When Adam Turoni graduated from Riverside High School in 2007, he had no idea what his future held, but he knew he wanted to pursue a career in culinary arts.
On Thursday, Jan. 28, Turoni, whose family resides in Greater Pittston, returned to his alma mater to a reception worthy of rock star.
The night before his arrival to speak at Riverside, Turoni was honored in New York City by DessertProfessional.com Magazine as one of the “Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America.” A distinction held for those who have honed their craft for decades, Turoni accomplished this honor only nine years out of high school.
“I was a little nervous going back to my high school,” said Turoni. “I felt funny walking through those doors again.”
During his visit to Riverside, Turoni had the chance to talk to students thinking about entering the culinary field, talk about his success and to make a few of his delicacies for all to sample.
He also wanted to talk about his alternate academic path. “You really don’t need to go to a four-year college,” Turoni said. “I’m proof that you can be successful by going to a trade school.”
Turoni’s interest in baking began as a child when he would assist his grandmother, Theresa Colella of West Pittston, in her kitchen, especially during holiday baking. Colella, a baker herself, allowed Turoni to participate as well as be as creative as possible.
“This was the foundation of who I am today,” Turoni said.
While still in high school, Turoni worked in restaurants helping preparing pastries, the area he wanted to pursue after school. At Isabella’s Bar and Restaurant on Route 315 in Plains Township, Turoni had worked his way to the title of assistant pastry chef before graduating from high school.
Upon graduating from Riverside, he was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), located in New York City.
Just a few months prior to graduating from the CIA, Turoni decided to take a chocolates and confections class. It was a life-altering decision and he hasn’t looked back.
On to Savannah
While at the CIA, Turoni did an internship in San Francisco and fell in love with the city. He had intentions of returning upon graduation until a schoolmate, who was from Savannah, Georgia, suggested he move there where he could look for employment making chocolate.
“My friend told me there were no chocolatiers in Savannah and I should come there to try it out, so I thought, I’ll go for a few weeks and give it a try,” said Turoni.
After arriving in Savannah, Turoni began practicing his craft while building his reputation through social media and publicity in local print and television. Eventually, Turoni met Stratton Leopold, owner of Leopold Ice Cream. Leopold, also a film producer, introduced Turoni to a producer of “Paula’s Home Cooking,” based out of Savannah and starring TV chef Paula Deen.
Deen invited Turoni to do a segment on making chocolate on her nationally syndicated show. “That appearance was a big boost for me, but it was a total effort from all the building we were doing that starting to pay off,” said Turoni.
A year after he moved to Savannah, Turoni established Chocolat by Adam Turoni and began wholesaling his chocolate to national food chain Whole Foods Market and to the Ritz Carlton hotel in Savannah.
With success building, it was time to consider opening a store. Turoni found a small space in the Starland District located at 323 W. Broughton St. in October 2012.
In August 2015, Chocolat by Adam Turoni opened a second Savannah location in the bustling heart of the Historic District. The Bull Street location is unique in interior design having the ambiance of a library. The bookshelves are lined with chocolate goodies instead of books, and the truffles are lined up in alphabetical order.
Top 10 award
Two years ago, Turoni met Matthew Stevens, editor of DessertProfessional.com.
“About a month before the award presentation I met up with Matthew in New York and over drinks he informed me of my selection,” Turoni said. “It was classic Savannah; I got the news over cocktails. I was blown away. Being a subscriber of the magazine, I was aware of the ‘Top Ten’ awards; never did I think I’d get it. Matthew said I encompassed everything they look for in the recipients.”
The notoriety of the Dessert Professional.com’s “Top Ten” award has opened the doors to many opportunities. “We recently set up a meeting with Oprah Magazine and they would like to feature us and possibly place us on their top 10 list,” Turoni said. “With that honor, it could get us to the next level.”
As if Turoni’s week wasn’t busy enough, another exciting venture occurred — the launching of his brand new website where customers can place an order online.
“Our biggest project now is being able to ship our product all over the U.S.,” Turoni said.
Family and friends
Turoni, the son of Christine Vangarelli and the late Sam Turoni who grew up in West Pittston, credits his family for their support over the years. His grandparents Sonny and Shirley Turoni, formerly of West Pittston, are deceased but he can count on grandparents Theresa and Frank Colella, both retired, to travel to Savannah to help with the business a few months of the year.
“I love being surrounded by people that are good and positive and supportive of me,” Turoni said. “They all inspire me.”
Turoni said admits getting a thrill when people from Greater Pittston and Riverside stop in his stores. “I love when I hear someone walk in the store and say, ‘Is Adam here?’ It’s nice to hear a northern accent from back home.”
During his visit to Riverside, Turoni had a conversation with one of his former teachers about his late father. “He told me that he and dad would talk about me where dad would say, ‘I could see him on TV. He’s going to make it big one day.’”