When Ciana Neubauer was 7 years old she dreamed of being a baker, owning a business, and marrying someone who made chocolates. Fast forward to 2013 and Ciana is living her dream as the executive pastry chef at the newly opened Chocolate Gallery in downtown Bryan and married to the executive chocolatier, Josh Neubauer.
The Chocolate Gallery opened in October and combines the aroma of handmade chocolates and pastries with the ambiance of an art gallery. “It’s not only something you eat and digest, but also art,” says Ciana. The Neubauers, who met while attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, are the epitome of culinary artists. He creates chocolate sculptures while she has an eye for intricate cake detailing. It’s a marriage made in dessert heaven.
The idea for the shop sprang from an impromptu chocolate-making adventure in a New York hotel room when Ciana’s mother, Christina Patterson, came to visit. The chocolates traveled back to Texas where they were given to Patterson’s boss, Wayne Carroll, owner of Otis Instruments, Inc. “He tried them and said, ‘We need to sell this stuff,’” remembers the pastry chef. The idea continued to grow from there until construction on The Chocolate Gallery began in 2011.
“The whole building had to be redone,” quips Ciana, but more than a year later the store is a chef and artist’s dream filled with open spaces, display cases, and windows lining the state-of-the-art kitchen. “We want the customer to be able to fully experience the art,” says Ciana. Visitors can watch the chefs create their craft. Footstools are even provided for visiting kids. In addition to the gallery and art, Ciana adds that they are “very much about education.” They offer school field trips explaining the application of science and art in creating pastries and chocolate. Classes for cake and cookie decorating are also offered in their studio classroom.
“Making great food is two-fold. It has to look good and it has to taste good. One without the other is not good food,” says Ciana. The couple’s creations definitely fulfill both with visually appealing delicious cakes, cookies, truffles and more.
“I like to create stuff I enjoy,” says Josh, who has created chocolate flavors such as passion orange guava and Dr. Pepper bonbons. “We use classic flavors but with new techniques,” adds Ciana.
The unique flavors aren’t the only thing local-inspired. Josh recently finished a chocolate sculpture of the Queen Theatre in Downtown Bryan. The sculpture, which weighs approximately 25 pounds, is entirely made of chocolate and reflects Josh’s engineering background. Prior to attending The Culinary Institute of America, Josh was studying engineering while working at a bakery in San Diego, California. “I ended up working there for eight years and loved it…so I went to culinary school.”
Josh currently has three chocolate sculptures on display at the Chocolate Gallery. Each sculpture takes about a week to complete from design to finish. “We use real tools and shop at home depot,” says Ciana. Everything from paintbrushes and palates to spackling tools and blowtorches are used to play with flavors, textures, colors and designs.
The Chocolate Gallery offers not only a tasty treat to the discerning visitor but also an educational and visually arresting experience. “We want people to know more about food: what works and why it works,” comments Ciana. “We love customers who ask, ‘Why?’”