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Cocoa Nut: Endangered Species Chocolate’s Whitney Bembenick
Meet the mastermind behind the brand’s unusually indulgent flavors.
After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in food science, Whitney Bembenick built upon her skill set at companies such as Frito-Lay, where she worked as a third-shift production manager. (“Twice a shift, we had to taste all of the products,” she recalls. “At first, that sounded like a wonderful idea.”) She then spent three years at Indy-based global ingredient supplier Sensient Flavors, as a food technologist in the Sweets and Bakery division, and received additional training at Barry Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy in Chicago. Eventually, the gustatorally gifted 28-year-old Westfield resident’s career path led to her current position as research and development manager for Indianapolis candy company Endangered Species Chocolate.
In her first year with the company, Bembenick wasted no time bringing inventive twists to the Endangered Species repertoire of chocolate bonbons. For starters, she developed a line of dairy-free, gluten-free, creme-filled bars that includes such unconventional varieties as lavender mint and Bembenick’s favorite—sea salt and lime.
A self-proclaimed foodie, Bembenick spends much of her free time frequenting downtown restaurants on date nights with her husband, the head golf professional at Meridian Hills Country Club. Not surprisingly for someone who claims to eat at least one piece of chocolate every day, she rarely orders dessert.
Whitney Bembenick's Favorite Things
1) Frozen yogurt: “Huddles and Yo Joy do it best.”
2) Collecting cookbooks old and new: “I love seeing the notes women in my family have written alongside recipes they like (or don’t like).”
3) Hermanaki wings from Ale Emporium.
4) The animal barns at the State Fair: “I grew up raising pigs with 4-H and FFA. I was even the county-fair and pork-industry queen.”
5) Bakersfield Mass Ave: “We went there for my birthday.”
This article appeared in the June 2014 issue.