Chef Timothy Maguire started the new year sitting on top of the world. A private chef of 25 years in New York and Hollywood, he and his wife, Gai, were looking for a simpler life when they bought farm property in Haywood County.
“We thought we’d be farmers, pick up some hobbies and live happily ever after, but I was driving my wife crazy,” he says. “I always loved making chocolates, so checked out some places here and thought we could do something a little different, geared more to the luxury market.”
The couple launched Timothy Maguire Chocolates from a facility they built on the farm, which is also where 250 blueberry bushes provide the fruit for what became their No. 1 seller, Mountain Blueberry. What he doesn’t harvest from their 100 fig, cherry, plum and other fruiting trees, he sources locally when possible — particularly milk from dairy farmers.
Taking samples of his air-brushed and hand-painted bonbons around Asheville, he landed accounts at the Biltmore Estate, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Kimpton Hotel Arras. In January, Maguire shipped 10,000 chocolates to the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, where they were placed in VIP lounges backstage and in performer swag bags.
Simultaneously, using a technique he’d invented for molding and branding individual bonbons, Maguire began manufacturing and shipping molds all over the world as Refined Designs Chocolates. By the end of March, chocolate-making had come to a halt due to the closure of all of his local accounts.
“We are actually very fortunate, though, because we own our production facility,” he says. “We started thinking about what we could do to help. My mother was a nurse, all the men in my family are volunteer firemen. We knew there was a shortage of [personal protection equipment] — especially face shields — and my wife, who is the brains of the business, wondered if we could use our mold equipment to make face shields.”
Soon, they were shipping the first batch of face shields to Long Island, N.Y,, then delivered more to medical personnel in Morganton and Asheville. Though chocolate sales are on hold, the company has donated thousands of bonbons to local fire halls, police stations, hospitals and post offices.
“The face shields are a necessity for people putting their lives on the line,” says Maguire. “The chocolates are a morale booster, and we’re happy to do what we can.”