It's known as the food of the gods. Few can say they spend their lives surrounded by products like Theobroma cacao or a cocoa tree, but Adam Turoni earns his living as a chocolatier, creating confectionery and chocolates that are indeed heavenly.
On a recent Thursday evening, seated around tables at 323 W. Broughton St. where Chocolat by Adam Turoni innocuously holds shop, Turoni, 24, was teaching a small class how to make toffee.
Seven guests were in attendance as he shuffled behind the marble counter of his open-air kitchen.
One classmate pointed to sticks of butter filling a small Tupperware container set out for the first batch of toffee and questioned, "Isn't that too much butter?"
"Oh, this? This is eating healthy," Turoni said with a smile and to the delight of the class.
That lightheartedness carried throughout the night, the third class he had offered.
It's this countenance, coupled with Turoni's affable, disarming charm that makes you feel less a guest in his kitchen than a fellow chocolatier working beside him.
Using a small plastic divider off to the side as both a display partition and a means to instruct, he jots notations, processes and ingredients throughout the class.
It's all science, anyway. Chemistry, really.
It's what he learned while studying under the tutelage of professors at the Culinary Institute of America, and later at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif.
But Turoni has always found himself thriving on the hustle of restaurant work, beginning in his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
As a child, he says he was fascinated by baking, but in the kitchen, he was hot and miserable.
"But when they put me on the pastry line, it just clicked. It just all fell into place," Turoni said. "I fell in love with it - the rush of the kitchen and how artistic it was and beautiful, really. That's what I love about it, it's the rush â€¦ it's all of those combined, it's all the senses.
"And everything is hands-on and you're not sitting at a computer. So I knew I wanted to be doing this."
While still in high school, Turoni became the head pastry chef at Isabella's in Scranton before receiving a scholarship to CIA.
In his last semester at CIA, he discovered the cocoa bean and its vast potential as more than just a dessert, but also as an artform extending beyond the palate into every aspect of its preparation, from tempering and molding to its final presentation.
"It wasn't until probably three months before I graduated that I had a class called 'Chocolates and Confections,'" he said. "And that's when it totally changed my perspective on what I wanted to do."
His training at CIA was just a crash course.
"After that, it was really trial and error," he said of his first few months in Savannah, where he came after being urged by a friend to set up shop in the Starland District behind Back In The Day Bakery. "I had just been doing it for fun, but when I was over there, I really dove into the science of it."
Then in 2012, he moved to his current atelier on Broughton Street, its space occupied by small cabinets displaying Savannah Bee Company sourwood honey caramel covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with cypress flakes and sea salt, blood orange and Grand Marnier truffles and lion medallions made of dark chocolate and roasted almond bark with sea salt.
"When I opened up here," he said, "I think it was within my first week that people were like, 'Well, are you going to do classes?'"
He tries to keep a seasonal theme for each class.
The most important aspect, he says, is that what he teaches can translate to easy home cooking, though that isn't always the point of attending.
"I'm fascinated by the techniques," said Marilyn Sheridan, member of the Savannah Philharmonic, who cooks and bakes for her five young grandchildren about once a week.
She admitted that these aren't always the recipes she'd use, due in part to constraints of time and patience, lauding Turoni nevertheless.
"I think the stuff he makes is marvelous," she said. "The stuff he makes is gorgeous."
Classes aren't necessarily for someone who wants to make actual confections, candies or treats, or even for the wannabe chocolatier.
It's a night on the town, a high-end, intimate reality cooking show, a reason to appease your guilty pleasure. It's a sweet tooth satisfied.
"It was a fun night out for us. It is a good date night kind of thing, especially for us with two kids," said Brendan Ferrara, 39, dean of business and technology at Savannah Technical College, who attended the class with his wife. "This is what makes Savannah special. You can see the passion he has for what he does."
Classmates are encouraged to bring their own alcohol, though technically not allowed in the store during regular hours. As the wine drained, the mood was playful as Turoni started on the second batch of pecan buttercrunch toffee following a short break.
"I think people just get excited and they want to learn, and that's why we did the whole open kitchen," Turoni said. "I wanted people to see the intense focus and artistry of chocolates and confections. I was scared that people would say when they walked in here, '$1.95, that's ridiculous! For one piece?' But I never hear that."
Though you can find Turoni's chocolate scattered around town in one form or another - Mexican mocha sauce at The Coffee Fox, at Savannah Bee Company, atop hotel pillows - chocolates and confections at his store begin at $2.50 and reach $55 for an "antique" victorian box (cardboard with paper) filled with 14 chocolate truffles that the customer chooses.
For his next class on Jan. 16, which will focus on making classic truffles and mendiants, Turoni encourages people to sign up to "have fun and to really see how intricate and delicate but beautiful the art really is, to not think of a Hershey's bar any more when they think of chocolate, to really see what I'm doing and take from it what they will."
Near the end of the class, Amanda Peterman, 30, who flew in from San Francisco to visit with her mother, spoke for the class.
"It's so awesome that you get to make chocolate for your job," she said.
Following that, there was an obvious question, given the location and circumstance: Is life in fact, like a box of chocolates?
"I'd say now my life is a box of chocolates," Turoni said. "I never know what's going to be thrown at me.
"It's always something new, something exciting. It's a challenge, always. So, yes, I never know what I'm going to get. And that is true."