Valerie Gordon and her husband Stan Weightman Jr. launched Valerie Confections in Los Angeles in 2004 as a chocolate company, quickly growing the line to include toffees, petit fours, and cakes. Over the course of nearly two decades — and launching more products like pies and preserves — the logo and ethos have remained exactly the same, as has its mantra: Valerie Confections serves desserts that can be a gift for others but also a personal indulgence.
As the company celebrates its 18th anniversary this month, chocolatier, pastry chef, and barbecue enthusiast Gordon is swinging for the fences with expansion plans that include a sweeping new 5,000 square-foot production, event, and office facility in Glendale. “Stan and I keep calling this ‘Valerie 2.0,’” Gordon says. “What we always wanted to create with this company is finally happening.”
Come October 1, the new Glendale facility will house a retail area selling the company’s line of chocolates and baked goods, a chocolate kitchen (which will be visible to the public), two large bakery production kitchens, a tasting area, a large packing/shipping area, green spaces to grow edible flowers, and office space for the soon-to-expand Valerie Confections team. According to Gordon, the goal is to increase the company’s wholesale chocolate and bakery output to service both the Los Angeles community and national shipping; she estimates that by winter, the company will be able to double its production from last year. As of now, Valerie Confections supplies chocolate to approximately 100 wholesale accounts, and by end of 2023, Gordon projects they’ll hit 300.
While Valerie Echo Park (the restaurant and cafe opened by the company in 2013) will remain open and offer a larger selection of baked goods daily come this fall, part of the expansion means that the company will be leaving its 3360 W. First Street location when it makes the official move to Glendale in October. In the meantime, the HiFi location is closing its boutique (although customers can still pick up orders in the kitchen). The production kitchens will be up and running until the move.
Another aspect of the expansion is the addition of key team members: James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez, who has been executive pastry chef at Nancy Silverton’s Mozza Group for 15 years and worked 20-plus years with Silverton through positions at Campanile and La Brea Bakery, will join the team on August 1 as culinary director. In her new role, Narvaez will oversee all of the kitchen operations for Valerie Confections, allowing Gordon to focus on her role as executive chef and creative director. (Weightman will continue to oversee sales, maintenance, the website, front of house, and more.) In addition, former Cut pastry chef Angela Chan, who also worked at Spago, will be joining Narvaez’s team to help with day-to-day operations.
“Dahlia’s reputation is impeccable,” Gordon says. “She brings strengths in arenas of the pastry world that I haven’t explored.”
Gordon’s plans for the new Glendale location don’t end with increased production capabilities: She and Weightman are personally designing the space in their signature European-inspired California aesthetic to ensure that the team that works there is “inspired, comfortable, and cared for.” That includes parking spaces, designated staff areas for breaks, and a snack room stocked with tea, coffee, and beverages (which Gordon lightheartedly calls “craft services”).
Programming is part of the master plan, as well. Cooking classes will launch in Glendale in spring and summer of 2023, followed by chef events, book signings, and more. “I love teaching people how to bake and cook,” Gordon says, as evidenced by her soothing Valerie’s Baking Basics Reels on Instagram. “I didn’t go to culinary school, but there are so many avenues for education, and we want to participate in that.”
As she looks ahead, Gordon is also taking time to reflect. There have been lots of wins over the past 18 years — a James Beard-nominated cookbook, Sweet, in 2013; taking Gordon’s passion for recreating iconic desserts nationwide by launching Blum’s coffee crunch cake on Goldbelly in 2019 — but the company has been hit by its fair share of challenges, too. Gordon and Weightman aren’t strangers to the necessity of innovation: When the recession hit in 2008, the company launched Valerie at the Market to sell jams and fruit pastries at farmers markets, and they quickly transformed Valerie Echo Park into a retail marketplace when the pandemic hit in 2020.
“The greatest lesson in owning a business is knowing when you need to be flexible, and looking at what you can do versus what you can’t do,” Gordon says. “Now that we’ve made it through the pandemic, we’re looking toward the future.”