If February stands for anything, it’s love, passion and chocolate. Those three things are also what happened to inspire A519 Chocolate owner, Amanda Wright leave her gig as a research assistant studying adolescent brain development at the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a new career.
While Wright enjoyed her previous job, it wasn’t necessarily her passion. “I had this dread of not doing exactly what I wanted to do and having to follow other people’s rules and schedules,” she said.
So Wright signed up for Napa Valley’s Culinary Institute of America in San Diego, and she and her husband, Andy Rape, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in biomedical engineering, made a cross-country move. It was at this school on the West Coast that she would find the next love of her life — chocolate.
“I just love how nostalgic and how romantic it is. It brings you back to being a kid,” she says of chocolate. “My eyes just light up when I’m around it.”
After experiences as a pastry cook and sous chef, and creative director at an artisan chocolate shop in the Napa Valley area, Wright and her husband returned to Pittsburgh, his hometown, to open A519 Chocolate.
“From a small business perspective, Pittsburgh was just a much better place to be. With the cost of living, we could take a risk here without totally being on edge,” says Wright.
And that risk has paid off. After only about three years in business, A519 sells their high-end chocolates for $30 for 15 pieces, and demand has never been higher. The couple opened a pop-up shop in Lawrenceville over the holidays (closing Feb. 14), and have produced custom chocolates for Carnegie Mellon, Stage AE, Hotel Monaco, FedEx, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So how does Amanda create those colorful, tasty treasures?
“I think it takes a lot of skill and craftsmanship. I love how scientific chocolate it. You have to work with it at just the right temperatures,” says Wright.
And that’s how the brilliant, all natural shine is achieved, as well.
“We always get asked if the shine comes from a candy coating or something,” said Wright. “But it doesn’t. The shine is a sign that all the ingredients were worked with in a controlled manner of heating and cooling.”
Salted caramel is the most popular flavor, but there are always 10 rotating flavors to choose from, depending on the season. For February and Valentine’s Day, A519 is serving up romance inspired flavors like passion fruit, dark chocolate, red wine, raspberry rose and berry-hibiscus.
While a permanent A519 store could some day arrive in Pittsburgh, for now, the team of two is satisfied supplying local shops with their colorful, fun product and fulfilling online and custom orders.
“To me, part of the fun is that I’m making something beautiful that will ultimately go away, but will be enjoyed while it’s here.”
A519 chocolates can be purchased at Mon Aimee Chocolat in the Strip District, Maggie & Stella’s in Oakland, Gather in Sewickley, Whole Foods in the North and South Hills, and all Pittsburgh area Market Districts, or by visiting a519chocolate.com.
Also see, the 100 most romantic restaurants.