Printable version

Rick Pocrass

Photo of Rick Pocrass and chocolates made for the Hard Rock Cafe.
Rick Pocrass and chocolates made for the Hard Rock Cafe.

If you’ve ever been served a banquet dessert that made you say "Wow," you probably gave the pastry chef all of the credit. Most likely, you’d only be partly right.

Just ask Rick Pocrass.

Chances are, the mousse, ice cream, fruit or cake that you loved so much was served atop an artistic chocolate dessert container made by Chocolates à la Carte. Pocrass is the CEO of that Valencia-based company. He is also vice president of the Mission College Foundation.

According to Pocrass, nearly every major hotel in the country makes at least one buy a year from his company for a big banquet or dinner. Other major clients include country clubs and cruise lines. He explained that a pastry or hotel chef who has to prepare a banquet for hundreds of people might have a great idea for a chocolate-based dessert, but he doesn’t have the means to prepare that much chocolate.

"That’s where we come in," he said. "We work with the chefs to help them realize their creative vision. I always say we don’t make chocolates, we make ‘wow.’ "

The dessert containers come in a multitude of designs and shapes: a leaf, piano, flower, heart, or teardrop for example. Often, they’re created to match an event. Those attending an athletic banquet might be served a dessert featuring a fruit-filled chocolate football helmet or baseball cap. While Pocrass handles the business side of Chocolates a la Carte, wife Rena, founder and president of the company, works the creative end, dealing with chefs around the country who call her for ideas. To make it all work, the company has become one of the largest importers of dark chocolate in the country…about 700,000 pounds a year, Pocrass estimated.

Photo of Rick Pocrass in the company warehouse.
Chocolates à la Carte serves every major hotel in the U.S., Pocrass said.

Prior to the company’s move to Valencia in 2000, Chocolates à la Carte was based in Sylmar. Pocrass came to know Mission College as a result of working with the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program and through acquaintances, including Chef Rudy Garcia. He joined the Foundation in 1996 and enjoys being part of the mission of community colleges.

"I’m a big believer in community-based education," he said. "As a Foundation member, I try to use my industry knowledge to help the college's culinary program."

Pocrass’ dream for Mission College is to see "…more and more students graduate and go on to earn four-year degrees."

– BY EDUARDO PARDO / Photo: Lydia Chung