Lots of people love chocolate. Kate McAleer loves it more. So much so, that she earned diplomas in both pastry arts and management from the Institute of Culinary Education and a certificate from Ecole Chocolate in Vancouver.
Then her mom got breast cancer. During the course of recovery (and luckily, she did), Kate and the rest of her family decided to embrace a cleaner way of living, committing themselves to organic, natural foods.
Lots of people are just like Kate – they chocolate, but are determined to eat healthy. Chocolate, she realized, isn’t the problem. Chocolate is a real food. It comes from the fruit of the cacao tree and is packed with healthful antioxidants.
So Kate decided to start a chocolate company that would reinvent the candy bar using real food ingredients – fruit, nuts and spice. And her family didn't just inspire the business idea, her parents also made it possible! They let Kate move back into her childhood bedroom where she could start teaching herself how to start a small business. And then, when she actually began making chocolate bars, her parents worked the line.
First in the Hudson Valley and now in Rockland, Maine, Bixby Bars are made in small batches, using organic chocolate along with nuts and fruits from small farms, like black currents from upstate New York and hazelnuts from Oregon. The chocolate, nuts, fruits and spices are all mixed together, hand-cut into bars, then coated with chocolate. Each finished bar is wrapped by hand in her signature jewel-toned foil and finished with a beautifully-designed label. The delicious bars are all gluten-free and Kosher – some are even Vegan!
The bar names come from Kate's passion for golf, which she played competitively in school. And the company is named for Lillian and William K. Bixby, Kate’s great-grandparents who lived the American Dream at the turn of the 20th century. Now, Kate is living her own dream, churning non-stop to make chocolate we can all feel good about.
How did you wind up in culinary school?
I’ve always loved food but never quite imagined I would have a culinary career. Chocolate became a medium through which so many of my interests came together that I decided to delve right in and learn as much as I could.
Why she owes it all to mom. . .
She has always been an amazing inspiration, and really encouraged me to follow my dreams and passions throughout my academic career. When the idea come around to start a chocolate bar company, she was the cheerleader, saying I should really write a business plan and give it a shot while I was young.