against much larger chocolate operations. At the end of June, the competition announced that Berg’s passion fruit truffles took home a gold award for Top Spicy Chocolate.
“I was just shocked, I thought ‘oh my goodness, I won a gold,” she recalled. “I was thrilled.”
The truffles are one of her personal favorites as well as a top seller at her shop. The treats offer a smooth texture, with a tart and sweet passion fruit flavor at the start and a bit of a cayenne kick at the finish, she said.
One of the judges commented that the truffles had a “delicious combination” of fruit and “intensity spice,” along with a “pleasing texture.” The competition judge panel comprised national and regional magazines, newspaper and blog editors, topic experts, local chefs and “food gurus,” according to the website.
Berg has been making the truffles for about 12 years, she said, and came up with the recipe after experimenting with some new fruit purees.
“I didn’t know much about passion fruit before,” she said. “I’m not even sure what the fruit even looks like.”
But after tasting the puree, she immediately liked it, and had the idea to incorporate it into a truffle with some cayenne pepper.
Berg has always been a foodie, she said, and started making cakes and desserts as a child. Around the age of 20, she bought a book on making cakes and chocolates and fell in love with the craft.
“It’s just my little creative outlet,” Berg said, “I can’t paint. I can’t draw, but I can make chocolate.”
She did it as a hobby for years, until she and her husband became empty nesters when their children went to college. In 2005, she started the process of creating a new business. She graduated from Ecole Chocolat in 2007, did an internship in Minnesota, and completed a class at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy.
In 2009, the couple added a commercial kitchen on the property, which is where she still makes all her treats.
Now that she has an award, Berg has gained some confidence to enter more of her confections.
Berg's chocolates can be purchased online at wellingtonchocolates.com or at Brian Carter Cellars, Off the Branch Farm, and The Cottage.