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Katrina Markoff, 37, is the owner and founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a luxury exotic truffle company that reached nearly $12 million in sales in its first 10 years. Her lofty goal of bringing peace to the world through chocolate is achieved by mixing together unlikely ingredients from all corners of the world into unique, delicious chocolates.
Three days after her graduation from Vanderbilt University, Markoff left for Paris to study culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu. After a yearlong program in Paris, she embarked on an eight-month, nine-country world tour where she studied the native cuisines of France, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, China, Australia and Hawaii. She apprenticed at restaurants including the Hotel Crillon in Paris, France and El Bulli in Rosas, Spain, and graduated from the Thai Cooking School and Chiva Som School in Thailand. The trip commenced with in an apprenticeship in Spain under the direction of world-famous chef Ferran Adria.
It was during these international experiences where she developed the concept of ‘exotic truffles.’ Her chocolates fuse together a wide range of indigenous spices, flowers, roots, herbs and liqueurs with premium chocolate. In 1998 she launched her specialty chocolate company from her Chicago apartment, experimenting with exotic ingredients such as wasabi to chili powder to Italian Taleggio cheese. By 2007, company sales reached $12 million, with retail stores in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. Vosges’ long list of celebrity fans includes Kelly Ripa, Bruce Springstein, Dave Matthews and Cameron Diaz.
Markoff is dedicated to the balance of mind, body and spirit within her company, holding weekly yoga classes for employees in a meditation room at their offices. Her latest undertaking is the building of a platinum LEED-certified, green manufacturing facility for the company, which is powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Vosges Haut-Chocolat donates to several philanthropic causes, including V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against girls, and Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that revitalizes music education in public schools.
Markoff is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Bon Appetit Good Artisan of the Year Award 2004 and one of the Top 35 Culinary Artists by Food & Wine magazine. She was featured in Crain’s Business magazine as one of their 40 Under 40 in 2002, and Inc. magazine listed Vosges as one of its Fastest-Growing Companies for three consecutive years. Markoff was profiled by Entrepreneur magazine as their OPEN American Express Woman of the Year in 2007.