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Steve Amaral

Steve Amaral of North Fork Chocolate Co. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Steve Amaral barely slept before arriving at work Tuesday morning. As co-owner and executive chef of North Fork Chocolate Company in Aquebogue, he said there’s no busier time than the lead-in to Valentine’s Day.

“It definitely keeps us really busy,” he said. “During a busy season, we’ll do about 60 or 70 hours a week.”

This weekend, Amaral and his team of chocolatiers will make about 10,000 bonbons in preparation for the holiday. They include heart-shaped milk chocolate truffles filled with strawberry preserves, an assortment of heart- and rose-shaped chocolate pops and “be mine” chocolates. Naturally, orders will be placed in red heart-shaped boxes.

The business’ chocolate will be enjoyed at many local wineries across the North Fork, where wine and chocolate pairings are scheduled. Similarly, local breweries have also been known to host chocolate and beer pairing events this time of year.

Once February is over, Amaral and his fellow employees will be able to relax somewhat until Easter, when they’ll create hundreds of chocolate bunnies.

merlot bon bons
Trays of North Fork Chocolate Co. bon bons made with Pellegrini Vineyards merlot. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

North Fork Chocolate Company, which moved to its location on Main Road in Aquebogue in 2015, creates handcrafted, artisanal chocolate four days a week in a building situated behind the main business. Amaral’s workspace includes an Italian-made faucet that continuously spews out chocolate, heating and cooling it automatically.

The company doesn’t use preservatives and most ingredients are sourced from other local businesses. For example, the fruit in their heart-shaped chocolates comes from down the road at Bayview Farms & Market in Aquebogue; local wine and beer are also used in some confections.

“Supporting the community and keeping it all right here on Long Island, especially on the East End, is really important,” Amaral said.

A longtime chef, Amaral has traveled the world, experiencing the culinary world from myriad perspectives. His position with North Fork Chocolate Company is his “retirement,” he said.

And while he eats only dark chocolate, he loves working with all varieties.

“My favorite part of my job is that I get to be creative every day,” he said.