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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 12:54 am | Fair 46º

 
 
 
 
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The Working Life: Jessica Foster

The entrepreneur reaps her just desserts after launching Jessica Foster Confections

Jessica Foster makes the creations for Jessica Foster Confections out of an industrial kitchen space in downtown Santa Barbara.
Jessica Foster makes the creations for Jessica Foster Confections out of an industrial kitchen space in downtown Santa Barbara.  (Jenn Kennedy photo / www.kennedypix.com)

As a child watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, I suspected such a decadent life was possible only in movies. Then I met Jessica Foster, confectioner supreme, who makes truffles that most certainly seem out of this world.

Raised in Santa Maria, Foster moved to Spain after high school. Living with a mix of European students, she was introduced to passionate cooking. The students hosted dinner parties and vibrantly celebrated the process of meal creation. Foster recalls the culture in Spain, as is the case in much of southern Europe, as being food centric, with two-hour siesta lunch hours and long, luxurious meals.

Upon returning to the United States, she moved to Santa Barbara to attend SBCC then UCSB, majoring in religious studies and Spanish — two things she found of interest but never intended to make her career. The calling of food continued, and she opted to get some restaurant work experience. Foster began working at Meritage, where chef/proprietor Lydia Gaitan and others took her under their wing.

“I was incredibly passionate about cooking and wanted to absorb everything going on around me,” Foster said.

She later became the pastry chef at Bouchon downtown. She had hardly any dessert experience, but she jumped at the opportunity.

“I worked gnarly hours and had burns all over me during those days, but I learned a lot,” she said.

Hungry to make a better living, Foster left the job to try a more lucrative position: waitressing.

During this break from the restaurant business, Foster decided to make truffles for her family during the Christmas holiday. She says the first batch didn’t taste all that good, but realized she loved the process of experimentation with various flavors. She continued to try different combinations, including green tea, spices, herbs, fruits and liquor.

“Everything pairs well with the flavors offered by either dark, milk or white chocolate in the right quantity,” Foster explained.

Confectioner Jessica Foster says everything pairs well with dark, milk or white chocolate in the right quantity.
Confectioner Jessica Foster says “everything pairs well” with dark, milk or white chocolate in the right quantity. (Jenn Kennedy photo / www.kennedypix.com)

In 2003, she launched Jessica Foster Confections. Working out of an industrial kitchen space in downtown Santa Barbara, Foster caters to a mix of special events and retail orders. She said her big break came when San Ysidro Ranch tapped her to provide their turn-down service chocolates for hotel guests. Today, she also distributes through Pierre Lafond, Santa Barbara Gift Baskets and Lazy Acres, as well as customer direct by appointment.

Foster said her top-selling item is the white chocolate Meyer lemon trufflee. Another favorite specialty item is the milk chocolate salt and pepper truffle, which Foster describes as a chocolate mashed potato.

She has recently started a chocolate and truffle lovers club. A great gift item for that chocoholic in your life, the club offers quarterly shipments, weather permitting. Foster also will do a series of wine and chocolate tastings this fall at Wine Cask and Reds as part of the Epicure.sb events.

All in all, Foster says she loves having her own small business in Santa Barbara. She donates to multiple charities, which has led to numerous tastemakers becoming devoted fans. And while she acknowledges the challenges of wearing the varied hats of bookkeeper, saleswoman and chef, she said she loves the freedom and flexibility.

Future plans include opening a local storefront, adding staff and turning out more tantalizing truffles.

Click here to learn more about the wine club, to order chocolate or to book Foster for an event.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work.

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