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by Collins Laatsch

Hotel LeVeque: Confection Center

Every night at Hotel LeVeque is a throwback.

You can fall asleep under the stars, surrounded by brilliant art deco furnishings inside the most iconic building in Columbus—and get that old-school turndown service we associate with classic hospitality.

Now, theirs comes with an extra local touch—all produced by a man whose career has come full circle at the Tower.

Once LeVeque’s Assistant General Manager Annamarie Moore and her fiance stumbled into Daniel Cooper’s chocolate shop, they stumbled into a world of Pure Imagination.

They were hooked—and knew the hotel’s guests would be, too.

Ever since, Cooper—who once worked in the building as a security guard—hand-delivers his Grandview-made chocolates, where they will be waiting for every guest as they greet the day.

We took a trip to the hotel to take a trip down memory lane with Cooper—and to talk about chocolate.

What’s is like to be there after all these years?

It was a serendipitous event that I never would have “imagined” 26 years later. It makes me at a loss for words. It’s the best of both worlds: the historic grandeur of Columbus and the futuristic innovation of today’s growth all in one. I personally deliver the chocolate order every week to experience the feeling as I did 26 years ago.

Has getting into the culinary game always been a dream of yours?

No, it was not my career plan. It seemed to be my destiny being raised by my grandparents who both were chefs and my inspiration in the culinary field.

And did you want to get into the culinary game in general, or more specifically, into chocolatiering?

It somewhat chose me. Becoming a Chocolatier was a dream but no professional schooling. Driven by passion and blessed in direction and a leap of faith enabled me to achieve my aspiration.

Was there a moment that made you want to get into crafting chocolate?

Yes, what started this journey was making chocolate for a family get-together, and the compliments that I received after people indulged. [That] motivated me to pursue this career.

While chocolate for some people is a simple treat, the creation process has to be precise to achieve the flavors you get. Can you walk us through how you make the chocolate?
It’s a very strict and precise process that involves patience but being quick at the same time. Chocolate will set up fast! So you have to be ready when you start crafting each piece.

Why do you guys go to the extra length to make your chocolate so eye-catching?

To make a memorable experience to our customers. Flavor profile is most important, but if you work hard creating the flavors, you have to make it not just taste amazing, but look amazing as well. Each piece of our chocolate has a personality, so we design them according to the flavors.

You guys also incorporate some pretty interesting ingredients into your chocolates like gouda or a balsamic glaze. Does this freak people out sometimes? How do you convince someone to try one of these?

Most people are excited to try and others are tempted by curiosity.

Your store name seems to be in homage of Willy Wonka with “Pure Imagination.” How often do you get comparisons to Mr. Wonka in the shop? Are you working on cooking up any crazy concoctions like some of his?

I get called Wonka a lot! To me it’s very flattering. Very hard to fit in Mr. Wonka’s shoes. I must say I do enjoy when my customers come in the store whistling, humming, or even flat-out singing the song Pure Imagination. Always brings a smile to my face. As far as a new concoction…. Fizzy Lifting Drink Truffle is currently underway.

So is your house the most popular in the neighborhood during Halloween?

Not many kids live in my community but I spoil the few that come knocking for chocolate on Halloween.

Do you have any special LeVeque Tower themed chocolates coming out? Can you give us the lowdown on what’s going to be in them and how you came up with the theme?

Actually I have been working on a flavor profile that I want to introduce. LeVeque is very special to me so taking the time in creating something that will complement the amazing atmosphere at LeVeque is very important.

This is a little off-topic, but we noticed Andrew Lincoln, aka Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead, is a fan of you guys. Can you tell us a little about how that connection?

As a fan of The Walking Dead I attended a convention 5 years ago in Georgia where they film and had the opportunity to meet and gift him a box of our chocolates and now he as well as many other cast members has become a fan of our chocolates throughout the years.

Tell us what the LeVeque was like back in the day? Can you tell us a cool story from when you used to work there?

Having all access to the outside observation rooftop. It’s an absolutely breathtaking picturesque view of Columbus. It was a  privilege to experience that as it is not open to the public.

Any secret passages you can tell us about?

Hmmmm … maybe. But that’s top secret info.

To book a stay at the hotel, visit hotellevequecolumbus.com. Visit Pure Imagination in person at 1205 Grandview Ave.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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