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Meet Denae Hostetler of DNA CHOCOLATE

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denae Hostetler.

Denae, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up helping my mom make variety of candies & wedding cakes for special occasions, in IL where my parents still live. She works in a fudge shop and sells her candies there. I also did a lot of traveling in my 20’s because I taught whitewater rafting, kayaking, and also contracted with BIA for wildland firefighting. During my travels, I stayed with a family in Oaxaca. I would wake up to fresh hot cacao every morning (they drank this instead of coffee) and the streets smelled like chocolate.

Almost every corner had people grinding cacao beans and selling their Mexican chocolate. I also traveled through many different countries in Central America where I hiked up to the top of the mts to visit small Mayan villages and watched them make cacao by stone grinding as well. It wasn’t until I got married and started having children that we decided our boys did not need 2 parents with “dangerous” careers, so I gave mine up to stay home with my children.

However, I felt I needed something I could do that would keep my brain active & also help my family in times of need. I also needed freedom to be with my family, so I started teaching myself how to make chocolate from the cacao bean. Since my dad is a machine builder, he helped me make this possible. I incorporated what I learned from my mother and travels to turn this cacao into something extra special. Now my husband is currently serving his 4th deployment overseas and I am making chocolate out of our “backyard” facility (converted the guest house into chocolate factory) while raising our 2 young boys.

Has it been a smooth road?
The first years of figuring out the art were very difficult because I did not know the first thing about tempering chocolate. I was used to using coverture chocolate that only needs to be melted and molded. Tempering pure chocolate is by far one of the most difficult tasks I have ever set out to learn on my own and still to this day I have days when I struggle to get the “perfect” temper. It is a delicate balance of chemistry, accuracy and speed.

Aside from making the chocolate, I would say that now my biggest hurdle is that I don’t have time to accept every order I get. I am hoping to find some help soon so I don’t have to turn down so many opportunities to grow. I can’t do events because I have to drag my boys to them and I can’t always rely on getting a sitter. With my husband overseas and no family here in AZ, I find I am only getting a few hours of sleep at night just to keep up with being a mom and business owner.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the DNA CHOCOLATE story. Tell us more about the business.
From cacao bean to bar, I clean, roast, winnow (shell), mill, conch (stone grind), temper & mold the chocolate all in one small facility. No mystery ingredients. No additives, preservatives, soy lecithin, wax… Just the bean and cane sugar. Milk & white chocolate have whole milk. THAT’S IT! More than fair-trade. No supply chain. 100% of the proceeds for cacao beans, goes to farmers & rebuilding Haiti.

No child labor (conflict free)

I use certified organic, fair-trade ingredients which I handcraft into a variety of different products from bars, barks & candy boxes to nibs, hot cacao & miniature bar sample bar boxes. My personal favorite is the trail mix bark. I use 60% dark chocolate, which is just the cacao bean and cane sugar, with all my favorite fruits & nuts (cashews, pistachios, blueberries …). I have a lot of “Vegan” products, and I do not currently use peanuts in any of my products.

My candies, creams & truffles are pretty big for holidays and special occasions. I keep these ingredients as simple as possible. The ganache that’s enrobed with the chocolate is just whole organic cream and my chocolate. I add different varieties of fruits & nuts.

I also do vegan creams and candies with organic coconut cream instead on occasions & special orders. I partner with other local businesses like “Proof Bakery” for a special french pastry that features my dark chocolate, and Decadent Macaroons for the ganache in macarons on special orders.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I hope to see myself partnering with many other “ethical” and “local” businesses to create a unique space where people can find products and produce that is local, clean, simple, and supports our growing community of local artisans. I think people deserve to know whats in their food and where it comes from. I don’t see anyone as competition. I think this is a very “old school” business mentality. We now have a very supportive community that allows us to all “collaborate” together and brings the community what they really want and need.

I am always meeting with “other” small local businesses, sharing, ideas and even partnering on products to make us both stronger. If I ever have my own storefront, I would gladly offer the other “craft artisan” chocolate makers in the valley a space in my shop. I would like the public to be able to see the whole process from bean to bar and even offer classes for those wanting to create their own creations. I would like to see a community where we all offer something very unique and different. I also have a passion for creating global awareness for nations that need “fair-trade” and ethical business partners. I think if we can work together, we can create something bigger than us.


  • Bars $4.50 ea
  • Large Candy Boxes (15 pieces) $22.50
  • Trail Mix Bark $8.00
  • Medium Candy Boxes (8 pieces) $12.00
  • Small Candy Boxes (4 pieces) $6.00

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1509 N AZ Ave, Chandler AZ 85225 (Merchant Square & Highland Yard)
    2055 S Power Rd, Mesa AZ 85209 (Power Square Mall)
    744 W Elliot Rd #103 Tempe AZ 85284 (Fiesta Flowers)
  • Website:
  • Phone: 480.309.2162
  • Email:

Image Credit:

Anna Rochelle Imagery, Highland Yard Vintage, Proof Bakery

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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