Local Chocolatier Proves Homemade Always Tastes Best

As a little girl growing up in Illinois, Denae Hostetler would help her mom, who worked in a fudge shop, to make different types of candies for special occasions.

When she was in her 20s, Hostetler’s jobs as a whitewater rafting and kayaking teacher, a contractor for The Bureau of Indian Affairs for wildland firefighting and an independent government water truck driver involved a lot of traveling. 

“I once stayed with a family in Oaxaca, where I would wake up to fresh hot cacao every morning—they drank this instead of coffee—and the streets smelled like chocolate. Almost every corner had people grinding cacao beans and selling their Mexican chocolate,” she says. 

Several years ago, Hostetler, now married and a mom of two young boys, was looking for a way to earn some money while her husband, who is in the military, was deployed overseas. Although she is also a licensed massage therapist, Hostetler wanted to find something that was not dependent on other peoples’ schedules. Inspired by her memories of making candies with her mom and her delicious experiences with chocolate while traveling, Hostetler decided to try her hand at the chocolate-making craft.

“I felt I needed something I could do that would keep me ‘sane’ while also giving me freedom to be with my family, so I started teaching myself how to make chocolate from the bean,” the Chandler resident says. “Since my dad is a machine builder, he helped me make this possible, and I incorporated what I learned from my mother to turn this cacao into something extra special.”

Hostetler created her first successful batch of chocolate in 2014, which she shared with friends and family. 

“From there it just grew from a hobby, to actually getting our guest house remodeled, licensed and permitted so I could sell to the public, which began around October 2016,” she says.

Hostetler named her new business DNA Chocolate. The former guest house is now a “full-on factory” that is totally separate from the house, but still allows her to balance work and family.

“I use certified organic, fair-trade ingredients which I handcraft into a variety of different products from bars, barks and candy boxes to nibs, hot cacao and miniature bar sample bar boxes,” Hostetler says, adding that her personal favorite is the trail mix bark, which combines 60 percent dark chocolate with fruits and nuts like cashews, pistachios and blueberries.

“Sometimes I just like a couple of 70 percent dark chocolate squares. It only has 15 grams of organic cane sugar in the whole bar, and is 15 squares. It is only two ingredients, and I love to taste the bold unique flavors.”

While she uses a variety of nuts and dairy products in her facility, Hostetler says she also creates a number of vegan options and does not use peanuts as an ingredient.

“My candies, creams and truffles are pretty big for holidays and special occasions, and I keep the ingredients as simple as possible,” she says. “For example, the ganache that’s enrobed with the chocolate is just whole organic cream and chocolate.” 

In addition to making a variety of decadent chocolates, which she sells at a number of places including Moon Dust Farms at Mesa Power Square Mall and Merchant Square in Chandler, Hostetler enjoys meeting with other small local business owners to share ideas.

“We all offer something very unique and different, but we all have a passion for creating global awareness for nations that need fair trade and ethical business partners,” she says, adding that her company focuses on the nation of Haiti.

While she is thrilled with her decision to launch DNA Chocolate, Hostetler admits it is definitely makes for some long days. Her husband is currently serving in his fourth deployment overseas, and she stays busy juggling her business and raising her young sons.

“To be honest, I’m also very tired,” she says, laughing. “But I love that I always have a special, allergy-free gift to share and that I’m also making a difference in a country that needs help becoming an exporting country.”

For more information, visit DNAChocolate.Simpl.com