Ashleigh Pearson is passionate about sharing special experiences through sweet treats, chocolate to be specific! As the owner and pastry chef/chocolatier for Petite Soeur, a specialty chocolate and confection company based in Washington, D.C., she wakes up each day eager to learn and create something beautiful in the delectable sweets she prepares.

Her journey in the kitchen began with a summer job in her college years as a pastry chef for Marcel’s in D.C. She was studying biology and the relationship that she found between baking and science intrigued her. Six year later, Ashleigh became the executive pastry chef for the restaurant group that included Marcel’s. Her fabulous desserts gained her recognition by the D.C. chapter of a women’s cooking organization, eventually awarding her with a scholarship to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Upon returning to the U.S. after working for Le Cordon Bleu, Ashleigh moved to New York to work for Chef Thomas Keller at his Michelin-starred French restaurant, Per Se. Ashleigh began as the pastry chef in charge of specialty cakes and was eventually promoted to chocolatier. All throughout her various roles at Per Se, she found her resiliency and determination when faced with challenges kept her going and growing.

Ashleigh eventually realized that it was a very specific customer-base she was sharing her bite-sized chocolate creations with—only people who could afford the expensive 6-course meal that preceded the chocolate treat. She moved back to D.C. with a mission to share specialty chocolates with anyone who desired to treat themselves to this small but mighty luxury. She has her own memories of saving up her extra cash as a student in Paris to buy one specialty pastry, eating it so slowly, to savor every ounce. It’s this kind of experience, pleasure and artistry in every bite, that she is passionate about creating for other people.

Working with chocolate is an extremely focused medium. Ashleigh puts layers of flavors and ideas into one, single bite! The attention to detail and creativity that this demands excites her. But before even beginning to work with the chocolate, it must be tempered, or melted. Some chocolatiers utilize advanced equipment for the tempering, but she does it entirely by hand. The amount of care in recreating the precise order of operations each day, along with problem solving to assess issues she’s confronted with along the way, keeps her excited and interested.

Throughout her creation process, she has developed a very close relationship with sugar, as it is utilized in most of the fillings for her chocolates and important to their shelf life. Sugar is also a temperamental substance that requires careful preparation for the consistency to be just right. Ashleigh notes that her most popular bon bon includes a creamy caramel filling. If she doesn’t achieve the luxurious and soft consistency that she desires, she will start over—committed to providing the best product possible for her customers.

This kind of tending to her process and products stems from her love for food and cooking based in her family. Her mother was not a baker, but she was an excellent cook. Ashleigh recalls that she could make something beautiful out of whatever food they had. It’s this lesson of trusting that as long as you nurture and care for the resources you have, you can create incredible things, even from the simplest ingredients, that has stuck with and guided Ashleigh.

At Petite Soeur, it’s about pouring love into everything you create, into every bite of chocolate—these small but artistically and scientifically complex pleasures—and taking time to really enjoy them.

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