Breaking with Tradition

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Maggie Callahan
Maggie Callahan

At two o’clock one morning, Maggie Callahan created a diamond. As she faceted her concoction like a gem and coated it with drips and splatters, her commercial kitchen looked like Jackson Pollock had taken up confectionery art. Callahan had found her muse in handcrafting chocolate delicacies.

Thus began a new adventure for the lawyer-turned-chocolatier.

“I practiced law for a decade, starting my career in New York,” says Callahan, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2000 with a political science degree and went on to attend Harvard Law School. “Then I practiced law in other cities, but I felt unfulfilled. My creative side wasn’t getting what it needed.”

When Callahan and her husband moved to Austin, Texas, he encouraged her to attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, where she discovered a passion for sculpting with chocolate.

“I began to see the potential of chocolate as an art medium,” she says. “You can do anything with it.”

This gave her an idea. After doing research, she realized few chocolatiers were breaking boundaries.

“It was all chocolate for high-volume manufacturing or done in a traditional French style,” Callahan says. “I wanted to create unexpected shapes, like lipsticks and robots and cactuses.”

In 2013, Callahan launched Maggie Louise Confections, which has since grown into a million-dollar company with an e-commerce business and a partnership with Neiman Marcus.

From such tasty offerings as pecan-flavored camouflage hearts, hazelnut-mocha sushi, and salted-caramel cowboy boots, her company had found its niche.

“The magic,” she says, “is in turning an established product into something new and delightful.”

With specialized packaging around her whimsical designs, Maggie Louise Confections has rethought the traditional box of chocolates. And Callahan’s ability to navigate new directions is a throwback, she says, to her years as an undergraduate.

“I had a mosaic of experiences that opened my eyes to the different possibilities out there,” she says. “I was able to study abroad and pursue not just political science, but art history and a range of other subjects.”

And now she looks upon a world that is creative, artful, and delicious.

Written by Leslie King. This article originally appeared in the 2018–19 issue of Illumination, the annual magazine of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.