Chef Joshua Rosen of Charm School Chocolate knows beans about making the sweet stuff.

Making chocolate is both an art form and a science, and Chef Joshua Rosen has just what it takes to get the job done.

With an engineering degree from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University and a baking and pastry arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Chef Rosen, 36, has taken his skill sets and transferred them to his role as chef and owner of Charm School Chocolate.

In Baltimore, Charm School Chocolate’s bars and confections are sold at such venues as 3 Bean Coffee, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Ceremony Coffee Roasters, all MOM’s Organic Markets, Eddie’s of Roland Park, Pat’s Porch, Prime Corner and at the Charm School Chocolate store in the company’s new 2,800-square-foot facility in Hunt Valley.

The products also are sold throughout the United States and Canada.

While working for a vegan chocolatier in New York City years ago, Chef Rosen, a Baltimore native, says he noticed that customers often requested vegan white or milk chocolate. Combining his engineering and culinary skills with the fact that he is an avid reader, Chef Rosen experimented with flavors from all cultures and regions, and developed a line of vegan and white chocolate.

“The engineering background taught me to systematically solve problems, eliminate unnecessary variables and focus on what matters,” says Chef Rosen, a Hampden resident and McDonogh School graduate, observing that chocolate is a material transformation, beginning as a cellulose seed and ending as a free-flowing fat suspension.

Along his path of professional culinary experiences, Chef Rosen interned with James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Emily Luchetti; built and worked in a Willy Wonka-style chocolate factory in a West Village art gallery in Manhattan; taught pastry classes in Tuscany; and created one-of-a-kind desserts on The World, the planet’s largest privately owned floating residence. 

A lifelong baker, Chef Rosen also served as pastry sous chef at Del Posto, helping the elegant Manhattan bistro garner a four-star review in The New York Times, making it the first Italian restaurant to achieve the newspaper’s highest honor in 29 years.  

Charm School Chocolate
Chocolate bars sit on a shelf at Charm School Chocolate in Hunt Valley. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

In 2012, Chef Rosen competed in and won the Food Network’s title of “Sweet Genius.” That same year, he started Charm School Chocolate.

Chef Rosen emphasizes that he considers himself a chocolate maker, not a chocolatier.

“More and more, we hear the term ‘Bean to Bar,’” he says, explaining that this label refers to a company that starts at the farm where cocoa beans are grown. He says a chocolate maker purchases the beans, roasts them, removes the outer shells, grinds the bitter “nibs,” adds ingredients to develop flavor, tempers the chocolate (heating and cooling for the final silky sheen and crisp snap characteristic of a quality chocolate bar), then uses it to make confections, chocolate bars and any application where chocolate is used. 

Chocolatiers, on the other hand, do not actually make chocolate. They buy their chocolate from the makers — like Charm School Chocolate — and then use it as an ingredient, melting or crafting it into their desired shapes and occasionally adding flavorings.

Chef Rosen notes that he lives a vegan lifestyle and designs all of the recipes at Charm School Chocolate using coconuts rather than milk or other dairy products typically used in chocolate making. 

“While we use organic ingredients and never milk products in our vegan factory, out of respect for our Jewish community, we are also currently working on our kosher certification,” says Chef Rosen. “The other — and some might argue more important — Jewish aspect of my chocolate company is that my mother guilts me into making sweets for her and her friends all the time!

Chef Joshua Rosen talks about Charm School Chocolate

Chef Rosen — whose three-person staff includes his mom, Jodi — says his short-term plans for the business involve adding new products, chocolate tastings and tours of his chocolate factory to show the public how they make chocolate.

“Our long-term goal,” he says, “is to build a legacy business and open additional stores throughout the U.S.”

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Carol Sorgen is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.

Watch Chef Joshua Rosen on This Week in Baltimore Eating on Facebook Live for everything you ever wanted to know about chocolate.