GOURMET HIGHWAY: The Chocolate Diva

By Doc Lawrence –

Located in lovely Fredericksburg, a historic town deep in the heart of the fabled Texas Hill Country, Quintessential Chocolates is a pioneer company and brand keeping pace with the demand for the handcrafted chocolates. For the uninitiated, the company founded and operated by Lecia Duke remains the only chocolatiér in America to use the centuries-old process known as Liqueur Praliné and it continues to garner accolades for high production standards throughout North America. 

A familiar face and successful businesswoman in Texas and beyond, Lecia Duke’s career is an inspirational story for all women choosing to take the sometimes perilous plunge into the great unknown of entrepreneurship. I first visited her chocolate store years ago while traveling the vast Hill Country as a travel writer guest of Texas Tourism. I loved all the wineries, restaurants and museums, but no person or venue impressed me more. I was welcomed by a roomful of busy bee women cheerfully making chocolates and wrapping packages in colorful foil and ribbons amid a celestial energy that embraced all who were fortunate to walk in for a visit.

Ms. Duke, a former successful architect and designer, treated me to a few of her chocolates. One was filled with Tennessee whiskey (I guessed Jack Daniel’s), another fine Champagne, the next was Amoretto, and so on. I’ve been a fan since that magic morning.

Widely know in Texas as the state’s “Chocolate Diva,” Ms. Duke is more than an architect turned chocolatiér: she is a role model for women seeking business success in a man’s world. Quintessential Chocolates is a major tourist attraction in this stunningly beautiful city. Visitors from packed tour buses to curious food journalists regularly flock there to gaze at the hands-on process of making liquid center chocolates through the process Ms. Duke learned in Switzerland.

Her new organic flavors, Ginger Liqueur, Spiced Rum, Vanilla Vodka and Wheat Whiskey were unveiled last summer at the prestigious Fancy Food Show in New York City. “Quintessential Chocolates,” says Ms.Duke, “is committed to follow a business plan that confers a benefit on those who make our products and who enjoy them. This means more high quality ingredients that are nutritional, sustainable and fit into the overall responsibility of improving our community and our world.”

Unwaveringly modest, Lecia Duke seems to be aligned with an ascendant star. Her impressive career in architecture and graphic design included a stint at NASA where she designed for the space program, then re-purposed a de-sanctified church into a community center in Fiesole, Italy, teamed to restore downtown Nashville’s 2nd Avenue warehouse district and helped restore the historic Strand in Galveston Texas.

What she does now, says Ms. Duke, is a logical and spiritual extension of her talents and earlier career. Her Certified Organic liquid center chocolates were developed “to not only demonstrate that a small business could do something no other company in this industry has done, but to show that these new products represent an exciting array of new flavor profiles.

Lecia Duke is a highly qualified guide to explore the outer bounds of new flavors. Almost everything with her becomes an adventure. Before you get on board with her, be prepared for an unforgettably indulgent taste sensation.


More information at http://liquidchocolates.com


Old school journalism describes the style and stories produced by Doc Lawrence. “In everything I do,” he says, “there is a beginning, middle and an end.” One of the top travel writers in the country, Doc is steeped in the heritage of the deep south. Traveling the back roads from Texas to Virginia and on down to Key West inspires stories about local food and wine preferences, community theater, folk art and music often leading to clues for a good story. Heroes include Faulkner, Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker and Willie Morris. An Atlanta native, Doc keeps a well-stocked wine cellar and bar and two outdoor grills. He enjoys entertaining and believes that the greatest challenge for a writer is to keep searching for a higher life. www.winesdownsouth.com | editors@docsnews.com






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