Edible masterpieces: so pretty you could eat them

Alison Lucci

Chocolatier Todd Horvath creates art at Bittersweet’s


 Everything about Bittersweet’s pastry shop is shiny, including the chocolates. An illuminated display case features 20 flavors of truffles, each with a signature design. Below the shop’s glistening ceiling tiles sit two stainless steel workstations surrounded by glossy pans and cooking utensils.

The reflection of a tall man in the side of an oversized mixing bowl reveals the only drab aspect of the shop: head chocolatier Todd Horvath. His pastries and chocolates are available at Bittersweet’s, his new shop in Stow, as well as at the Empire store in downtown Kent. His black gloves, chef’s jacket and pin-striped pants may be dreary compared to the rest of the shop, but Horvath’s confectionery creations are far from dull. An artist at heart, Horvath silk screens, airbrushes, sculpts and paints high-quality Venezuelan chocolate into edible works of art.

The walls of Bittersweet’s, which opened in November, will soon be suitably decorated with his work. For the décor, Horvath painted chocolate portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe onto smooth white chocolate canvases. The finishing touches include chocolate-made frames that are sprinkled with gold and silver powder for a realistic metal appearance.

But chocolate paintings are just the beginning of Horvath’s abilities. For his Oct. 31 wedding, he sculpted figurines — made entirely of chocolate — to top the cake. The bride’s flower bouquet and the groom’s bowtie exemplify Horvath’s detail-oriented behavior.

“I love chocolate,” he said. “It’s a very flexible medium coming from an artist’s point of view.”

Though he’s worked in the chocolate industry for 14 years, Horvath didn’t aspire to be a chocolate artist. Much to his parents’ dismay, the young Parkersburg, W. Va., native wanted to attend art school after graduation. They worried their son would have to compete for jobs with thousands of other artists.

“My parents discouraged it left and right,” said Horvath, who attended culinary school instead.

After obtaining a general studies degree in culinary arts at Hocking Technical College, now called Hocking College, Horvath searched for ways to free his inner artist. He even tried ice carving, just in case. While training under a Swiss chocolatier, he realized pastries and chocolate were a perfect fit for his interests.

“This started out as something I could vent my artistic frustrations with and still have a paying job,” he said.

The thirty-three year old has incorporated his love for art and chocolate into a profitable pastime. Catherine Cartwright-Jones, Horvath’s mother-in-law who owns both Empire and Bittersweet’s, first sold his chocolates online at her Web-based store for henna supplies.

“There are some things that sell very well online and there are some things that don’t,” Cartwright-Jones said. “One of the things I was very interested in was Todd’s chocolates, and you can only sell chocolates so well online. People need to smell it and taste it.”

Bittersweet’s open floor plan of the shop and kitchen ensure that the mouth-watering-chocolate aroma wafts through the shop. It also enables curious customers to peer through the glass divider and watch as Horvath sculpts a chocolate rose or fills truffle molds. In the background, kitchen manager Angela Evanko-Popovic ices fluffy slices of carrot cake, each adorned with striped orange and brown chocolate triangles.

Horvath’s passion for chocolate is even apparent to anyone who meets him outside of the shop. With a chocolate bar tattooed on his right arm, it’s fair to say Horvath carries his heart on his sleeve — literally. He plans to gradually transition his single tattoo into a sleeve of lollipops, chocolates and candies.

    But chocolate isn’t the only love in his life. The newlywed affectionately named one of his chocolate filled treats after his wife, Gwen. The swirled white chocolate exterior almost makes the Gwynnie Bar look too good to eat, but the savory nougat and caramel interior is worth the damage done.

“I’m very passionate about chocolate, but I don’t want any attention drawn to me,” Horvath said, while molding a chocolate rose. “I’m not that good looking, and I’d rather be the troll in the back that makes the magic and let the food be the limelight. I’m fine if people don’t know my name as long as they know the product.”

Contact features correspondent Alison Lucci at [email protected].